Amazon Alexa enrolls in Northeastern, where she’ll serve as a study buddy

Your newest study buddy is named Alexa.

For students at Boston’s Northeastern University, Amazon’s virtual assistant is much more than a helper around the house — she’s also lending a hand in college. While she likely won’t help anyone ace an organic chemistry test, she can help busy students keep track of other important information, like their class schedule, tuition due dates, and other logistics that the college crowd simply doesn’t have time for.

The skill will make its debut this fall and is named the Husky Helper after Northeastern’s canine mascot. Once activated, the skill will be able to answer queries like, “What class do I have next?” and “When is my tuition due?” Students can elect to use the skill either on an Echo device or simply on their smartphone.

Students have also leveraged the Helper to ask questions that they might otherwise direct to faculty members. For example, freshman Elizabeth Hilli told Northeastern’s newspaper, “I used Husky Helper to figure out who my academic advisor was, which was really helpful because my advisor changed three times throughout the semester.”

“Northeastern will soon begin to roll out Husky Helper to students, using their personal smartphones and Alexa-enabled mobile apps, Amazon devices, and other conversation-enabled hardware,” Northeastern spokesperson Renata Nyul told CNBC. “It is important that we help provide a convenient experience to our students that allows them to use voice-enabled solutions without tying them to any physical location.”

Northeastern has actually already trialed the skill and found that it was highly effective in delivering crucial information to students. In April, the university conducted a 60-student pilot and subsequently reported an 80 percent reduction in phone requests to the campus call center from those 60 students. Once it’s made more widely available, skill co-creator Somen Saha believes that it will serve as a “huge resource savings for the university.”

Saha first came up with the idea for the skill while serving as Northeastern’s senior director of IT. “One of my tasks was to connect all the disparate systems that the university had,” Saha said. “First of all, there was no defined product that did that,” he added. And once this was achieved, he wondered, “What do we do with this data now that we have [it]?”

Smart Home

With new blueprints, Amazon empowers anyone to create Alexa skills in minutes

Amazon launched new tools called Skills Blueprints last year to empower more users to create and publish Alexa Skills and is now fine-tuning the tools, adding more customization as well as live and recorded audio.
Smart Home

What exactly is Alexa? Where does she come from? And how does she work?

While "Alexa" has become synonymous with products like the Amazon Echo, you can't actually go out and buy an "Alexa." So what is Alexa? How does she work? Here's everything you need to know about Amazon's virtual assistant.
Smart Home

Want to publish your own Alexa skill? Here's how to do it

Building new Alexa skills has never been easier! Thanks to Alexa Blueprints, you can pick a template and create any kind of Alexa skill you want. What new skill will you make first? Here's how to do it.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (February 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Smart Home

Language barrier? Psh. Here's how to make your Google Home an ace translator

You can now use interpreter mode on your Google Home devices. This means, you can use your Google Home device to translate conversations in real-time. Here's how to use interpreter mode.
Smart Home

Ring adds color night vision to wired security devices and HDR to wireless ones

Ring rolled out color night vision to its wired security products with cameras such as the Spotlight Cam Wired. At the same time, Ring added HDR control to its battery-powered security devices including the Video Doorbell 2.
Product Review

From tables to porches, Ring's Stick Up Cam watches wherever you want

Ring’s latest home security camera offers more versatility than ever before, with the ability to mount it, set it on a table, or put it inside or outside. We got a chance to test it out. Here’s how it went.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Smart Home

Check out the largest pools in the world - and how you can get there

From Egypt to Singapore to California, here's a pictorial breakdown of some of the biggest and largest pools in the world. Many of these pools are so big that you can even kayak and windsurf on them.
Smart Home

Consumer groups call out retailers in a bid for better IoT security

Consumer groups posted a "Dear retailer" letter on February 12 that called out Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, and Target, shaming the companies for selling insecure smart home devices.
Deals

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…
Deals

Walmart drops a killer Instant Pot deal for Presidents’ Day weekend

With the Walmart Presidents' Day sale going on right now, you can actually pick up the Instant Pot Lux60 6-quart programmable pressure cooker for just $69 -- $30 off its normal price.
Smart Home

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents’ Day sale

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents' Day sale. Whether you're taking your first step in configuring a smart home or expanding to every room, Walmart has excellent sale prices for all the key components.
Deals

Walmart Presidents’ Day sale: Instant Pot, Google Home, and 4K TV deals

Presidents' Day weekend is one of the best times of the year to find deep discounts on 4K TVs, laptops, Instant Pots, clothes, mattresses, and furniture. And Walmart is offering deals on all of those things and more.