What is Alexa, and what can it do for me?
A lot of companies are implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning in their services today. There are a lot of user assistant tools out there and a large chunk of them have used artificial intelligence as a main tool in achieving their goals. From Siri to Google Assistant, the list is quite long.
From that long list, we will discuss about one that has literally blown every other user assistant tool out of the water. This is Amazon Alexa.
What is Alexa?
Alexa is a virtual assistant created by Amazon to serve as a competition to the other virtual assistants out there. Alexa was created to give users a wonderful experience, one which is second to none.
Known fully as the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), Alexa is a cloud-based tool that is built to mimic real conversations with the users and carry out tasks through simple voice requests. As far as we know, this tool would get better over time as it is being worked on to provide a more pleasant user experience.
Alexa is so mind-blowing that physical buttons do not need to be pressed to activate it, all that is needed is a keyword. Just like calling the attention of a friend, the keyword “Alexa” is used to activate the virtual assistant. So, you could call out — “Alexa, play me a song”, and you would get a spontaneous response from this great virtual assistant.
On the other side, if you are already feeling worried about calling two Alexa’s at home i.e. the virtual assistant and your roommate who bears the same name, the activation keyword for Alexa can actually be changed to “Amazon” or “Echo”. Wonderful.
What does Alexa do?
By now, we have come to terms with Alexa being a virtual assistant. But what does Alexa really do? What does it help with?
Well, the answer is — Anything.
When I say anything, I mean anything you could think of that a virtual assistant could possibly do.
Alexa is “powered” by skills. Alexa skills are an extension of its conversational abilities. Aside from providing new skills for Alexa, Amazon has allowed third party developers to build skills for Alexa and add them to the Alexa Skill Kit to expand Alexa’s features.
Over time, as more skills are being built for Alexa, it would have a very large skill set and would be able to do just about anything.
Talking about skills, these skills are available across many industries, including but not limited to the health, music, sports and education industries.
A huge positive when looking at this is — the number of skills that a user can add to Alexa are limitless. Therefore, a user can add as many skills as desired, considering that he/she can track the number of added skills and still finds them useful.
Alexa is said to have about 3000+ skills available for users to enjoy. To be able to use any Alexa skill, any of the following keywords must be used with the “Alexa” trigger keyword. These keywords are “open”, “start”, “play”, “ask”, “what”.
So, “Alexa, open Daily Buzzword” would provide a word for the day from the Merriam-Webster dictionary and “Alexa, what would the weather be today?” would provide the weather forecast for the day.
Where does Alexa work?
Alexa is a cloud based virtual assistant tool that is popular for working on Amazon devices such as the Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot, Amazon Tap.
While Alexa is made for Amazon devices, it doesn’t end there. This voice technology can be used on other devices. This means that Alexa can be used with a couple of other devices such as home hubs, thermostats, security cameras, smart remotes etc. LG’s SmartThinQ hub is a great example of third party devices with access to Alexa.
To break more boundaries, Alexa is also being integrated in vehicles and wearables, so it can also be used on the go and users do not have to be restricted to using this awesome service only at home or with the speaker.
Alexa would be a massive upgrade on the voice control systems in vehicles. Alexa would be integrated in all BMW and Mini cars, and it doesn’t necessarily need a smartphone to be accessed, as SIM card slots would be available for these cars to provide internet connection needed for Alexa to operate fully.
Other vehicle manufacturers are looking to integrate Alexa in their vehicles are Ford, SEAT, Skoda, Toyota/Lexus, Volkswagen.
The Companion App
Usage of Alexa through voice control doesn’t always have to be with Amazon devices or third-party devices. Alexa can also be used through the companion application for mobile devices.
Therefore, people can now have access to Alexa’s services from their devices. The companion app can be used to access music, video and book services.
Aside from using Alexa services from the app, the skills can also be added, removed and managed as well. Users can also manage their Amazon shopping and to-do list.
The Alexa app can be downloaded from Google Play and the Apple Appstore, however the companion app may have some glitches especially for iOS devices.
More reasons to use Alexa
Just in case you still have doubts over Alexa’s ingenuity, here are a few reasons to want to use Alexa.
You can use Alexa for the following:
Doing voice shopping for Amazon products.
Getting discounted deals for Amazon products.
Playing music on applications such as Spotify.
Getting recipes for meals.
Getting workout advice.
Sending messages and making calls.
Finding out about your favourite TV shows.
Ordering a ride from Uber or Lyft.
Accessing other Alexa enabled devices.
Telling bedtime stories.