Amazon Alexa, commonly known as Alexa, is an intelligent virtual assistant created and developed by the multinational technology company Amazon. It was mainly based on Ivona, a Polish speech synthesizer acquired by the company in 2013.
Alexa was first used in Amazon Tap speakers, the Echo Dot, and the Amazon Echo speakers. As of 2019, Amazon Alexa has 90,000 functions—or skills—that are downloadable via the Alexa app.
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As a smart assistant, Alexa has various built-in features, such as finding weather information based on current location, accessing Wikipedia pages, playing music, and much more. It works by saying a “wake word” (default is Alexa) followed by the user’s desired command or question.
Alexa converts questions into sound waves and then turns them into text. Besides Wikipedia and other popular sources, it also searches information on sites like WolframAlpha, AccuWeather, and Yelp. IMDb and other related sites to find an appropriate answer.
Alexa mainly supports Amazon Music when playing music but is also compatible with other subscription-based music services, like Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, and Apple Music. Once a user’s Amazon account is linked to their Alexa-enabled device, they can use Alexa to stream music and audiobooks.
As a smart assistant, Alexa can also order food from restaurants such as Domino’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Wingstop, Grubhub, Starbucks, and other food establishments that support ordering using Alexa.
However, this function was not well-received by some consumers; only 2 percent of owners of Alexa-enabled devices have used this feature, and a majority didn’t make a second order after their first.
Alexa also can provide updates on teams of various sports leagues worldwide. To use this, the user needs to add his desired sports team to the list under the Sports Update section of the Alexa app.
Below are Amazon Alexa’s supported sports leagues:
- MLS – Major League Soccer
- NBA – National Basketball Association
- NCAA Men’s Basketball
- WNBA – Women’s National Basketball Association
- IPL – Indian Premier League
- BPL – Barclays Premier League
- EPL – English Premier League
- UEFA Champions League
- MLB – Major League Baseball
- NHL – National Hockey League
- WWE – World Wrestling Entertainment
Smart Home Devices
Users can use Alexa to control their home automation devices. It supports devices from manufacturers such as Belkin, Geeni, ecobee, LightwaveRF, Nest, Philips Hue, SmartThings, SNAS, Wink, and Insteon.
In 2018, Amazon also launched a microwave oven that can be controlled and paired to an Alexa-enabled device. It is sold under the AmazonBasics brand.
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Users will typically need the Alexa App to use Alexa with other smart devices. It’s a free app on the Google Play Store (Android) and the App Store (iOS). It allows owners of Alexa-enabled devices to do basic tasks, such as creating alarms, checking the weather, shopping lists, controlling music, and much more.