Powerful functionality, myriad uses and a reliable companion – all these terms truly define Alexa – a virtual assistant developed by Amazon. Alexa is the brain behind the Echo range of smart speakers. As Alexa turns 5 today, we cannot help but extend our gratitude for making our lives easy, streamlined and not to forget ‘non-human’ dependent. Be it our early morning alarm or reminders to get our daily chores done or closing the day with a bed-time story, Alexa has emerged efficient and dependable, gradually becoming a favourite companion across many house-holds.
Celebrating the presence of Alexa across users in India, here are some interesting insights on how she is empowering them with a range of abilities. While some talk extensively about how Alexa is geared to help people with disabilities, there are others who use Alexa to simply tease their minds by indulging in quiz and other mind-game sessions. Read on to know more about real-time use case scenarios of Alexa.
Alexa in schools
Arjun Bibe from Navi Mumbai uses Alexa for technology-assisted learning. Alexa was first introduced to Arjun’s government-aided school as part of their “Thing Big STEAM Program” that aims to build an innovative mindset in students.
Coming from a background with very limited exposure to computers and technology, Arjun and his classmates were very curious about Alexa’s functionality when it first arrived in their school. They had a lot of questions regarding what powered Alexa and what information it could provide. Subsequently, they would spend hours trying to explore the world of Artificial Intelligence through Alexa.
This exploration is what made Alexa a friendly facilitator in their educational pursuits. Today whenever Arjun and his classmates are stuck with a doubt that their teachers can’t solve, they say “Let us ask Alexa”.
Arjun uses Alexa to develop his faculties in:
- Analysis (By gaining insight on the weather, getting relevant statistics, performing unit conversions etc.)
- GK (By getting news Updates and finding fun facts about the world)
- Communication (By practicing the art of questioning in English)
- Technology use (By learning about search engines, and their application)
Power of Voice; ‘Alexa remind me to take my pills’.
Berty Ashley, a Microbiologist from Bangalore started using his Echo smart speaker since the time it was introduced in India. He uses Alexa at home as well as at his Dystrophy Annihilation Research Trust (DART) therapy studio, the research lab that came up with a genetic intervention procedure for people afflicted by Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Children with DMD cannot move their muscles and use wheelchairs or crunches for mobility. Berty says he uses Alexa at the studio to distract children from the painful process of therapy. He also uses Alexa skills such as the guitar backing track or orchestra music which helps them play guitar as a part of the therapy. Children interact with Alexa for setting a reminder to take medicines, get information on their high protein diets etc. They even use it to switch on/off lights. So far, Berty has used over 55 Alexa skills both for personal and professional purposes such as Unit conversion, Physics units, Guitar backing tracks, Animal sounds, Playing old 80’s songs, Tamil comedies among others.
Makes our lives easier; ‘Alexa, turn on the light’
Jeevan Dongre from Bangalore is a techie and enjoys using his Echo Dot and Alexa to play music. He has also started to explore various skills. Everything at his home is automated with the help of Alexa. Jeevan has placed one Echo device in his master bedroom and the other in the living room. The lights can be turned off with voice commands. He orders food with the help of Alexa and has a Fire TV stick which he uses to watch videos from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Along with his 3-year-old kid and his parents, Jeevan uses Alexa extensively at home. Right from playing Suprabatham in the morning to the lullabies at night for his son, Alexa helps him through the day.
Learn something new every day; ‘Alexa, play a quiz’
Shilpi Lal Sharma from Mumbai leads OD and Talent at National Stock Exchange of India. She started using an Echo Dot recently. She brought the device home for her 5-year-old son and has placed it in her son’s bedroom. Alexa is her son’s favourite and he interacts with her often. He talks to Alexa when he wants to play his favourite rhymes, or to know more about his favourite superheroes or cartoon characters. Alexa is always on at this home and has become a part of their lives.
Multipurpose Uses, ‘Alexa, water the plants’
Mukesh, a tech enthusiast has customised the programme to fit to the needs of his house and preferences. Apart from the regular uses (AC, TV, Lights) of the Echo Dot 1st Gen Device IR Blasters, Mukesh has tweaked the internal processing himself and has added four new features to his smart home:
Fireplace: The fireplace at his place has been automated to be switched on or off, on command.
Utterance: Alexa, Switch on/off Fireplace.
Blinds: The blinds were automated by internally tweaking the programme and they can be set as per preference.
Utterance: Alexa, Set blind half/full, Alexa, close blinds.
Drip Irrigation: One of the most exciting feature noted was the drip irrigation for the plants in his balcony. The utterance helps him water his plants through drip irrigation, which also has a timer set.
Utterance: Alexa, water the plants.
House Door: The house door has been automated using Alexa.
Utterance: Alexa, open the front door.
He also has a security camera set up in the house. All the major skills and features such as drop-in, announcements and more are used by his family. Mukesh also has an Echo Dot 2nd Gen in his study and he uses it to control the lights. The Echo device is plugged in all day long.