Artificial intelligence a 'gigantic' development: Jeff Bezos

The emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning for household gadgets is a ''gigantic'' development, according to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Speaking at the Code conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Bezos, whose company has scored a huge hit with the Echo connected speaker, said, ''It's hard to overstate how big of an impact this will have on society over the next 20 years. It is big. But it doesn't mean phones are going to go away or that voice actions will replace screens. As long as people have eyes, they will have screens.''

The Echo speaker can turn on lights, access online music and answer queries by awaking the speaker by stating the word Alexa. Amazon hasn't revealed sales stats, but says the product is hard to keep in stock.

''It has been a dream from the early days of sci-fi to have a computer to talk to, and that's coming true," said Bezos.

The success of Amazon's Echo has struck a chord with competitors. Google will release a similar product, Google Home, later in the year, and Apple is said to be looking to launch a connected speaker as well.

According to Bezos, ''This is the first inning there is so much more to come. We're the first guys up to bat. We're on the edge of a golden era.''

Bezos, the world's fifth richest person, according to Forbes, at $45 billion, is also an investor beyond Amazon in many companies, including The Washington Post, Airbnb, Twitter, Uber, Business Insider, Nextdoor and aerospace company Blue Origin.

Amazon Studios has been making its mark in Hollywood, where its competing with Netflix to offer first-run programming for streaming. Amazon's Transparent won 5 Emmys this year, including best lead actor, Jeffrey Tambor and is set to release Woody Allen's latest film in theaters. The director is also producing a comedy series for Amazon's Prime members.

Bezos said that Prime Video has been a great driver to both help renew subscriptions to the Prime membership, which offers video streaming and faster shipping, and sell more products as well.

"We get to monetize content in a different way," he said. "When you win a Golden Globe, it helps you sell more shoes. Prime members buy more on Amazon than non-Prime members."

As the owner of the Post, Bezos was asked where he stood on a newly revealed media battle - investor Peter Thiel's bankrolling of the Hulk Hogan libel lawsuit against Gawker Media.

Bezos said he stood on the side of press freedom.

"As a public figure, the best defence to speech you don't like is to develop a thick skin. You can't stop it. If you're doing anything interesting in the world, you're going to have critics. If you can't tolerate critics, don't do anything new or interesting."