Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Silent Echo

Amazon's Alexa voice assistant is a stellar digital assistant, perhaps even the best one out there, at least as far as smart speakers are concerned. But talking to her all the time just to get something done could be quite tiring for some. Thankfully, there's an app that can fix that.

Let's say you're having a party at your house and the area is too noisy for Alexa to hear anything, or maybe you just want some peace and quiet. There's a new bot called Silent Echo that will allow you to use Alexa without using voice commands.

Silent Echo, however, doesn't offer Alexa's full range of capabilities when used on dedicated platforms, such as the Amazon Echo. For instance, the app won't allow users to control Spotify or other music services, and it won't support certain Alexa skills, which require multiple turns.

But that's not to say the things Silent Echo can handle are any less useful. You can control your smart home devices with it, for example, or use some Alexa skills.

Silent Echo: Talk To Your Alexa Without Talking
The idea behind Silent Echo comes from Bespoken, a set of tools that helps developers improve their voice apps. Per John Kelvie, the CEO of Bespoken, the team originally set out to create a web version of Silent Echo for its own development purposes. But others wanted it for Slack. So now, it's also a Slackbot.

How To Use Silent Echo Via Slack
After installing Silent Echo in Slack, users can then send it a message or call it in a group chat by mentioning it under the "@silentecho" handle. The bot converts the text into speech, which is then pushed to Alexa via Amazon's own APIs. Alexa normally responds to commands using speech, but Silent Echo translates this into text.

The bot itself may be a technically unofficial way to use Alexa, but the process behind it relies on "openly available routines," according to Kelvie. Bespoken doesn't employ any form of hack, complex workaround, or loophole.

Bespoken does, however, store commands and responses Alexa processes, which, while won't be shared, may potentially be summoned by way of government requests or legal procedures. Saving Alexa data has become a hot topic of late, in fact, especially with reports suggesting Amazon could soon offer developers private Alexa data — transcripts, mostly — to aid voice app development.

Bespoken's Silent Echo bot is proving pretty popular among Slack users.
"It's spreading rapidly," says Kelvie, an impressive feat considering the team didn't anticipate this much fanfare.

Curious? The Silent Echo bot is free to use. Try it out for yourself!

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