Amazon announced Alexa for Business at its re:Invent conference today. And while I don’t look forward to working in an open plan office with all my coworkers yelling “boldface” at the same time, I do think they’re on to something.
According to Amazon, “Alexa can also do things around the workplace, like providing directions to a conference room, notifying IT about a broken printer, or placing an order for office supplies. …Alexa for Business utilizes information about the devices, user accounts, and skills in your organization. When someone in your organization asks Alexa a question, Alexa uses this information to respond or perform the requested action.”
There is a lot of room for innovation in conference rooms, combining the “things” in there with the content and data in the background needed to make them useful, from logins to employee directories to documents and media in the cloud. Or how about just being able to switch video inputs, turn things on and off, and change volume without hunting for a remote (that then turns out to have dead batteries)?
As organizations create more collaborative spaces – not quite conference rooms but not cubes either – the potential siting opportunities will increase. And, not to be too techie-centric, think of the deskless workers in messy hands environments (research labs, bakeries, healthcare) who have always found touch environments troublesome.
A conference room Alexa is really just an entry point for the injection of natural language interfaces (NLI) into a business environment. Although voice is not the only – or even most likely – NLI (see my post “Alexa for Business: Natural Language Interfaces in the Workplace“)
Now I just need Alexa in robot form so I can tell everyone straggling from the 9am meeting that “Mr. Roth has this conference room at 10:00. You have 60 seconds to evacuate the premises or face the consequences”.
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