The rapid increase in the use of Smart Home technology for our clients over the past year or so has been remarkable. We are constantly finding new ways to empower people to take control over their homes, their leisure time and their communication via Smart Speakers, mobile phone apps and standalone Smart Devices. The wonderful thing about our job is that we are often tasked with taking things one step further, often by parents or other adults supporting our clients, but also by the clients themselves who feel empowered to move things on themselves.

Ok, fine, Alexa can do this but I need her to be able to do that!

One such example arose recently whereby both an Amazon Firestick and Echo Show device were being used to access YouTube videos by a young man we work with. He is able to press the microphone button on his Fire TV remote to then relay a voice command, et voila his YouTube search results appear on the screen and he uses the arrow keys to choose the one he wants. An Echo Show was then introduced into the same room to allow him to ‘drop in’ or make calls to his Mum when she’s not in the room (and with a bit of future gazing in mind for when we think about video doorbells and surveillance systems in a few years time). He quickly found that by asking ‘Alexa’ to do anything, both devices would listen and it was pot luck as to which one responded - tres frustrating. The fix for this issue is that you can specify within the Alexa app which ‘wake word’ you want to use when speaking to each speaker. Check your ‘device’ and ‘settings’ to choose from Alexa, Echo, Amazon or Computer. He can now say ‘Echo, show me pictures of Ziggy Stardust’ on his Echo Show and ‘Alexa, play 80s britpop’ on his Fire TV without having to specify each time which device he wants to respond.

The slightly less-well-known Alexa setting we needed to uncover came about as a result of his other passion: teaching himself to read, write, speak and understand fluent French. When searching for French songs, French spoken word clips or interviews with notable French figures throughout history on the Fire TV, he discovered that he can access the French keyboard when searching which then allowed him to dictate his command en français. This provided ample material to develop both speaking and listening skills entirely independently.

He ran into a few problems, but with a little help from a few Amazon Forums and the discovery that an Echo device can be set up in ‘bilingual mode’ he was able to speak in two different languages interchangeably and eliciting the appropriate response in each, c'est magnifique! A short video response was sent explaining how to achieve this (including a not so magnifique example to ‘jouer S'il suffisait d'aimer de Céline Dion sur YouTube’) and a plan to follow up with specific in-app instructions on how to activate the required setting.

It transpired that he didn’t need any further assistance, he simply asked Alexa to ‘speak French’ and then, when asked if he wanted her to also speak English, he said ‘yes’ and he was all set.

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