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Amazon Alexa Goes Back To School With Arizona State University Dorm Program

The Amazon Alexa team is giving Echo Dots to the 1,600 residents of engineering tech dorm Tooker House.

Amazon is supporting a program at Arizona State University intended to inspire the 1,600 engineering students living at the tech-focused Tooker House dorm by offering them Echo Dots.

The goal of creating “the first voice-enabled residential community on a university campus” is designed to further ASU’s positioning itself as a “smart campus” with a vision for a future university setting that “combines sensing, connectivity and data analytics to inform decision making, optimize operations and energy efficiency, and create a highly personalized campus experience for every student, professor, staff member and alumnus,” according to an ASU blog post (via ZDNet).

The Echo Dot, which sells for $49, has rapidly become one of the best selling Connected Home devices, and has helped make machine learning and voice-activation a mainstream part of consumer behavior.

An Echo Dot at ASU’s Tooker HouseAs part of the program taking root at Tooker House, the university has initiated a wider effort that uses an ASU-specific Alexa skill to enhance the campus experience for students, faculty, staff and alumni. Anyone with an Alexa-enabled device can use the “ASU” skill to get information about the university and the campus.

“With voice-enabled devices becoming more prevalent in our connected world, it only makes sense to bring these capabilities to our campus,” said John Rome, ASU’s deputy chief information officer. “By working with Amazon to create the first voice-enabled campus, we’re furthering ASU’s position as the No. 1 university in the U.S. for innovation.”

“We are excited to work with ASU on this program, which will power their voice-enabled residence hall with Alexa and equip students with the in-demand skills they’ll need when they graduate,” said Steve Rabuchin, Amazon vice president of Alexa. “The university shares a vision with us for the future of voice, and we believe it’s paramount to engage students in a way that sparks their imaginations and inspires them to build the technology of tomorrow.”

In addition to fostering development by putting the Echo Dots in dorm rooms, the Amazon Alexa program involves three undergraduate engineering courses beginning this semester. The courses focus on voice-user interface development, with a fourth course planned for next spring.

Engineering students can build their own Alexa skills, both independently and in the classroom, using a collection of application program interfaces, tools, documentation and code examples

“Once they are familiar with the devices, they are going to want to further develop their own skills and begin integrating that technology — the hardware and the skills — into other projects,” said Octavio Heredia, Fulton Schools’ Global Outreach and Extended Education director. “Our focus is putting this technology into the hands of our students in a way that will build an ecosystem that supports voice technologies throughout the ASU campus.”