Available in the Echo Speaker line, smart thermostats, sound bars, Amazon lights and lamps, and directly on your phone through the app, Amazon Alexa can play music, set reminders, control smart home devices, get news updates, and even order groceries. It can also be used to control other smart home devices such as lights, thermostats, and security systems.
In this guide we explain where Alexa comes from, how it works, why it’s called “Alexa” and more.
What or who is Alexa?
For most people, Alexa is to Amazon what “Siri” is to Apple: it’s a voice you can ask questions or request to perform a series of tasks. Alexa has been integrated into many of Amazon’s services and can be used with products such as the original Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Spot, or Amazon Fire TV.
But what exactly is Alexa? When you ask it a question, you are communicating with a cloud-based service. Amazon has designed the Alexa voice service (AVS) to imitate real conversations, but you are actually using intuitive voice commands for this service to perform specific tasks. The word Alexa is simply the “wake word,” which wakes up the service so it can start listening to your voice.
This is how Amazon describes the Alexa voice service: “The Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is Amazon’s intelligent voice recognition and natural language service that allows you to enable voice on any connected device that has a microphone and speaker.”
That’s why you’re starting to see Alexa on headphones and other devices. “Alexa becomes increasingly intelligent with new capabilities through machine learning,” says the Amazon Developer site.
Although The official name of Amazon’s voice assistant is Alexa, but it’s wake word can be changed to “Amazon,” “Computer,” or “Echo.” This feature is beneficial, particularly if your name or that of your partner or roommate is similar to Alexa or sounds like it.
Why the name “Alexa”?
An Amazon Echo Show device According to David Limp, the Amazon executive who supervised the development of the service, the name “Alexa” was chosen for several reasons. First, the name dates back to the Library of Alexandria, which attempted to compile all the knowledge in the world. Amazon is trying to do the same; Alexa is always learning something new, but in theory, it should be a perfect source of information.
More practically, the service was named Alexa because it contains the uncommon sound “X.” In order to prevent accidental activation, Amazon chose a name that wouldn’t be confused with other commonly used words. This was because the device is activated by voice.
“We considered several names, and the name is very important for the personality that is created around a cloud-based computer voice,” Limp said, adding that there is also computer science behind this decision. “If any of you have an Echo device, you know that when you say the word ‘Alexa,’ it starts listening.
Where can I use Alexa?
Although Alexa has become synonymous with Echo line products, you can’t simply go buy “Alexa.” Just as you can buy an iPhone with Siri, but you can’t buy a “Siri,” you need to have a device that incorporates the voice assistant.
Similarly, to use Alexa you will need a device that integrates voice technology. Generally, this means an Amazon device, such as Echo Studio, Echo Dot, or Echo Show, but this cloud-based personal voice assistant has also been integrated with some third-party systems. Devices like Fire TV are also compatible with Alexa, as is the Ecobee Switch+ light system, the LG InstaView refrigerator, and the Sonos One speaker.
Alexa has also become the center of many smart home systems, including Wink, SmartThings, and Logitech Harmony. You can also use the voice assistant to build your smart home piece by piece, as Alexa can pair with devices like WeMo switches and Nest thermostats.
What can Alexa do?
The list of commands that Alexa can understand continues to grow. Amazon calls them “skills,” and you can even create your own skills through Amazon Blueprints, and after the latest Amazon update, you can even publish them in the Amazon Skills Store for others to use on their devices. The number of tasks Alexa can perform is clearly more than we can list in this article, but here are some of our favorites:
- Order almost anything online.
- Track your Amazon packages.
- Find audible, step-by-step recipes and instructions.
- Control devices in your smart home.
- Read Kindle books.
- Get movie, concert, or sporting event schedules.
- Order pizza or find nearby restaurants.
- Pay your bills with the Capital One app.
- Receive pregnancy tips.
- Track your Amazon packages.
- Receive news updates.
- You can ask Alexa to read your emails.
- You can set reminders.
- You can make your home safer with Alexa Guard and Away Mode.
Just like Google Assistant, Alexa also has the ability to set up routines, where it performs a series of tasks with a single command you set. For example, by saying “Alexa, goodnight,” the assistant turns off the lights, closes the garage door, locks the front door, activates the alarm, and sets up your coffee maker to turn on at a certain time. If you don’t want to wake your partner, Alexa has a whisper mode, where if you talk to it quietly, it will understand and quietly respond in the same way.
Alexa Guard is a useful security feature that carefully monitors your home’s perimeter and activity inside when you’re not there. If your Echo speaker captures any unusual sounds, like a broken glass or any other mysterious noise, Alexa will quickly alert you with a notification for you to check your home. With Alexa Guard Plus (a paid version of the same feature), you will have the same home monitoring function, access to Amazon’s emergency line, and several additional security tools.
Amazon is constantly working to enhance Alexa’s features and capabilities by creating user-friendly and innovative technologies.
One of its current projects is the development of emotion and frustration detection, allowing Alexa to recognize your mood and respond appropriately.
To learn about Alexa’s latest updates, simply ask “Alexa, what’s new?” and it will provide you with all the information you need.