More Than Just Weather & Music
(Score Publishing, August 2020)
Reviewed By Doris Booth
Score Publishing CEO Bradley Metrock is known for interactive content creation, hosting annual conferences, and for founding VoiceFirst.FM a media network centered around voice technology such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. So, he’s the right guy to author the eye-opening book, Amazon Alexa, More Than Just Weather & Music, published by his company.
The book introduces two hundred ways to use Amazon Alexa, an in-home or office virtual assistant developed by Amazon, first used in the Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers, and now on many more devices.
Metrock did some exhaustive research and testing to put together a catalog of all the things one can do with Alexa and how to use voice commands to talk to your devices. The list is useful, intriguing, and sometimes scary.
Metrock focuses on third-party apps called “skills” which have been commissioned by Amazon to work with Alexa. So now, instead of just saying, to the speaker, “Alexa, play me a song by Blake Shelton,” a user will be able to do everything from arming household security devices, scheduling house cleaning, tracking a package, getting one’s credit card balance, booking travel, entertaining the kids, locating a primary care doctor or hospital, and just about anything else one can imagine.
Voice-first doesn’t mean voice-only, though. Smart speakers with screens—generally referred to as “smart displays”—are surging in popularity as well. The author includes many skills that provide enhanced experiences by adding screens like Echo Show to the Alexa system.
The author also describes how to use built-in functions of Alexa, which include little-known skills. Show and Tell, for example, enables the user to hold a package up to the camera of any Echo Show and ask, “Alexa what am I holding?” And Alexa will tell you about the product—a very useful skill for vision-or memory-impaired people.
Each skill or function is laid out on a single page, using a colorful graphic and minimal descriptions of about 25 words or less. At the bottom of the page is a brief instruction on enabling the skill and what to say to open the app.
Here are a few examples:
CLEAN YOUR HOUSE
ENABLE: Alexa, enable Roomba
THEN USE: Alexa, open Roomba. Alexa, ask Roomba to start vacuuming. Alexa, ask Braava to schedule mopping tomorrow night.
TRANSLATE A PHRASE
ENABLE: Alexa, enable TRANSLATED
THEN USE: Alex, open Translated. Alexa, say “Is it raining today?” in Italian [or one of 37 languages]
PHONE A FRIEND
Alexa can make or receive audio or video calls. For people in your contact list, you can say “Alexa, call John Smith,” and Alexa will initiate the call.
Metrock’s work is a great start for what to do with Alexa. While the book itself is well done and informative, Alexa technology can be frightening.
Alexa isn’t the only voice system quickly advancing but it is probably the front-runner. Google Home is a series of smart speakers with similar capabilities, as is Apple’s Siri.
Users must be forewarned of possible dangers.
As you read Metrock’s excellent book about Alexa, do keep a few things in mind.
Allowing Amazon (or other devices) to have access to your complete contact list, to track your every move and purchase (and as some claim, listen to your private conversations) threatens your privacy. Third-party apps (or so-called skills) further complicate the ability to control your personal information.
Yes, we must use technology, but we must all learn to use it more wisely and responsibly.
About the author and Score Publishing
Bradley Metrock, Score Publishing CEO, is recognized as a top voice and AI thought leader, speaking regularly on the topic.
Score Publishing is known for interactive content creation, hosting annual conferences for digital content creators, and providing training resources. Score Publishing is perhaps best known for VoiceFirst.FM, a media network centered around voice technology such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Apple’s Siri.
Score-sponsored Digital Book World 2020 will be held September 14-15, 2020 in Nashville, TN. In addition, a DBW Global one-day worldwide online conference will be held on September 16.
The online session will conclude Digital Book World 2020. This will feature a whos-who of the publishing world, providing thought leadership, best practices, and a gathering of global community across trade, scholarly, independent, educational, and ‘corporate’ publishing. Authorlink will be among presenters for the online portion of the event.