By: Judy Gardner, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech Pathologist/Feeding Therapist
Amazon describes the Echo as a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa (Amazon’s answer to Siri, Cortana and Google) to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news, set alarms, and more. It is exciting that people’s interactions with a computer device is much easier with no buttons to find and press. The speech recognition still has some limitations but devices like the Echo show what the future may be around the corner. The Echo works by constantly listening to a trigger word, by default, the trigger word is “Alexa” but you can change it in the Alexa app on your mobile device. The communication devices we use in assistive technology allow a non-verbal child, or the child with some difficulty in oral speech to use the Echo independently.
Relationship Coordinator, Amy Liss, really enjoys this new device. “This is the most beneficial piece of technology I have ever received that can help me be completely independent.” Her favorite feature is playing daily Jeopardy trivia.
Some of these many uses:
Get quick answers for simple Web searches: The most basic use of the Echo is to ask it questions it can answer by searching on the Web. This ranges from simple math (Alexa what is 125 times 33?”) or spelling and definitions, etc. The Echo is unique in that it will say the answers out loud rather than requiring the user to read the responses.
Set alarms and timers: So children with executive functioning is ability to self-regulate, including the ability to stay on task and manage and keep time. For example, you can set a timer for someone to do an activity for one hour (“Alexa set a timer for one hour”) then set a second timer for each separate step that needs to be completed to accomplish the assigned task during that hour. Just say “Alexa set a second timer for 25 minutes. So you can have a 5 minute break.
Manage a to do list: Just say “Alexa, add (name of to do item) to my to do list, or remind me to (name of task).”
Update your calendar: “Alexa, add (event name) to my calendar.” Gives the ability to stay organized.
Get your daily news fix: (“Alexa, give me my Flash Briefing”)
Listen to Audible and Kindle books: The Echo is a great way to listen to your books read aloud. This can be a great way to use the Echo in the classroom setting.
Control your lights: Echo can be great way to control your home lighting using just your voice. This can be especially helpful for those who have motor difficulties. By installing the Hue Skill, you can get basic voice control of the lights in your home.
Control your appliances: With a Wemo switch you can add voice control to any small appliance with an on/off switch (fans, lamps, etc.)
Listen to music and podcasts: Echo supports a number of music services.
There are many more thing you can do with the Echo. For more details go to www.luisperezonline.com for full details. If you have a voice that is difficult to understand, have no fear- Alexa can use many speech generating devices to the rescue.
The Assistive Technology department at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley has received a grant to install Amazon Echo in their department. Once it is installed we hope that you all will come down and give it a try. Learn more about our assistive technology department by clicking here.