You’ve got questions and Alexa’s got answers. Now, in addition to news about the weather, traffic, football scores, and other earthly information Amazon’s smart assistant can offer, she will also start educating you on … grander topics. Specifically, those concerned with Mars. It’s all thanks to NASA, which announced at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas that it had added its own skill to the popular artificial intelligence-based assistant, marking the first time the space agency collaborated with Alexa.
Tom Soderstrom, the chief technology officer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, unveiled Alexa’s newest skill, noting the impetus behind the decision was to spark further interest in Mars. Of course, it would seem that there is interest aplenty already — after all, Elon Musk is trying to colonize the Red Planet, which no longer seems like as far fetched of a dream as it might have just a few years ago.
“Tomorrow you’ll be able to use Amazon Dots and your Amazon Echos, and you can ask questions about Mars,” Soderstrom said Tuesday. “This is all about exploring and getting crowdsourcing and getting people to understand and care about Mars and ask new questions.”
While Alexa already has some basic knowledge about Mars (thanks, Google), the NASA skill certainly broadens (and deepens) its knowledge base. Once users have enabled the NASA Mars skill, they can make requests like, “Alexa, open NASA Mars,” or, “Alexa, ask NASA Mars: Why is Mars red?”
But that is not all NASA has in the works when it comes to Alexa. Soderstrom suggested that ROV-E, a smaller version of NASA’s exploration rover whose blueprints will be made widely accessible to schools and museums, will also be controllable by way of Alexa commands and capable of answering your most probing questions about one of our nearest celestial neighbors.
So get curious — there has never been a better time to have questions about the universe.