In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic that’s forcing most of us into home quarantine and making us paranoid about touching our faces or anything else is the perfect time for voice assistants to spring into action. Voice commands mean you don’t have to touch places that get heavy traffic during the day – light switches, remotes, locks and phones. So if you are trying to minimize the spread of germs, Alexa’s smart home control is one clever way to do it!
In addition, due to the coronavirus outbreak, Amazon is now offering a variety of information and communication services about COVID-19 via its Alexa voice assistant. Read on to discover the many ways Alexa can help you during these unprecedented times.
If you are feeling sick and are worried that you have COVID-19, you can now ask Alexa to assess your risk and answer questions about the ongoing pandemic. Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, Amazon has built a U.S. user experience that lets you use Alexa to check your risk level for coronavirus at home, using just your voice. You can ask questions like “Alexa, what do I do if I think I have COVID-19?”, and “Alexa, what do I do if I think I have coronavirus?” Alexa will ask a series of questions about your symptoms, travel history, and possible exposure to the virus. It will then offer advice based on official CDC information.
As well as offering advice on symptoms, Alexa on an Echo device can now be asked to sing a song for 20 seconds to help you know when you have properly washed your hands. Just say, “Alexa, sing a hand-washing song”, or say, “Alexa, sing a song for 20 seconds.” Amazon says this feature is also available in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, India and the UK.
Alexa can now answer thousands of questions related to coronavirus in countries around the world, based on accurate and timely information from official government and news sources. You can use Fire TV devices to access coverage of COVID-19 from apps that do not require a subscription, such as CBS news, NBC news and Fox news. You just say, “Alexa, play the news.”
In the U.S., you can ask Alexa to access official CDC public service announcement videos from Echo Show devices by simply saying, “Alexa, play the CDC video.” These videos are also available on the homepage of Fire TV devices. You can make donations to Feeding America’s COVID-19 response fund, Save the Children or the American Red Cross by saying, “Alexa, make a donation to ___.” To donate blood, just say “Alexa, open Red Cross Blood.”
Students and parents can stay remotely connected to the classroom by linking their Blackboard, Canvas, Coursera, Kickboard or Parent Square account to their Alexa-enabled device. You can then ask, “Alexa, are there any updates from school?” or, “Alexa, what assignments do I have due on Monday?”
One of the hardest parts of quarantining if you are healthy is the simple challenge of isolation. Since most of us are staying home during this pandemic, almost everyone is looking for things to do with family and loved ones. Around the world, Amazon has been working quickly to provide easy access to educational and entertaining content. If you have a Fire-TV device, you can participate in the World Health Organization’s #PlayApartTogether campaign, which encourages physical distancing through gaming. Through May 15th, you can stream hundreds of SiriusXM channels for free just by saying, “Alexa, play SiriusXM.” Your family can stream free audio stories in six languages from Audible, watch more than 20 kid-friendly shows from Prime Video, and access free digital books. If you are a Prime member in the U.S., you have free access to the first season of select shows on Prime Video Channels, as well as eBooks from Prime Reading. Simply say, “Alexa, play music” to hear top playlists and thousands of stations for free with Amazon Music in the U.S., UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In addition, you can stream concerts from Bandsintown, a website that has live music shows and supports musicians through the Twitch app on Fire TV and Echo Show devices. You can learn how Alexa can keep you entertained by asking, “Alexa, what should I do today?”
Hands-free voice assistants like Alexa are exactly the help we need right now, and they are already helping in all the ways we expect. Here’s hoping they keep developing over the coming weeks and months so that our quarantines can be a little more bearable.