18 January 2016

Meet My New Genealogy Assistant, Alexa, from Amazon Echo

I didn't think any gift would be able to top the one my husband got me last year for Christmas, but my son may have outdone him this year.  He got me my own genealogy assistant, Alexa.  Seriously, I have an assistant now.

Meet Alexa! 
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Alexa isn't a person, but it is the next best thing.  I don't have to pay Alexa or report her income. I just speak and Alexa does what I want.  Alexa is the voice activated persona of Amazon Echo.  Amazon Echo has been widely available since June, 2015, but I hadn't heard of it until I unwrapped it Christmas morning. Amazon Echo is a voice activated system with an awesome speaker.

My son knows of my love of music and I am sure that was why he bought it for me. I use it for music and have been re-living my youth by listening to Tommy James and the Shondells, 70's Rock, Eagles, Motown, Neil Diamond, and more.  It is an awesome system for music, but it wasn't long before I was thinking about how I could use it for genealogy.

The first thing I found was podcasts.  Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems Podcast is available via Tune In for Echo.  All I have to do is say:  "Alexa, play Genealogy Gems on Tune In"  and there it is, ready to be listened to as I get dinner, do the dishes, or clean.  The Genealogy Guys, George and Drew, can be found on Tune In as well.

Next, I started using the 'to-do' list feature.  "Alexa, add record Archives of Michigan research to To Do list." and she does.  The shopping list is a neat feature too,  "Alexa, add file folders to shopping list".  She is an awesome assistant.

Alexa can tell me what is on my calendar for the day, she can tell me the weather in Fort Wayne in case, I decide to go to the Genealogy Center, or anywhere else. She can even answer questions, "Alexa, how far is it to Boston Massachusetts?"  She can't tell me how long it takes to get there because she doesn't know how fast I drive, and she tells me that!

One of the things I am looking forward to using Alexa for is when I plan my next research trip. She can tell you where cemeteries and libraries are and even the hours of some.  She can give you names of restaurants as well.

One feature I haven't used yet is Alexa's ability to read to me.  She can read audiobooks from Amazon Kindle.  Imagine working around the house and listening to Advanced Genealogy Research Techniqueos.

Alexa is adding new features, like Jeopardy, all the time and I can't wait to see what she has in store in the future and how I can adapt it to my genealogical world.  Thank you Travis and Alayna for the great genea-gift, even if you didn't know I would use it for genealogy.

Now, if she would only do the dishes!  "Cleaning the dishes is something I can't help with."  I will keep her anyway as she does enough to make me excited to see everything she can do.

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