How You Can Make Alexa Smarter

You know how the product pages, press releases and ads for the Echo always include some bit about how the Echo “keeps getting smarter”? Well, that means a couple of different things.

First, new apps and functions are being added for the Echo just about every week, and software updates to incorporate these improvements have been pretty frequent to date.

Second, using two tools in the Echo mobile app, each Echo owner can “teach” Alexa to better understand his or her specific speech patterns. This opens the door for each Echo’s voice recognition software to be slightly tweaked to be a better, customized fit with its specific owner.

Alexa Voice Training via the two methods I’ll describe here is crucial for those with accents or speech impediments, but it’s a good idea ALL Echo owners.

 

Method One: Provide Feedback In The App
Because the Echo is still a very new piece of tech, Amazon has wisely built in a feedback mechanism owners can use to “tell” their Echo whether or not it’s accurately hearing and interpreting their voice commands. As of this writing, every time you interact with the Echo a “card” that summarizes the interaction is sent to the Echo mobile app. That card includes a section where you can see what the Echo heard, and say whether or not it this is what you actually said.

In the screenshot below, you can see a card that was sent following my request for a weather report (tap or click on images to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window), with a red rectangle around the feedback section.

 

Checking the app each day and tapping Yes or No in the feedback section of each card will help the Echo’s software identify areas where speech recognition needs improvement, and where it’s working just fine. By extension, this will also help Amazon’s Echo developers improve the speech recognition component of the Echo’s software: if there are certain words or sounds the Echo is consistently misinterpreting for a large number of Echo owners, Amazon will know improvement is needed in that specific area.

This doesn’t take long and helps make the Echo better for everyone, so try to do it whenever you can.

 

Method Two: Alexa Voice Training
In the screenshot above I’ve also highlighted a menu link in the sidebar: Voice Training.

Since each individual’s speech patterns are somewhat unique, even among those who speak the same native language, this exercise can go a long way toward helping your Echo more accurately interpret your voice commands. For example, I might pronounce “Durham” as dur-um, someone else might say dur-hum, and a third person might say durm. By completing one or more Voice Training sessions, you get to teach your Echo your specific speech patterns.

Click the Voice Training link to open the Voice Training screen. Allow 10 – 15 minutes to complete this task, and try to do it at a quiet time so the Echo will be able to hear you clearly. Click the Start Session button when you’re ready to begin. You’ll be asked to read a series of 25 predetermined voice commands that are designed to include certain sounds, words and speech rhythms.

 

The Echo will “know” you’re in Voice Training mode during the session and will not offer any responses to your spoken commands. Speak the voice command shown on screen as you normally would, at the usual volume level and distance from the Echo. Try to keep your voice as natural as possible: remember, you’re teaching Alexa what to expect when you speak to your Echo in the future.

The Echo’s light ring will show some activity, with blue-green and violet light. When it stops and the on-screen status indicator says “Paused”, click the Next button to go on to the next command.

 

The final screen confirms the session is complete, and invites you to start another. You can come back to do more Voice Training in the app at any time, and if Alexa frequently misinterprets your voice commands it’s a good idea to do additional sessions until the Echo’s interpretation of your voice commands is more accurate.

 

 

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And now…

The Amazon Echo is a pretty amazing little gadget, and even if you use it as nothing more than a voice-activated speaker with the occasional request for it to tell you a joke, flip a coin or roll a die for you, its sound quality, small footprint and form factor rival premium speaker-only products like the JBL Pulse. If you’re an Amazon Prime/Music member, it can quickly become an indispensible part of your daily routine and it’s only going to get better with time, as additional features and services are added.

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