Technology Advice for Small Businesses

You can now speak with Alexa via Android

Your cousin got Alexa. Your neighbor got Alexa. Heck, even grandma got Alexa. You may not have been one of the lucky souls to receive an Alexa-enabled device last Christmas, but fret not, the latest update of the app on Android now enables voice control. You can finally get aboard the Alexa train and speak with the AI assistant without any Alexa-integrated device.

Until recently, the Amazon Alexa app could only be used to control settings for the Echo, Dot, and other supported devices. Considering what the AI-powered assistant is actually capable of, this is nothing to get excited about. But now all that has changed as Amazon brings voice control to the Android version of the app, making Alexa a full-fledge digital assistant on Android handsets.

The update was initially available to the US, UK, Germany, and Austria, and is expected to roll out to more countries via the Amazon Appstore and Google Play over the course of the coming days.

Activating Alexa on your newly downloaded or updated app

The first thing you need to do is grant it permission to use your device’s microphone and then your location. With the new voice feature, you can use Alexa to play music, get weather forecasts, and easily enable Alexa Skills. You can also make calls and send messages to your home Echo device. The update is on the way to the iOS App Store, although it is not known when the update is set to reach Apple devices.

Unfortunately, Alexa app for Android currently does not support the wake word function, so you will need to press the Blue button whenever you want to activate Alexa. The hands-free experience is still exclusive to Alexa-integrated smartphones such as HTC U11, Huawei Mate 9, and Motorola Moto X4.

Alexa for everyday use

With more than 25,000 skills available on the Alexa Skills store, you might be wondering where to get started. We’ve highlighted some ways Alexa can help with your daily activities:

Ride services – enabling ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft is a breeze. Simply say “Alexa, enable Lyft (or Uber)”, plug in your account and payment details and your smartphone now has the ability to order you a ride.

News – Alexa can keep you updated on current events. For example, the NPR Hourly News Summary skill can be prompted by saying “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?” or “Alexa, what’s in the news?” This will give you a 5-minute briefing of the day’s headlines. Other news channels such as Bloomberg, CNN, the Associated Press, WSJ, The Economist, and BBC are also available.

Organization – whether you are super organized or can’t seem to keep anything together, Alexa is there to help. It is capable of managing your Google calendar, making restaurant reservations, reminding you about important events, updating grocery lists, ordering items from Amazon Prime, and tracking Amazon packages, just to name a few.

Media – besides streaming music directly from Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio, you can also listen to audiobooks and podcasts or stay updated with your favorite sports teams with skills such as NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB, and many more.

Health – the AI assistant might be the closest thing you can get to having a personal trainer with a collection of skills available to help you stay on track of your health and fitness goals. Some popular skills include the activity tracker Fitbit, 7-Minute Workout, and relaxation-inducing skills such as Ambient Noise, Stop, Breathe & Think, and Meditation Timer.

With Amazon clearly flexing its muscles in the voice assistant category, along with Apple’s HomePod set to release in the near future, 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for tech. As AI assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby continue to make appearances in our homes, cars, and personal devices, we are excited to see them pave their way to the workplace. That said, may the best AI assistant win.

If you’d like to stay updated on the latest AI trends or need help with anything AI-related — like Alexa for Business or Microsoft Cortana integration for your business — give us a call today.