Amazon announced this week that it’s adding a new feature for its Alexa app available for Android and iOS devices. The adjustment Amazon is making to the app allows Alexa to wait longer for speech input. The change was made to improve support for Alexa users that have speech impediments.
Amazon’s Head of Alexa Speech Recognition, Shehzad Mevawalla, said that Alexa is a voice-first experience. The company was always looking for ways to improve speech recognition, no matter the speaking style. Mevawalla said that some users had told Amazon they needed more time before Alexa responded to their request. The new feature was created specifically for users with speech impairments that may need more time to issue commands.
Many users with disabilities leverage Amazon Alexa devices and apps to help make control and access to things around them more convenient. Unfortunately, any voice-first device has the potential to be inaccessible to users with speech impediments. By giving users more time to issue their commands before Alexa responds, the device becomes more usable to millions of people worldwide with stutters or other communication disorders.
Amazon isn’t alone in attempting to improve the functionality of its digital assistants for users with all types of needs. One group that can have a particularly difficult time with digital assistants is those who are deaf or have difficulty hearing. One feature that Apple has to assist these groups is typing to Siri using an environment similar to the one iPhone users leverage for text messaging.
The new speech setting for the Alexa devices is available in the Device Settings page inside the Alexa app. The new feature is available now.