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Alexa – Talking Wikipedia

Soon after landing in the US on a recent visit, I was struck by an innovation that has become ubiquitous, the Alexa voice-activated, always-on, internet-enabled Assistant. The moment I entered my daughter’s home in New Jersey, my six-year-old grandson sprang a surprise: he commanded Alexa to play a piece sung by M S Subbulakshmi.  In less than a couple of seconds, Alexa complied with soulful music by MS!

Alexa, a product of Amazon.com, is diminutive: a 3” wide cylindrical gadget that is just 8” tall. Alexa is among the latest wonder devices that have taken the power of Internet search and added a layer of voice activation to it. You can just talk to it in your normal voice and the always-on microphone converts your voice into a digitised format to go to the Internet and reconvert that to a voice that provides the answer. Imagine, if you will, call it  a “talking Wikipedia.”

Not only can it instantly answer how high Mount Everest is or what is the square root of 3969 but newer skills over the past year have made Alexa a lot more intelligent. It can now play word games with you, control home lighting and temperature through voice commands, organise shopping lists and find your misplaced phone by making it ring.

Voice-activated technology certainly has come a long way. Alexa doesn’t even require any ‘voice training.’ It can recognise almost any accent and diction. The challenge now is for the parents to stay one step smarter than their kids who can always seek answers about pretty much anything from Alexa!

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