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Alexa: A Virtual Assistant

Christie Wang, Staff Writer

In this modern era, there are many virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and ones pre-installed in smartphones, or even speakers. However, the struggle with this smart technology is finding new customers who will use them more than the traditional alarm clock or radio. A study has found that users of such devices utilize the features to play music, get the weather, set timers, and ask questions. In fact, most Alexa users never use more than the basic applications offered by the device; third party apps can tap into Alexa’s voice to accomplish tasks.

While there are some fans taking advantage of the advanced features of the virtual assistant, like controlling lights in homes, “people are still using these speakers for very routine tasks.” Apple first popularized the virtual assistant by introducing Siri into its iPhones in 2011. Amazon debuted Echo as well, a speaker addition to Alexa. Soon enough, there was a competitive market of virtual assistants and companies betting that talking to machines would be the future of technology. Tech companies want to control the technology that other services or devices must rely upon. The company with the most useful and popular assistant will gain the advantage for services like Internet searching and online shopping.

As a result, the public has seen the industry’s mad scramble to make assistants unparalleled. During the holidays, Amazon and Google offered sales with heavy discounts and dropped prices of their models. In addition, the tech companies have been placing the assistants inside products of all sizes. Hisense will put Alexa into television sets and Kohler said a new bathroom mirror will have built-in microphones to allow Alexa to dim lights and fill bath tubs. Amazon also released an agreement with Toyota to integrate Alexa into Toyota and Lexus cars. Google said LG televisions, Sony headphones, and Lenovo will tap into its new Assistant.

So far, customer satisfaction has remained due to the fact of low prices. For example, Echo was only $50 and was also offered with the purchase of other smart devices. Echo accounted for 70% of the sales in the smart speaker category, with Google Assistant coming in at a distant second. Still, there are other competitors in the running; Apple has Siri running across all its devices and a promised HomePod in the future.

The only thing that remains is for these devices to become the center of the connected home, controlling lights, thermostats, and other household appliances. So while Alexa seems to be leading the way in the industry of smart virtual assistants, customers need to be aware of the true usefulness of the product.

Photo courtesy of ROBOTSTART.INFO

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Alexa: A Virtual Assistant