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.
One of my favorite features of Amazon’s voice controlled speakers, the Echo and Echo Dot, is the Alexa News Flash skill. Out of the box, it plays you a quick news briefing from standard news sources. What you probably didn’t know however was that you can customize your Alexa Flash Briefing with literally thousands of skills, tailored perfectly to the news you want. Here’s how it all works and how to set it up.
In September 2016, a university student competition called the Alexa Prize was announced for November of that year.[174] The prize is equipped with a total of $2.5 million and teams and their universities can win cash and research grants. The process started with team selection in 2016.[175] The 2017 inaugural competition focuses on the challenge of building a socialbot. The University of Washington student team was awarded first place for the 2017 prize.[176] A second year of the competition has been announced.
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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] Alexa-supported devices can stream music from the owner's Amazon Music accounts and have built-in support for Pandora and Spotify accounts.[27] Alexa can play music from streaming services such as Apple Music and Google Play Music from a phone or tablet.
Amazon allows device manufacturers to integrate Alexa voice capabilities into their own connected products by using the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), a cloud-based service that provides APIs to interface with Alexa. Products built using AVS have access to Alexa's growing list of capabilities including all of the Alexa Skills. AVS provides cloud-based automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU). There are no fees for companies looking to integrate Alexa into their products by using AVS.[60]
In the actual Settings section of this menu, you can customize your Alexa experience further. You can manage Amazon Shopping notifications, adjust what content you want in your daily flash briefing of the day’s headlines, and choose what sports teams you care about for your sports update. You can also enter in your home or work address to get traffic updates for your daily commute, and sync with your calendar (Gmail, Outlook, or iCloud) to know what’s up next on the day’s schedule.

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.
^ Green, Penelope (11 July 2017). "'Alexa, Where Have You Been All My Life?'". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2017. When Toni Reid and her colleagues at Amazon set out to build the device that is now known as Alexa, they were inspired by the computer that drove the Enterprise on Star Trek (voiced by Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who played Nurse Chapel on the series and was married to the show's creator). Focusing on cadence and an accent that would suggest 'smart, humble, helpful,' the team tested voices that a diverse population would respond to. 'Our goal was to have Alexa be humanlike,' Ms. Reid said, but why end there?
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.[50] 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.[51]
It's been a game changer!! My Dad struggled, even with the app on his phone to control the lights. Now that we have a Dot in his bedroom & an Echo & Dot in the living room, he's very easily learned how to ask Alexa to turn on the hallway light, his bedroom light when he's going to bed!! NO MORE STUMBLING AROUND IN THE DARK or trying to remember where he put his flashlight!!
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