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Conversational tech revolution: Alexa, what’s the future?

Arkadiusz Bajowski

Principal Software Engineer

Remember those old sci-fi movies of the 70s and 80s when astronauts and scientists interacted with a robotic voice on a spaceship? We are well on our way to this future. In many ways, it’s already here. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey except instead of talking to spaceship AI, you’re communicating with a small voice-controlled smart speaker powered by Alexa technology. Amazon states that to date, roughly 100 million Alexa-powered devices have been sold to consumers and businesses alike.

Each of these smart speakers can download “skills” -- or one of the many kinds of actions the device can perform. Using these skills, smart speaker technology has the power to change many aspects of our lives, including what we do in the comfort of our own homes, how we drive our cars and how we handle business.

“Alexa, make my life easier.”

Alexa developers are constantly building upon the Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) engines. With these improvements, as well as added skills, your life can be made easier with simple voice commands.

The basics of interacting with Alexa in your home include the ability to set your alarm clock, organize your calendar, play the news and give a weather forecast. These functionalities only scratch the surface of what Alexa can do. For example, we’ve seen skills such as “Ask Peapod”, where users can order items to be added to their weekly shopping lists through simple voice commands.

Another cool feature on the rise is the ability to make travel arrangements through Alexa. You can both search for and purchase travel tickets and organize a car pickup and drop-off once you arrive at your destination -- all without as much as touching your mobile phone. Soon, thanks to the ability to plan an entire trip by giving Alexa voice commands, the travel experience will become much less complicated than scanning over the hundreds of online deals from airlines and travel companies.

“Alexa, make my commute easier.”

Those who are familiar with living in cold conditions understand the frustration that comes with starting a car in snowy situations. Waiting for the car to heat up, clearing off the snow, and putting your bare hands on the cold wheel are part of these uncomfortable moments.

Home-to-vehicle integration is an interesting application for Alexa, which gives you the option to start your car, unlock or lock your doors, and check gas, battery or tire pressure levels remotely. All of this can be done from inside your home. So far, Ford is the only car manufacturer to have successfully tested these Alexa integrations, but as the technology advances, we are sure to see it become the norm for more manufacturers. No more dealing with cold car interiors, trying to remember whether you locked your doors, or encountering unpleasant surprises when starting your vehicle.

“Alexa, create smoother and more efficient businesses.”

Aside from being useful in our homes and cars, Alexa can potentially improve businesses thanks to easy integration and instant voice control that saves time. Alexa can lend itself to many different areas of businesses, from standard offices to the hospitality industry.

Planning office meetings can be time-consuming for reasons such as confirming which parties will attend, reserving a conference room, and so on. Through Alexa, you can organize a time, reserve a space in the building, and even send out invites via voice interaction. Even sending confirmations and reminders is handled by Alexa.

Amazon recently announced its “Alexa for hospitality” program, which will implement the voice assistant in hotel rooms to make the guest experience more comfortable. With Alexa in the room, you will be able to order room service, call the front desk, and even check out just by using verbal commands. Furthermore, Alexa can act as a virtual concierge and suggest restaurant recommendations or interesting tourist attractions nearby.

Voice assistants offer solutions for more efficiency in our daily life and at work. With the increased sales of the technology, as well as the consistent work that developers put into Alexa skills, we are bound to see Alexa’s presence in our lives only increase over time.

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