Since Alexa and Echo first launched nearly eight years ago, they have become a staple in many homes—whether as a kitchen aid to help with recipes, to help wake you up and prepare for your morning ahead, or even give you fun ideas for how to spend your day.
Over time, Alexa’s skillset has evolved to include features and functionality that can improve the freedom and independence of everyone, including older adults and people with disabilities. These include the Show and Tell feature launched last year, our collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), and access to general health information from the NHS website.
Alexa customers regularly share with us how the voice assistant has supported them amid unexpected challenges—here are three stories about how Alexa was there to help.
Bringing us together—no matter what
Following a holiday to Turkey late last summer, the lives of Malcolm and his wife Janis were turned upside down. Hit by food poisoning on the trip, Malcolm spent a week ill in bed. His symptoms only worsened when he returned home to the point where he could no longer feed or clothe himself. Malcolm was soon after diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome and became paralysed from the neck down.
Over Christmas, due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and as Malcolm remained in the hospital, and he unable to see any family.
"On Christmas Day I was allowed in to the hospital for an hour," Said Janis, Malcolm's wife. "But no other family members, including his daughters and grandchildren, were able to see him for the ten months he was in hospital."
Searching for a way to speak with her husband, and a way for him to contact her independently, Janis contacted Gain, the Guillain-Barre syndrome charity. They recommended Amazon Echo as an ideal device for the couple to call each other hands-free.
Alexa has helped my road to recovery so far, and I expect it will help me when I get home too.
Malcolm says that Echo and Alexa have made his life easier, reducing the sense of isolation from friends and family during lockdown and hospitalisation, and most importantly bringing him closer to Janis and family members while the pandemic kept them apart.
“The hospital team who looked after me were wonderful, but I missed Janis and the rest of the family,” said Malcolm. “Alexa connected me to a friendly face and a familiar voice and that contact really helped me on tough days.”
Janis is now raising money for the Gain charity by running the equivalent distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats—874 miles in total!
Through his determination and positive attitude, Malcolm can now stand and sit in his wheelchair, and has continued to use Alexa since returning home. Malcolm uses the device for watching his favourite TV programmes and films, listening to audio books, and completing day to day tasks - all using his voice.
“I might never be able to be as active as I was, but technology like Alexa has helped my road to recovery so far. I will never stop attempting to improve and I’m not going to give up,” he said.
Cooling a kitchen crisis
While cooking a meal for his family, 14-year-old Harrison—an active member of the Scouts and Army Cadets—faced a kitchen nightmare. Luckily, Alexa was available to lend a virtual helping hand.
As an accomplished cook who regularly experiments with exciting new recipes to treat his family, Harrison was getting ready to cook up katsu chicken curry in the family kitchen. He had prepared the pan with 2cm of oil to fry the chicken, and while reviewing the recipe noticed that the pan had gone up in flames. The fire had reached the extractor fan and, being home alone, Harrison knew he had to act fast.
“I knew from television that you can’t put out an oil fire with water, so I was hesitant about what my next move should be,” Harrison recalled.
He carried the pan to the kitchen door and, with his hands full, called out to the family’s trusted kitchen assistant—Alexa.
Following Alexa’s information, I brought the pan outside and placed it on the ground and placed a larger pan over the top to suffocate the flames.
“I quickly abandoned the idea of searching for the answer on my phone as I had my hands full, so I asked Alexa for the answer,” he explained. “Following Alexa’s information, I brought the pan outside and placed it on the ground and placed a larger pan over the top to suffocate the flames.”
Harrison’s mother Joanna expressed her pride in her son, and thankfulness for Alexa’s skills: “I was really struck by his quick thinking, and it was comforting to have the extra help from Alexa that he was doing the right thing in the emergency that helped him to stay calm. I returned back from my jog to a delicious meal and only a slight smell of burning betrayed that anything had happened whilst I was out!”
An (Alexa) call for help
Living apart, Nora and her daughter Debbie stay in touch through their Amazon Echo devices using Alexa Calling.
“I bought mum an Amazon Echo to keep her company, help her in the house and to give me peace of mind,” said Debbie. “But I never imagined that Alexa would save the day when mum needed help the most.”
One day, Nora slipped in the bath, broke her hip and could not get out, nor could she reach a phone to call for help. “I was completely stuck,” she recalled. Fortunately, using the Echo device that was placed in another room, which her daughter had bought the previous Christmas, Nora was able to reach Debbie via Alexa Calling and receive the help she needed.
Alexa quite literally saved my life… I honestly do not know what would have happened if I didn’t have Alexa!
After calling for Alexa, Nora was able to reach Debbie who raised the alarm and help was soon on its way to get Nora back on her feet and into the hospital for treatment.
“Alexa quite literally saved my life,” she said. “I honestly do not know what would have happened if I didn’t have Alexa—I could have lain there for days!”
Nora recovered from her injuries after more than three weeks in the hospital—and she now recommends Echo devices to her fellow patients and doctors alike.
“During my time in hospital I told everyone I met about how Alexa helped me, and I encourage everyone to get an Echo device, because accidents can happen at any time, and this technology could be a lifeline to help,” Nora added.
“Since mum’s accident, we now use Alexa’s Drop-In feature regularly,” said Debbie. “It means we can have a quick ‘hello’ more often, and it gives me great peace of mind that mum is safe and happy.”
If you have a story of your own about how you use Alexa, we'd love to hear it and will continue sharing some of our favourites – email us at AlexaStories@amazon.com or tag us on Twitter and Instagram #AlexaStories.
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