Artificial Intelligence

These new features could make Amazon Alexa a true office assistant

Alexa has gained attention as an AI tool for the home, but a new skill and a potential new hardware addition could bring it into the boardroom and office.

Alexa, the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered assistant from Amazon, has become well known as a personal home assistant, but a few potential upgrades could make it helpful in the workplace as well.

On Monday, Amazon expanded Alexa's calendar integrations to include support for Microsoft Office 365 calendars. Alexa also supports Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar, which works with accounts ending in @outlook.com, @live.com, @hotmail.com, and @msn.com.

Office 365 calendars are primarily held by professionals, which may signal a shift in Amazon's overall strategy for Alexa. Users will now be able to ask Alexa what is on their calendar for the day, or request that Alexa add an event to their calendar. The different calendar integrations can be added from the Alexa mobile app by heading to "settings" and then "calendar."

SEE: How to become an Alexa developer: The smart person's guide

While the Office 365 support may seem like a small addition, there are a host of other features in the works for Alexa that could make it a more prominent feature in the office. For example, a recent report from Recode claims that Amazon could be planning to release a version of the Amazon Echo that could work as an intercom.

The Recode report, which cites multiple anonymous sources, said that Amazon could even be working on more than one device that would "allow people to initiate phone calls by voice." While it is unclear whether the device would have its own phone number or connect to an existing system, the report did say that Amazon is beta testing it internally.

Additionally, a recently leaked image seems to point to the idea of Amazon releasing Alexa-powered hardware with camera capabilities. The image came from AFTVNews, and seems to show an Amazon Echo with a camera embedded in it.

As noted by ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Amazon could be building a competitor to the Nest Cam. It could also be a FaceTime or Skype competitor, or simply a smart conference room camera.

Some tech companies are already integrating Alexa into their conference rooms. Box uses Amazon Echoes in its conference rooms, utilizing the Alexa voice control for employees to check into the rooms. They also integrate with Google calendars to book meetings in the rooms. Oracle also uses Alexa for smart office applications.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Amazon Alexa now supports Office 365 calendars, making it more useful to businesses that use Office 365.
  2. Reports claim that Amazon is also working on an Echo with phone call capabilities and another with a camera, which could make it a good option for corporate conference rooms and offices.
  3. Companies such as Oracle and Box are already using Alexa in their offices to enable conference room check in, for example.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/toeytoey2530/Amazon

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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