What is Alexa?

What is Alexa?

How to interact with Amazon Alexa

Smart home: Alexa and Amazon Echo

Smart home: Alexa and Amazon Echo

Introduction

  • Personal Echo Products
  • Echo Plus
  • Echo show
  • Echo scene
  • Echo point
  • Echo Connect
  • Set your echo
  • Get to know Alexa
  • Echo setting skills
  • Echo Show setting information
  • Customize and use your echo
  • More tips and tricks
  • What a smart speaker
  • How virtual assistants work?
  • Make a call with your echo
  • Control your echo from your phone
  • Which Echo should you buy?

Since 1998, Robert Silva has written articles on audio, video, and home theater topics. Prior to this, Robert was an audio/video expert at About.com.

Alexa is Amazon’s digital voice assistant. It can be used in smartphones and Amazon’s Echo series products.

Alexa is inspired by the interactive computer voice used in the original Star Trek TV series. The word “Alexa” was chosen because “X” is easier to recognize by voice recognition, and the word is also a tribute to the famous ancient library in Alexandria.

Oral interaction with machines that used to be science fiction novels. Although we have not yet entered the era of intelligent machines controlling our lives, digital voice assistance is quickly becoming a common feature of consumer electronic devices.

How does Alexa work?

The technical details of Alexa are complex but can be summarized in the following ways.

Once enabled (see settings below), simply saying “Alexa” will trigger the start of the service. Then it will start (or try) to explain what you are talking about. At the end of your question/command, Alexa sends the recording via the Internet to Amazon’s Alexa cloud-based server, where AVS (Alexa Voice Service) resides.

Then, the Alexa voice service converts your voice signal into computer language commands that can perform tasks (such as searching for the requested song), or convert the computer language back to voice signals so that Alexa’s voice assistant can provide information verbally (such as with Time, traffic and weather).

If your Internet connection is normal and Amazon’s back-end services are also functioning normally, the answer can be completed quickly after you finish speaking. This situation is not uncommon-Alexa’s performance is very good.

On products such as Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, the information response is only presented in audio form, but on Echo Show and within a limited range on smartphones, information is provided via audio and/or screen display. Using Amazon devices that support Alexa, Alexa can also pass commands to other compatible third-party devices.

Since the cloud-based Alexa voice service is required to answer questions and perform tasks, it needs to be connected to the Internet-no Internet, with no Alexa interaction. This is where the Alexa app comes in.

Set up Alexa on your iOS or Android phone

Alexa can be used with your smartphone or tablet. To do this, first, you need to download and install the Alexa App.

In addition, you also need to download and install the Alexa application, which can be seen as a companion application for the device. The two apps to try out are the Amazon mobile shopping app and the Alexa Reverb app.

Once any of these apps are installed on your smartphone, they will be recognized by the Alexa app as a device through which they can communicate. Whether you use a smartphone, you can use Alexa in these apps.

In addition, since January 2018, you can talk to Alexa directly through the Android app (iOS device update is coming soon). This means you can ask Alexa questions and perform tasks without going through the Amazon shopping app, Alexa Reverb app, or other Alexa-enabled devices. However, you can use the updated App to control any device that supports Alexa.

Set up Alexa on the Echo device

If you have an Amazon Echo device, in order to use it, you first need to download and install the Alexa app on a compatible smartphone or tablet, as described above, but instead of (or in addition to) connecting it with Amazon For mobile shopping and/or the Alexa Reverb app, you can enter the device menu settings of the Alexa app and identify your Amazon Echo device. The app will then use your Echo device to configure itself.

Although you need a smartphone to use the Echo device to initially configure Alexa, once it’s done, you don’t have to keep your smartphone on-you can directly use Alexa to communicate with the Echo device.

You may need to use your smartphone to activate or change certain advanced settings or enable new Alexa skills. On the other hand, if you are not at home, beyond the sound range of a home-based Alexa device, you usually only need to use your smartphone for Alexa functions, provided you have set the Alexa app to Amazon mobile shopping or Alexa Reverb app.

Best Amazon Echo devices of 2021

Once Alexa is configured on your smartphone or Echo device, it can use the device to respond to spoken commands or questions.

Before asking questions or ordering tasks, you need to use “Alexa” as the wake word.

However, Alexa is not the only wake word. For those family members with that name, or those who prefer to use another wake word, the Alexa App offers other options, such as “Computer”, “Echo” or “Amazon.”

On the other hand, when using the Amazon mobile shopping app for smartphones or using the Alexa Remote for Fire TV device, you don’t have to say “Alexa” before asking your questions or ordering tasks. Just tap the microphone icon on the touch screen of your smartphone or press the microphone button on the Alexa Voice Remote to start speaking.

You can also adjust the voice response speed. Just say “Alexa, speak slower (or faster)”. To return to normal speaking speed, just say “Alexa, speak at normal speed”.

Alexa even allows you to activate the whisper mode.

How do you use Alexa?

Amazon Alexa can be used as your personal voice assistant to access information and control compatible devices. Alexa can answer questions, tell you traffic or weather information, play news reports, initiate phone calls, play music, manage your shopping list, purchase items from Amazon, and display images and play videos on Echo Show. However, you can use Alexa Skills to further expand the reach of Alexa.

Alexa Skills provide interaction with other third-party content and services and further improves your lifestyle by turning Alexa-enabled devices into smart home centers.

Examples of interacting with third-party content and services might include ordering takeaway food from a local restaurant, requesting an Uber ride, or playing a song from a specific streaming service, provided that you have enabled specific skills for each option.

As a smart home center, you don’t need to access the control panel or use a handheld or app-based remote to control the functions of a particular device. You only need to use a compatible Echo product to tell Alexa in simple English to turn something on or off. Adjust the thermostat, start the washing machine, dryer, or robot vacuum cleaner, even raise or lower the video projection screen, turn on or off the TV, check the security camera feed, etc. If controlling these devices has been added to the Alexa Skills database, you have enabled them. You can even use your smartphone to control Alexa when you are not at home.

In addition to Alexa Skills, Amazon is providing the ability to combine multiple tasks through Alexa Routines. With Alexa Routines, you can customize Alexa to perform a series of related tasks with a single voice command, instead of telling Alexa to perform specific tasks with a single skill.

In other words, instead of telling Alexa to turn off the lights, TV, and lock your door through a separate command, you can simply say “Alexa, good night” and Alexa will use this phrase as a routine to perform all three prompt tasks.

For the same reason, when you wake up in the morning, you can say “Alexa, good morning”. If you set a routine in advance, Alexa can turn on the light, start the coffee machine, provide you with the weather, and change your every The daily briefing is activated as a continuous routine.

Compatible Alexa devices

In addition to smartphones (Android and iOS), Alexa can also be configured and accessed on the following devices:

Amazon Alexa and Echo product design analysis

Amazon Echo is the most successful smart speaker in the world. Last week, there was a demo that needed to use Echo speakers, so I bought Echo Dot 2 on Taobao for more than 200 yuan. I received it the day before yesterday. After that, I spent a day learning the background knowledge of Echo and the Alexa intelligent system behind it and used the Amazon Cloud AWS account and developer account to add a new dialogue skill to Echo speakers.

In this process, I learned about the design of the entire Alexa ecosystem and gained the following gains.

Ecosystem

Let’s talk about the ecosystem first. Alexa is behind Echo. It can create new skills to extend new functions through the Lambda serverless service in AWS. Every developer can use his account to develop and expand new skills on AWS for free. For example, as a bank, I can develop a new wealth management service skill, and then customers can complete the entire process of buying wealth through Echo speakers.

Deep customization

Specifically, when designing and developing a new skill, we need to use two accounts. One is an Amazon developer account, and the other is an Amazon cloud account, after logging in on Amazon’s developer website. There is an entrance to Alexa model training, where we can train the intent recognition model. Then in the Amazon AWS account, we need to use the Lambda service, through a certain configuration and a small amount of code. You can refer to the intent recognition model trained in the previous developer account. Regarding how to write the corresponding code, the Lambda printing service already provides templates in multiple languages, including Java, NodeJs, and Python. Generally speaking, by slightly modifying our new application on these templates, the development is complete.

Next, we need to go back to our newly developed skills in the developer account for certain tests. The test itself can be completed on the web site, so the whole process does not need to use Echo speakers.

Smooth experience

From a programmer’s point of view, the process of adding new skills is very smooth. For someone like me who doesn’t know anything about AWS or Alexa, it only takes one day. I do not need to create a new server of my own, deploy the application, and open up access to the public network.

Looking back, let’s think about why it is so smooth? There should be the following reasons.

The first is that the entire process is completed in the cloud. Including model training, as well as the following business logic, are placed in Lambda and AWS services.

Open ecology

In the design of Alexa, we can see that it is very open. Not only anyone can add new skills to Alexa, and it can be launched after review. And you can even customize your own speakers (similar to Baidu DuerOS) without using Echo speakers as the entrance, and use your own wake words.

The power of openness is huge. It enables the rapid expansion of Alexa’s functions, and Alexa is flooded with many high-quality applications.

Alexa’s profit model is also very clear. First of all, your application will be naturally built-in AWS cloud services, and Amazon can collect money through cloud services. In addition, Alexa provides Amazon’s shopping function, users can directly use Echo to shop. Greatly expand the shopping entrance, and enhance user stickiness and loyalty.

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