There are a number of ways messages can be sent from Alexa's application. Alexa can deliver messages to a recipient's Alexa application, as well as to all supported Echo devices associated with their Amazon account. Alexa can send typed messages only from Alexa's app. If one sends a message from an associated Echo device, it transmits as a voice message. Alexa cannot send attachments such as videos and photos.
Google and Amazon each have different strengths here. Google, naturally, has the ability to answer some pretty darn complex questions—it is Google, after all. Alexa does better with more simple queries. Amazon’s AI, thanks to its third-party skills, can actually respond (or act) on a wider variety of requests than you can with Google’s assistant, though. So if you want your smart speaker to be more of an actual assistant—performing tasks for you, ordering things on Amazon for you—Alexa is what you want.
Amazon Alexa also offers a number of tools to catch you up on what’s happening in the world around you each day. In the Flash Briefing section, you can customize publications you’d like Alexa to include in your daily Flash Briefing, a brief overview of the day’s biggest headlines. You can also enter in your home or work address to get traffic updates for your daily commute. And if you missed a big game the night before, you can enter in your favorite teams and Alexa will fill you in on scores and upcoming schedules in your Sports Update.
In addition to performing pre-set functions, Alexa can also perform additional functions through third-party skills that users can enable. Some of the most popular Alexa skills in 2018 included "Question of the Day" and "National Geographic Geo Quiz" for trivia; "TuneIn Live" to listen to live sporting events and news stations; "Big Sky" for hyper local weather updates; "Sleep and Relaxation Sounds" for listening to calming sounds; "Sesame Street" for children's entertainment; and "Fitbit" for Fitbit users who want to check in on their health stats.
Buying Amazon products using your voice is also a key part of the Alexa experience. You can switch on “Purchase by Voice” in the Voice Purchasing section of the Settings menu, which will let you make and confirm purchases as long as you have a valid 1-Click payment method set up on Amazon. If you have kids or visitors at your house who might abuse Alexa’s purchasing abilities, you can also set up a voice code to authorize purchases.
In April 2019, Amazon announced the expansion of Alexa to Brazil, in Portuguese, together with Bose, Intelbras, and LG. The company has since launched various products in India, including Alexa-enabled speakers, Bluetooth wireless speakers, car chargers, power banks, robotic vacuum cleaner, USB cables, and wireless earphones under Anker, Eufy, and Soundcore.
Most devices with Alexa allow users to activate the device using a wake-word (such as Alexa); other devices (such as the Amazon mobile app on iOS or Android and Amazon Dash Wand) require the user to push a button to activate Alexa's listening mode. Currently, interaction and communication with Alexa are available only in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Hindi. In Canada, Alexa is available in English and in French (with the Québec accent).
Amazon's Alexa-powered speakers are great for a lot of things beyond playing music or changing the color of your smart bulbs. Alexa can play audiobooks or read your Kindle books to you, if you don't have the audiobook version. It can give you the forecast, the latest tech news (with CNET!) or tell you if you should expect traffic on your way to work. And it can, of course, tell you a few jokes.
Note: Your Flash Briefing settings apply to all Alexa devices registered to your Amazon account, and all users in your home get access to the same Flash Briefing content. However, if you or anyone in your home has a voice profile, Flash Briefing automatically skips stories and news items you've already heard. To learn more, go to About Alexa Voice Profiles.
For households with more than one member, one's Alexa contacts are pooled across all of the devices that are registered to its associated account. However, within Alexa's app one is only able to start conversations with its Alexa contacts. When accessed and supported by an Alexa app or Echo device, Alexa messaging is available to anyone in one's household. These messages can be heard by anyone with access in the household. This messaging feature does not yet contain a password protection or associated PIN. Anyone who has access to one's cell phone number is able to use this feature to contact them through their supported Alexa app or Echo device. The feature to block alerts for messages and calls is available temporarily by utilizing the Do Not Disturb feature.
You can create a flash briefing skill if you own, or have the right to distribute, original text or audio content that updates frequently. You should understand web technologies and have the ability to configure HTTPS, RSS and/or JSON content. The voice interactions for a flash briefing skill are defined by Amazon, but you must be able edit the format of your content so that the flash briefing Skill API can understand it.
Amazon developers chose the name Alexa because it has a hard consonant with the X, which helps it be recognized with higher precision. They have said the name is reminiscent of the Library of Alexandria, which is also used by Amazon Alexa Internet for the same reason. In June 2015, Amazon announced Alexa Fund, a program that would invest in companies making voice control skills and technologies. The US$100 million in funds has invested in companies including ecobee, Orange Chef, Scout Alarm, Garageio, Toymail, MARA, and Mojio. In 2016, the Alexa Prize was announced to advance the technology.
Alexa can perform a number of pre-set functions out-of-the-box such as set timers, share the current weather, create lists, access Wikipedia articles, and many more things. Users say a designated "wake word" (the default is simply "Alexa") to alert an Alexa-enabled device of an ensuing function command. Alexa listens for the command and performs the appropriate function, or skill, to answer a question or command. Alexa's question answering ability is partly powered by the Wolfram Language. When questions are asked, Alexa converts sound waves into text which allows it to gather information from various sources. Behind the scenes, the data gathered is then parsed by Wolfram's technology to generate suitable and accurate answers. Alexa-supported devices can stream music from the owner's Amazon Music accounts and have built-in support for Pandora and Spotify accounts. Alexa can play music from streaming services such as Apple Music and Google Play Music from a phone or tablet.