It’s still early days for responsive living environments. Amazon Alexa and other voice-activated personal assistants open the door for access to information, services, assistance, and extended independence for the elderly and disabled. People unable to use keyboards, mice, and touchscreens may find new freedom connecting to the outside world by speaking. We’ve written about diverse Alexa-enabled applications for voice-interactive exoskeleton control, prescription pricing, managing doctor’s appointments, and assisting ambulance attendants.
Panama-based CTHome, a smart home technology company, specializes in custom solutions for senior living. CTHome is piloting an Amazon Alexa enrichment program for residents at Park Creek Independent Living in Cypress, Texas. Any resident who wants to participate in the pilot receives an Alexa device at no charge. CTHome pre-loads the devices with Alexa “skills” developed specifically for seniors. The company also custom-designs Alexa apps based on community requests. Park Creek residents now speak to Alexa to access news channels, calendar reminders, and menu updates. They can also use it to play games, listen to stories, and more. Alexa can be programmed to manage smart home comfort, convenience, and security devices which means even residents who stay in bed or a wheelchair can be empowered. The list goes on and on. With Alexa’s hands-free calling and messaging, residents can communicate with family and friends. By setting up personal calendars for Alexa access, residents can make and check appointments and get reminders. The goal is that with help only a few words away, residents in the program will feel more secure and less dependent on others.
Alexa’s language skills are developing quickly. Amazon’s Alexa app division has already empowered Alexa to search, install, and load skills users need to answer requests. Upcoming developments will enable Alexa to carry over information from one content domain or skill to another for more natural conversation, and soon Alexa will “remember” information on request. As voice assistants become more capable of natural language engagement and less dependent on specific instructions or command sets, voice-assistant support will become even better at dealing with independent living and aging-in-place issues for seniors.