Alexa voice assistant is pretty popular given the growing sales volumes of Amazon’s Echo, Dot, Spot and Tap range of speakers. Their common annoyances include not recognizing device pairings, unwanted notifications, and failure to comprehend user voice and context. It is important to make Alexa smarter.
Here are a few ways you can make the virtual assistant amenable to your lifestyle. Before you begin, download and install the app from Google Play or the App store. Ensure the Wi-Fi speed is satisfactory.
1. Voice Recognition
Out of the box, Echo speakers might have a hard time understanding your accent. This is easily resolved by creating your voice profile in “Recognized Voices” within “Settings.” In the next step, you will prompt Alexa to “learn your voice” by speaking ten phrases while sitting in a quiet place. After, you can confirm whether it really understood your voice by asking, “Who am I?”
Once the voice profile is ready, you can enable “Voice Purchasing” from Settings. You may also create a “Household profile” to allow more members of your household to make online purchases from Echo.
2. Enabling New Skills
The Alexa app store currently features over 30,000 skills (and growing), most of them not enabled on the smart speaker. Click “Skills & Games” where you can search for necessary skills. These include finding a lost phone, ordering an Uber/Lyft ride, and Alexa speaker doubling as a remote control for TV programs. Search and enable an app called “Skill Finder” which will allow you to discover new skills.
You can also enable “Follow-up mode” from Settings that allows you to avoid repeating the wake word, “Alexa”, every single time. Currently, this mode is only available for US English.
3. Using Alexa’s Drop in Feature
If you’re inside your home, you surely don’t want to lug the Echo or Dot speaker around everywhere. Alexa’s “Drop in” feature is very useful for communicating with the stationary speakers directly through your phone app. Press the “chat” icon on the lower screen to enable calling and messaging with friends and family. If they have an Echo speaker with reciprocal permissions, you can drop in for a hands-free conversation or video call over data/Wi-Fi.
Drop in is currently not supported by Tap, Look or Connect.
4. Creating Routines
Tired of repeating the same stuff over and over again? Sometimes, when our mind is blank, we just do not know what to say to Alexa. From Settings, you can create a new “Routine” with a command making Alexa perform a series of tasks. It can do plenty of things: play your favorite music, clean the home, spout motivational speeches on exercise, or read bedtime stories.
Tip: don’t set too many routines, as you’re unlikely to remember more than five or six commands.
5. Building a Smart Home
Every week we read news of more and more manufacturers enabling Alexa on their hardware. These include refrigerators, microwaves, cleaning systems (such as Neato), bedroom lights, and automatic door companies. If you purchased any of these smart devices, you can discover and enable their skills on Alexa from the app search. With time and patience, you will feel cozy and comfortable in your new smart home.
6. “Alexa, Can I Have Privacy, Please?”
With Alexa’s Drop in feature, everyone in the room will be able to “drop in” on the conversation. This can be temporarily disabled by selecting “Do not Disturb” from “Alexa devices.” Also, if you are concerned about your data privacy, it is a good habit to periodically review your voice history from”Alexa Privacy” and delete the sensitive recordings. Do remember that your voice history makes Alexa smarter, so you don’t want to delete everything. Always use discretion.
7. Developing Your Own Alexa Skills
If you are a developer, you can visit Alexa’s developer homepage, register your account and create your own skills in a step-by-step manner. The skills can be tested with a virtual Alexa tool.
Virtual assistant systems are slowly evolving to understand human lives better. Amazon Alexa and its alternatives are poised to play a major role in ushering a connected future.
From ordering a pizza to hailing a cab, the interactive Alexa takes care of everyday chores with reasonable satisfaction. Still, there is plenty of room for improvement.
What shortcomings have you encountered while using Amazon’s Alexa products?