Innovation

Top 5 things to know about Amazon Alexa

Amazon's voice assistant, Alexa, is taking over homes everywhere. Here's what you need to know about it.

The Amazon Echo's built-in voice assistant, Alexa, is all over the place these days. Don't say that name too loud if you don't want to set off someone's device.

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Here are the top five things to know about it:

1. Alexa is machine learning in action. It's one of the most successful applications of AI so far. Wanna keep an eye on what this much-hyped technology can actually do? Keep an eye on the Amazon Echo.

SEE: Cheat sheet: Alexa for Business

2. It's easy. Amazon provides a site called Echosim.io where you can try it out for free, but an Amazon Echo Dot is about $50 and Amazon sells six packs which get you a bulk discount. To set one up, you turn it on and put an app on your phone. Then just talk to it.

SEE: Personal digital assistants: The current lineup (Free ebook)

3. It's invading homes. In a good way. Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all trying to become the platform that runs the smart home. For people with an Amazon Echo or two, Amazon already won.

4. It can help you find things. Alexa skills, which are kind of like apps, can find your phone, call you a ride on Uber or Lyft, and even make a reservation at a restaurant on OpenTable.

SEE: How to add Alexa skills to your Amazon Echo

5. It's spreading. Amazon recently made the Alexa voice service API available to developers, allowing for integration in non-Amazon devices. At CES we saw it in TVs, robots, loads of smart speakers, a refrigerator, and even cars.

SEE: Developers can now build Amazon Alexa skills for free on AWS

Just be careful when you say the trigger word and maybe turn off default ordering. Or you may end up with a pair of skis delivered to your house accidentally.

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About Tom Merritt

Tom is an award-winning independent tech podcaster and host of regular tech news and information shows. Tom hosts Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy podcast, and book club with Veronica Belmont. He also hosts Daily Tech News Show, coverin...

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