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University Trialing Alexa Voice-App in Student Accommodation.

Last week (7th Feb 2018), Georgia Institute of Technology invited all students living in their ‘Towers Residence Hall’ to pick up a free Amazon Echo Dot (Amazon’s mini-Alexa powered Smart Speaker). The offer was part of a trail to see how “Voice-Activated” technology can be used on a student campus.

Users will be asked to install a “Georgia-Tech Skill” onto the device that will allow them to perform specific university-related services alongside the Dot’s existing functionality. Most of these relate to the universities “Buzz-card” a members points card used by students to buy items on campus.

It is also hoped that, being a tech institute, providing students with their own device will encourage them to experiment with their own Voice-First creations.

“When you think about voice recognition and the personal systems that are out there, we thought that there would be an opportunity to build these services, which would help set us apart. At the same time, this would put us on the leading edge of testing and piloting voice recognition.”
James Pete, Dep Chief Information Officer at GIOT.

Whilst currently the Skill has no great groundbreaking features, it is the first incarnation of a Voice-App with great potential. Creating “Smart-Rooms” powered by Voice-First technology is an ideal use of Smart-Speaker technology and adding a location-specific function to those devices creates real value. This added to existing Alexa functions such as messaging, voice-calls and audio playback can only add to a positive User-Experience.

It is yet another example of these devices finding a purpose in public spaces. More and more hotels, hospitals, schools and offices using them to provide fast, real-time information in a frictionless way. Currently, many of these trials, although exciting, are a way-off becoming “essential” to users and rather offer an alternative way to access information for those who prefer, or need voice-control. However, as the technology powering Smart Speakers matures we could see such voice-apps becoming expected, if not essential in the environments in which they are installed.

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