Feb 07, 2018
By: Jason Smith
Speaking at the annual CES event, Priya Abani, Amazon's director of AVS enablement revealed something about the future of Alexa. According To Abani, “you should be able to talk to Alexa no matter where you're located or what device you're talking to. We basically envision a world where Alexa is everywhere.”
Originally launched in 2014, Amazon’s voice-based assistant, Alexa, has experienced a rapid growth in adoption, riding the wave of the Internet of Things in the process.
Today, millions inside and outside the US converse with Alexa on a daily basis through one of Amazon’s line of Echo speakers -- including the Spot, the Show, the Dot and the Plus. Some of those devices boast screens, but they all rely on the increasingly familiar sound of Alexa’s voice.
But apparently, scattering devices throughout our homes isn’t enough for Amazon. They want more.
In the background, Apple and Google have chosen to take a slow, methodical approach to introducing their own voice assistants to the market. But Amazon has elected to take the contrarian approach, setting up a Alexa Voice Services team whose sole mission is to enable developers and manufacturers to embed Alexa’s technology into every light fixture, appliance, or car someone somewhere might be building.
So, what does this mean for the future of Alexa?
Alongside technological breakthroughs, improvements in processor efficiency and bandwidth accessibility means that almost anything can be connected to the internet today, let alone tomorrow. Sure, you may already know this is happening with cars, trucks, and home appliances, but what about clothing, hospital furnishings and public transport stations?
The reality is, everything in your home and office is going to be connected soon enough, and Amazon is bending over backwards to make sure Alexa is the way that happens. So far, Amazon says there are roughly 50 Alexa-powered third-party devices on the market, but you can expect that number to rise sharply.
With that all in mind, where can we expect to see (or hear) Alexa next? After giving it some thought, we have a few ideas about where Alexa might show up, and some of them may surprise you.
Alexa’s technology is already weaving its way into the operating interface of consumer automobiles. You can use voice commands to ask for directions, find the nearest pit stop, or research that interesting monument you just drove by.
In the future, expect to see that same kind of capabilities start to pop up in mass transit scenarios. Places like airports, bus stops and subway stations are ripe for an Alexa-powered kiosk or two.
Some interesting applications we’ve imagined include:
There are a multitude of opportunities for Alexa to empower travelers, and the ability to embed the technology in a space as small as an armrest make accessibility a non-issue.
Colleges and universities have always adapted to the emergence of new technologies and found ways to incorporate them into their curricula, so why would voice assistants be any different?
We spoke to Rod Tosten, the Vice President of Information Technology at Gettysburg College, about the impact the voice-powered assistants like Alexa are having on the learning experience. He described several examples of how Alexa is changing the higher education sector, giving students access to calendars and dining menus from the comfort of their dormitories.
As higher education institutions get more comfortable with Alexa, we may see Alexa Skills that help students find library books and playback lectures that they weren’t able to attend.
Voice assistants are also primed for places like museums, theaters, art galleries, or professional sporting events.
Posing questions to Alexa at the Museum of Natural History would be useful, while having access to Alexa outside of a stadium might help visitors find their ticket booths, merchandise, gates and seats a little easier.
The potential impact that voice assistants could have on the healthcare industry can’t be overstated. Alexa is in a strong position to positively impact communication, accountability and quality of care from the doctor’s office to the nursing home.
Healthcare industry critic Wendell Potter recently told Psy.org that it’s, “entirely likely Amazon will play a role in health care. They're a company that's been very disruptive to multiple industries — there are opportunities there for them.”
In a world where a single mistake in tracking activity, medication, dosages, or other patient notes can literally mean the difference between life and death, Alexa could prove to be a life saver.
Documenting and looking up when a patient has last received a medication or procedure is an easy win. Helping communicate recent developments after shift changes is another. Not only that, but the voice-powered interface of assistants like Alexa is the perfect solution for a world where having your hands clean and available for work is critically important.
We’re seeing some early indications that this is already happening in places like Boston Children’s Hospital, where they are experimenting with Alexa to complete some very important tasks:
Even outside of the provision of care, Alexa has the ability to improve accuracy and efficiencies around administrative tasks like scheduling and rescheduling appointments, ordering supplies and booking rooms.
Calling out to Alexa for a traffic update is still a novelty for the average consumer. But the potential uses of Alexa, some of which are outline above, is where we’ll see genuinely groundbreaking transformations.
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