“Alexa, Play Elton John..”

Another Christmas and another tough decision. What to buy your visually impaired family member. They probably have a drawer of 30 identical socks, so that cleverly any two randomly selected make a pair, right?

Well this year the retail giant Amazon came to the rescue…

A new voice-controlled virtual assistance device called the Echo Dot, after being in America for two years, finally came to the UK. It is about the size of a hockey puck and quickly becomes a great companion wherever in your home you choose to plug it in. As well as the £50 to buy one, you will need wifi, wireless internet and probably 5 minutes support from that 6 year old technical expert grandchild we all seem to have, but after that all you’ll need is your voice. She responds on hearing the word “Alexa”.

If you like technical stuff then Alexa offers exciting potential, including things like turning the heating up and down and turning lights on and off, turning on the coffee machine, all at your command. However, it’s the simple stuff around organising your schedule, music and reading books, that has my visually impaired friends all rushing to buy one.

“Alexa, Set me an alarm call for 7am” and she confirms back she has done so and at 7am she wakes you up.

“Alexa, Stop” and she will turn off the alarm. My more likely response in “Alexa snooze” and she will try me again in 9 minutes.

“Alexa, What is the weather like today” and she will let you know the temperature and whether you will need that umbrella.

“Alexa, Give me my daily briefing” and she will give you the news headlines.

“Alexa, play Jazz FM” and she will start playing your chosen radio station.

“Alexa, play songs by Elton John” and she will play a random selection of songs by Elton, or whoever you asked for.

“Alexa, read my audio book and she will start playing my latest audio book from the last place I got to.

“Alexa, remind me I have a doctor’s appointment  next Wednesday. When you ask her your schedule for that day, she will tell you

It is difficult to do it justice in a short article and hopefully we will get one in the DBA offices soon, so if you are passing you can say Hello. My children have used Alexa for their homework, practicing spelling words or asking her general knowledge or trivia questions. She has a sense of humour too, just ask her to tell you a joke and she will. There seems no limit to what you can ask and if she is not capable of doing it, you are at least going to get a witty reply. That burning question of why the chicken crossed the road is one of my favourite retorts.

Clever people are continually developing new features that work with Alexa to interact with her companion. Seemingly the potential is endless. Oh hang on, I just asked her “Alexa, make me a sandwich” and she replied “I wish I could. Cooking is beyond me at the moment”. Looks like I am going to need that technical expert 6 year old once again to find the branston pickle.

Mark Noble.

#amazondot #echodot #alexa #visuallyimpaired