Amazon Echos given to people in need to reduce demands on caregivers

Amazon Echo Plus review aux plugged in
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Whether it’s telling you whether or not you need to take a raincoat on a walk or controlling the lights in your apartment with a simple verbal command, there are plenty of ways that smart speakers such as Amazon Echo or Google Home make our lives a little bit easier. But can they fundamentally improve people’s lives? That’s the question posed by a trial currently taking place in the U.K., in which a small number of people with learning disabilities are given devices like the Echo to see whether they can help make their lives easier — and save the care sector some money in the process.

The trial gave these devices to five people in Wales for a six-month period. The study will examine whether, during that time, they reduce the need to staff people’s homes 24/7, by carrying out caregiver jobs including offering reminders about taking medication, attending appointments, and carrying out some household tasks. The Amazon Echo devices being used in the study are linked to several electrical items in the home, including smart lighting, music players, kettles, and televisions.

“If proved successful, the Intelligent Personal Assistant system can then be used in other supported living homes during the implementation phase, with the aim of reducing staff support on a gradual basis for tasks which the IPA can perform,” Ron Woods, Community Services Director at organizing group the Innovate Trust, told Digital Trends. “[This would mean that] direct staff support can be utilized in more creative and productive ways, whilst retaining an emergency on-call system — increasing the independence of people with learning disabilities to manage their daily lives.”

With only a few people included in the current trial, this is still early stages of the project. If all goes according to plan, however, it could result in local councils giving Amazon Echos to those in need — since this would actually provide a saving in the long term.

“With demand increasing on public services, and budget constraints across the country, finding new ways of delivering services is vital,” Rob Ashelford, head of Y Lab, another group working on the protect, told us. “The Innovate Trust team showed an openness to experimentation with new technology which we found compelling. What we discover during this project could have real impact in future.”

Until then, folks will need to buy their own artificial intelligence assistants, unfortunately!

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Amazon has a huge team dedicated to enhancing Alexa and Echo

An Amazon executive on Tuesday, November 13 revealed the huge size of the team that's tasked with developing the Echo, the company's smart speaker, and Alexa, the digital assistant that powers it.
Smart Home

You can now use Amazon Echo Buttons to set up multitasking Routines

Amazon announced that its Echo Buttons now work with Routines. You can craft custom Routines — multiple tasks performed together — and have Alexa carry out the command for you when you hit the Echo Button.
Product Review

Amazon's new Echo is smaller and cheaper; firmware upgrade improves sound

The all-new Echo is shorter, cuter, and comes with several different color and fabric choices. Our Amazon Echo review reveals that while the acoustics initially weren't great upon release, a firmware upgrade has improved the sound.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX makes rocketry look easy, sticks yet another Falcon 9 landing

SpaceX is due to perform its latest Falcon 9 rocket launch and landing on November 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here's how you can watch the proceedings live.
Emerging Tech

In a weighty decision, scientists prepare to redefine the kilogram

Metrologists are meeting at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles to vote on whether to redefine the kilogram as a constant that can be observed in the natural world.
Photography

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.
Emerging Tech

Google’s balloon internet is coming to Kenya in 2019

In order to bring the internet to those who lack it, a company called Loon is launching balloons into the stratosphere. From more than 12 miles up, these balloons beam connectivity over a large area on the ground.
Emerging Tech

Hikers missing on Mount Fuji could soon find a drone buzzing above their heads

Hikers who go missing while climbing Japan's highest mountain could soon find a drone buzzing above their head. A new system using the flying machines has been set up on Mount Fuji for future search-and-rescue missions.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk receives FCC approval to launch over 7,500 satellites into space

Not surprisingly, SpaceX is thinking big with Starlink, its space-based global broadband network. This week, the company received FCC approval to launch 7,518 satellites into a low-Earth orbit for its satellite internet service.
Cars

The world’s first 3D-printed titanium wheels are so intricate they look fake

HRE Performance Wheels and GE Additive have teamed up to create the world's first 3D-printed titanium wheels. They are not only impressively durable, but extremely lightweight as well.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.