Amazon Echo

Alexa, switch on the lights!! Alexa, reduce the volume!! Alexa, play “Aankh maare song”!! We are hearing lot of yelling these days even from small kids and Alexa not on . ly obediently does the task but smartly responds as well. How this is possible and who/what is Alexa? Amazon Alexa or simply Alexa, also called as Amazon Echo is a device that uses speech recognition to perform an ever-growing list of tasks on command. Alexa is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, provide weather, sports, traffic and other real-time updates such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system.

How does Alexa do this? Alexa Echo consists of speakers, microphones and a small computer. The small computer communicates with the cloud computing services run by Amazon and that brings the real smartness to Alexa. The small computer in Alexa recognizes the word ‘Alexa’ and when we say that word, it starts recording your voice and sends over this voice recording to Amazon over internet. Alexa Voice Service (AVS), a platform that runs Alexa by Amazon processes this recording and converts it into commands that interprets. The service then sends back the results back to Alexa after the required computation done on the cloud-based service.

If you ask for the time, AVS sends back an audio file of Alexa telling us the time, which the Echo plays back. If we are asking for a song, AVS searches for this music and send back the audio file of this music. Alexa can also work with other technologies in our home and beyond. Suppose you have linked Alexa to Uber, you can request Uber by simply asking Alexa. But this require additional considerations on data privacy and security aspects. Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) is another technology used in Alexa, which converts spoken text into speech. Like Alexa there are other devices too which are designed around Amazon’s own echo devices. Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Studio and Echo Dot are speaker only devices and Show, Echo Show5, Echo Show 8 and Echo spot have displays too which gives a visual feedback like weather widgets, videos or song lyrics. On Annual Alexa hardware meet this year, Amazon announced a service called Guard Plus along with a slew of products and services. Guard plus is a premium version of its free feature called guard in the Alexa app. While you are away, Alexa can turn and off smart bulbs, plugs and switches you select to look like someone is home and when your camera detects motion, Alexa can play the sound of a dog barking from your Echo to scare of potential intruders. Amazon continues to make strides in terms of audio quality, and the fourth-gen Echo sounds very good, especially if you like your tunes leavened with bass. Send a virtual hug to your loved ones, get exclusive amazon deals or a nutrition tip and recipe ideas, make a donation, get help for your pet, daily music pick, listen to audio book, call another Alexa enabled device, Alexa has all these in her arsenal already. Let’s hope for more in the coming years!!

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