Amazon is adding a nice new accessibility feature to its digital assistant Alexa. It can now wait longer for you to finish your question before it responds. This feature will be helpful to people with speech impairment. They will be able to interact with Alexa in a much better way than before, making the digital assistant more useful to them.
It is an optional feature available through the Alexa app on a smartphone, under the Device Settings menu. When turned on, Alexa will let you take more time to complete your query before responding. Normal users can also take advantage of this ability in certain situations. The digital assistant will not suddenly interrupt you when you take a pause before completing your question.
“Some customers have told us they just need a bit more time before Alexa responds to their requests. That’s why we’ve built this feature — to help improve all customers’ interactions with Alexa, and ensure they get the most out of their experience,” said Shehzad Mevawalla, Head of Alexa Speech Recognition at Amazon.
“We’re committed to building Alexa experiences that are inclusive, helpful, and accessible for everyone,” added Beatrice Geoffrin, Director of Alexa Trust at Amazon. As a Forbes report notes, over three million Americans stutter. Another 5-10 percent have some sort of communicative disorder, the report cites an ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) finding.
Android users can also now type in their queries on the Alexa app
Digital assistants are voice-first experiences, but companies also let users type in their queries on the companion smartphone app. That’s another accessibility feature for people who are hard of speech or hard of hearing. It’s also useful in situations when you don’t want to speak out your query.
The likes of Google and Apple already offer this ability with their respective digital assistants, Google Assistant and Siri. Amazon also added this feature to its Alexa digital assistant in December last year. However, it was only available to iOS users all this while. The company is finally bringing this ability to Android users as well. It is currently in public preview for users in the US but could soon roll out globally.
Amazon has been recently adding several new features to Alexa. The digital assistant picked up offline voice processing for some queries last month. Longer listening times and type-in queries on Android are two new additions. You can expect more features to come to Alexa in the future.