The Amazon Echo for the Blind
My first day with my Amazon Echo was a fun one. Playing music, getting jokes, finding Easter Eggs, getting the time. Then my dad was telling me about a pair of Internet radio devices (each far more than the cost of an Amazon Echo) that they had been getting for an elderly, blind lady from my home town and talking about all that they had done to make these devices work for her. The one big thing that she wanted was for the one radio station to come in clearly so that she can listen to it, it is the one thing that is really important to her. She has Internet access but cannot use a computer.
They considered a traditional radio but that does not work because the radio station is far away and any misconfiguration means no station and it needs an external antenna and making it work at all might not even be possible, let alone getting it working well.
There are constant issues with the Internet radio that they have. They have marked all the buttons with special braille things so that she can tell which buttons to push. All presets are set to the same station, etc. But she is constantly frustrated by the device, partially because it is believed that people bring in other devices and push it out of the way and she gets confused and tries to use some other radio that someone has brought and can't get it to work.
So they now have two of these Internet radios, set up to be identical, that they can use to swap whenever she gets frustrated with the one that she currently has. And so that they can have one set up somewhere else being tested so that they know that everything is working properly before they send it to her again.
It is a lot of work and a lot of money to make this all work. Not simple at all.
So he told me this whole story about this project that they have been doing and he shows me one of the expensive Internet radios that they have and has me turn it on so that I can see how easy they have it all to work now. I power it on and it spends a good thirty seconds, maybe even a minute, caching. During this time, you can't even tell if you have powered it on if you cannot see the power light on it. For someone deaf, this would be very confusing as you have to sit around for a while and hope that you have done the right thing and you are never sure what might be wrong (power out, Internet down, caching taking a long time, station is messed up...) since it all just shows on an LCD screen.
So we go through all of this and finally it plays. This huge story of effort, all this money and, in the end, a pretty fragile solution that mostly works but is frustrating for the elderly woman and frustrating for everyone attempting to support her.
I look at my dad, I look over to the Echo, I look back at my dad and I say "Alexa, play WXXI" (or whatever the real name of the station was, and the Echo immediately responds that it is going to play the station that I want (audible feedback in real time) and immediately starts playing the station. No missed feedback, no minute waiting for it to start, no confusion. It just worked, instantly.
Later we also figured out that in addition to it being a far better "just radio", the app for the Echo would allow someone to support her remotely by turning on the radio station, putting on music or diagnosing what she was trying to do with the device.
Of course, it would fix her issue of not having a good clock too! And in the future, who knows how it could help her.
Just thought that this was a really need, adaptive use for the Echo and one that we discovered the first hour of using it!
Now that's a pretty good story, and awesome use of technology!
That is pretty awesome. Sounds like a Win/WIn solution and the ability to remote support via a 'simple' app is a bonus.
That is so awesome. They have been trying to help her for so long! I never even thought of using it for her!