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What is Amazon Alexa? The digital assistant explained

Amazon is one of the largest company’s in the world, with its tech sector being only one cog in its massive machine. But what is Amazon Alexa, and what can it do?

Amazon and its Alexa assistant will be familiar to many, especially anyone that’s looking at making their home smarter.

One of the most popular features of Amazon’s products is Amazon Alexa, which can be found on multiple products, including the Amazon Echo, Amazon Fire TV Cube and the Amazon Echo Show. It also can be found on third-party products, making it even easier for people to create a smart ecosystem in their homes.

Keep reading to find out what Amazon Alexa is and how it can help you.

What is Amazon Alexa?

Amazon Alexa is a virtual assistant that is featured on various pieces of tech, ranging from Amazon-made products to third-party devices, such as smart bulbs, speakers and smart clocks.

Alexa is based on a Polish speech synthesiser originally named Ivona, but it was brought by Amazon back in 2013. It was initially released in November 2014.

Devices that feature Amazon Alexa will usually feature microphones that can pick up your voice, although some devices can be controlled via the Amazon Alexa app.

What Alexa can do will vary depending on what device it is featured in, but generally, it helps users to control their devices with their voice or app, making it easier to run your home.

For example, using Alexa on the Amazon Echo you can ask for the device to be muted or unmuted, for it to read out your calendar plans for the week, how the weather is and other basic inquiries. Some devices can be used to call people or check on a Ring Video Doorbell, further making it a great way to control your home and all of your devices under one roof.

As time has gone on, Amazon has added more features to Alexa, with specific commands like “Alexa, help me wash my hands,” being introduced after the Covid-19 pandemic hit to help people time their handwashing for the recommended 20 seconds.

The list of what Alexa can do is very expansive, and since it sits in the cloud it is always expanding on the information it can offer, refining its responses to make asking questions a more successful and seamless experience for users.

Alexa-supported devices that have screens are also capable of displaying information, like the week’s weather forecast or a video recipe, making them ideal products to use throughout your home.

Multiple apps are supported by Alexa too, such as JustEat, Fitbit, Spotify, Philips Hue and Nest, among many others.

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Amazon Echo and Other Devices Using Alexa

All of the devices listed below are compatible with Alexa, so if you’re looking for a device to use with this virtual assistant, you have plenty of choices. These include:

  • Amazon Echo: The original device that uses Amazon Alexa, the Echo is a cylindrical speaker that sits on a table or desk. It can be controlled by your voice and responds to numerous questions.
  • Amazon Echo Dot: This device is smaller than the Echo and has a smaller price tag. It’s compatible with many devices, including iPhones, Android devices, and the Amazon Tap. – Amazon Echo Spot- This is a smaller version of the Echo with a built-in screen. It’s designed to be used in a bedroom and can offer weather reports, news, and alarms.
  • Amazon Echo Plus: This device is almost identical to the original Echo, but it has a few additional features. The Echo Plus can connect to your WiFi and acts as a hub.
  • Amazon Echo Show: This device is similar to the Echo Spot, but it has a larger screen and can be used for video calls. It can also be used to make video calls to other Echo Show users.
  • Amazon Alexa Smartphones: If you don’t want to use a separate device to control Alexa, you can install the app on your smartphone and use it as a microphone. You can also use Alexa-enabled headphones.
  • Alexa-enabled smart speakers: Many third party speakers now support Amazon Alexa. You can see a selection of the top scoring options we’ve tested in our best smart speaker guide.

Amazon Alexa Limitations

Alexa is a great tool that can be used in a variety of situations. However, it does have a couple of limitations. Here are some things to keep in mind when using Alexa:

  • Alexa can only control certain devices: When you are using Alexa to control devices, you have to make sure that they are compatible with the virtual assistant. This includes lights, thermostats, and other items.
  • Alexa can’t read your mind: The virtual assistant was created to respond to your voice, not read your mind. If you ask a yes or no question, it’ll answer based on the information you gave it. If you ask it something cryptic, you won’t get an answer.
  • Internet connection is required: Alexa works with the help of the internet, so you have to make sure that you have a connection. Some devices, such as the Amazon Echo, have Wi-Fi built in.

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