Idea

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Christopher_Dittmann Posted ·

Alexa should explore a TTY-compatible version

Alexa is a giant step forward in what I like to call, "The Amazon Revolution". The revolution began with Amazon changing forever the way we shop and buy, developing a set of user idioms that have been emulated, but never quite copied for exceeded, by businesses the world over. Indeed, I suspect that a hundred years after I am dust, management theory courses will still be discussing Amazon, and Alexa, as historical antecedents that brought about a sea change in the way people live their lives. Alexa is a companion, although in the "touchy feely" sense, she's not quite as responsive as Siri, which has been cited in several articles as a helpful conversation companion for autistic children. Nonetheless, Alexa is on the road to outdoing even Siri, and dare I say, with a few smarts borrowed from "Dragon Naturally Speaking," her abilities would be enhanced beyond our wildest dreams. Thanks to Alexa, the Amazon revolution is now happening every day in people's lives. Alexa shops. Alexa buys. Alexa manages and dictates your calendar. Alexa reads to you. Alexa plays you music. And with thousands of skills (read "quality alert" here!), the boundaries are expanding every day. As with any kind of revolution, it's a valid query to wonder who is being left out of the benefits the revolution is offering.

Alexa is not a boon to a non-hearing person. Sadly, there currently exists no way for a user to type in commands to Alexa, nor any app/skill combination that would open a TTY window and, by accessing a non-hearing person's contacts, establish a TTY connection to enable conversation. Likewise, Alexa will read to a hearing person, but she will not textualize what she is reading for a non-hearing person. True, that person can buy the eBook, but with Kindle Unlimited and Audible Unlimited, that's not really the right answer. A hearing person with Unlimited subscriptions can ask Alexa to spontaneously bring up and begin reading just about anything available through Audible. A non-hearing person, of course, could not and would not be able to do so.

Solving the problem would involve an app/skill combination that provides a TTY window, accesses contacts to obtain the TTY numbers of friends and other resources the non-hearing person may be storing, and in every way emulate the functionality a non-hearing person enjoys through a standard TTY hookup. In addition, a non-hearing user could issue typed commands within a TTY session by beginning their command with the invocation name: "Alexa, add ... to my shopping list," or, "Alexa, ask My Buddy to send an alert to Christopher," etc. Alexa would respond with text rather than voice; the text would appear within the TTY window.

I think you get the idea. All the pieces for this are in place now, and there are undoubtedly development skill kits for people who create TTY-enabled software, so the rest of the effort is straightforward. Why not bring the Amazon Revolution into the homes of the non-hearing community. The time is now for Alexa to begin "signing", or at least "typing" to her non-hearing friends. In fact, it is perhaps overdue.

I welcome reactions, positive or critical, to this idea.

alexa voice servicevoice-user interfacedevicesskilltext-to-speech
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