Amazon Alexa has been around for the better part of a decade, and can do everything from updating you on the weather, to controlling your smart home products, to allowing you to shop for essentials on Amazon, to even telling you a joke or singing you a song.
Alexa can be found on a number of devices, such as speakers like the new Echo Pop and Echo Show 8, as well as other devices like TVs, soundbars, or even smart thermostats like the ones from ecobee. Amazon has poured billions into the technology powering it, and though it hasn’t exactly panned out the way the company hoped (turns out people don’t like buying stuff from Amazon without being able to look at the product pages), it is still a major player in the AI assistant space.
Curious to know more about Amazon’s voice assistant? I’ll explain everything below.
What is Alexa?
In a nutshell, Alexa is the name of the voice you hear when you talk to an Alexa-powered speaker like an Amazon Echo. When you talk to Alexa, you are basically communicating with Amazon’s cloud-based service called Alexa Voice Service (AVS).
Alexa Voice Service (AVS) was designed to act like you’re having an actual conversation with the assistant, and by using specific voice commands, you can get the service to execute specific tasks. When you say “Alexa,” that’s the “wake word” that lets the service start listening for your voice and commands, such as, “What’s the weather?”
While Alexa is the default “wake word” for Amazon’s voice assistant, you can change the wake word to “Amazon,” “Computer,” or “Echo.”
Where did the name Alexa come from?
David Limp, the former executive at Amazon, who oversaw the development of Alexa from its inception, said in an interview that the name Alexa was chosen for a few reasons: One was that the name Alexa has a hard consonant with the letter X, which helps the software recognize the wake word with better precision. Another reason was that the name Alexa is a reference to the Library of Alexandria, which attempted to collect all of the world’s knowledge in one spot.
Where is Alexa available?
Everywhere. Just kidding! (But not really.) The more complete answer is that Alexa can be found on hundreds of devices, but the most common and popular devices are made by Amazon, and include the line of Echo speakers, like the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show.
Alexa can also be found on Fire TV devices including both Fire TV Sticks and Fire TV-powered television sets. But it’s not just Amazon devices: This voice assistant is also available on third-party devices such as Sonos speakers, smart glasses, and smart thermostats like the ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium.
What can Alexa do?
The list of things Alexa can do continues to grow. Amazon calls these actions “Skills.” By default, there are a number of basic skills that Alexa can do like checking the weather, reading the news, setting timers, and playing music among many others.
To do more with your Alexa-powered device, you’ll need to enable a skill in the Amazon Skills Shop in the Alexa app. Some of the skills in the shop are compatible with third-party devices and services, including smart home tech like Philips Hue, games like Jeopardy, and remote starting/locking your Ford, BMW, GM, Hyundai, and Honda vehicles.
Alexa can also be used for routines, so when you say, “Alexa, Good Morning”, your Echo speaker will turn on your lights, tell you the weather, and play the news from your Flash Briefing.
Amazon is expanding the capabilities of Alexa, so then it can be more intuitive and useful in our everyday lives.
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