Wrapping up 2017 for tech's surprise personality of the year, virtual assistant Alexa

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What a year 2017 was for Amazon's virtual personal assistant Alexa. The success of Alexa this year went hand-in-hand with the success of the smart speaker category in general, and the Amazon Echo line specifically. In addition, Alexa was also spotted on other non Amazon products. For example, owners of the HTC U11 flagship phone can choose between Alexa and Google Assistant when they have a task that requires the use of a personal assistant. Alexa can also be found on the Huawei Mate 9 and on any Moto Z phone that is sporting the Moto Mod Speaker with Amazon Alexa accessory.

This year, Alexa added quite a few new capabilities including the ability to set an alarm that will wake you with music. There are millions of tunes that can be played to help you greet the brand new day. Select a song for the alarm to play based on a specific tune, a specific artist, or a particular genre. Originally, Alexa launched without the ability to set a reminder. That changed this year as the virtual assistant can now be set to alert you when it is time to take care of something important. Another new feature allows Alexa to make free phone calls in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, you can use the Alexa app to send messages to other Echo users, and the personal assistant can be used as a home intercom.   

Alexa skills are capabilities that can be added to the virtual assistant to give users a more personalized experience. Over 2017, the number of skills available for Alexa rose five-fold from 5,000 to 25,000. While most skills are free, Double Jeopardy! was the first to be offered with a paid subscription, something we're sure to see much more of in 2018.

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Alexa can now recognize up to 10 unique voices. This also prevents your kids from ordering $500 worth of candy, or making other expensive purchases without permission. You might recall that almost a year ago, a 6-year old girl ordered a $162 dollhouse and four pounds of cookies using the Echo smart speaker in her home. Alexa took the order as being legit, but that was only the half of it. When the story was reported during the news on San Diego's CW6, the anchorman repeated what happened, and ad-libbed "I love the little girl, saying 'Alexa order me a dollhouse." Echo units in homes with the television tuned to the CW6 News started ordering doll houses en masse. Amazon reportedly has made sure that this cannot happen again.

Quite exciting and interesting is the word that Amazon is working on ways for Alexa to read your emotional state by analyzing how you respond to a question or how you phrase a command. This could help the personal assistant know when you're having a bad day, and try to shake you out of your lousy mood.

It will be hard for Alexa to repeat in 2018 the amazing year the personal assistant had in 2017. But taking into consideration that no one ever predicted the incredible success of the smart speaker when Amazon first launched the Echo in 2015, we wouldn't be surprised if Alexa stuns the tech world again next year.

source: VentureBeat

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