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A way to help my deaf, blind and bedridden 94 year old mother? Questions...

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Hello,

My mom can not use a smart phone...she is almost completely blind can't see well enough to use or even charge them. She can hear using headphones and is bedridden. So with that in mind I have the following questions about the Echo Dot. If anyone knows any of the answers or, knows where I can get the answers it will be greatly appreciated.

1. Does the Dot communicate directly with one's smart phone for anything (specifically to listen to Amazon/Audible audio or Kindle books) or is this all done via the internet? I'm hoping I can use my phone in San Diego for any or maybe some of Dot's functions requiring one while mom uses the Dot in LA.

2. The Dot should arrive any day...I hope to set it up and test it and then give it to her to use. Can the unit can be reset to listen to her voice (or anything else that my testing it may 'set' on the unit or service)?

3. Would my mom need a smart phone with her for any other of the Dot's functions?

4. She loves to ask questions...Dot does this but how well? Can it be set to use Google (or particular search engines) to answer questions?

5. Is there anyway that she can say "call <name>" or "Call 911" and it will function as a speaker phone?

6. The perfect thing would be for her to use it to check out audio books from the library...any way to do this (without having a smartphone which she cannot see to use or to charge)?

7. Can it be used to listen to radio stations?

8. Can it be used to get local tv station listings (although she is almost completely blind, we got her a big screen tv she likes to watch)?

9. Back again to audio books...can the Dot list the titles in her cloud (again without a smart phone at her location)?

10. I saw a friend's Dot and the documentation that comes with it...not a lot. Is there a link to get further info?

11. Echo could improve her life so much (and anyone in her position)...can functionality be added to it?

Finally, there are so many elderly people who like my mother, is deaf (but can still hear using headphones), blind and bedridden. Something like Echo could open up the world for them and I would certainly be interested in assisting any effort to make Echo functional enough to do so and a way to provide it to them.

Thanks so much!
Rusty


1. Does the Dot communicate directly with one's smart phone for anything (specifically to listen to Amazon/Audible audio or Kindle books) or is this all done via the internet? I'm hoping I can use my phone in San Diego for any or maybe some of Dot's functions requiring one while mom uses the Dot in LA.

If I'm understanding your question correctly...you can use your phone (or other mobile device running the Alexa app) to access your Alexa account from anywhere from which you can access the internet, and from there you can control/configure your Echos, Dots, etc in several ways.  One of the things you can do from your mobile app is select music or other audio from streaming services you have integrated with your Alexa account (Kindle books, Pandora, iHeart Radio, etc) and have it streamed to whichever of your Alexa-enabled devices (Echo or Dot) that you wish.

2. The Dot should arrive any day...I hope to set it up and test it and then give it to her to use. Can the unit can be reset to listen to her voice (or anything else that my testing it may 'set' on the unit or service)?

While you can (and should) engage in the speech recognition training function provided by Amazon, you do not need to train/retrain your Dot to understand any single individual.  It will understand anyone who speaks clearly and at a reasonable pace.

3. Would my mom need a smart phone with her for any other of the Dot's functions?

Only if she wanted/needed to change any of its configuration options, use the shopping list function, review past voice commands she issued or any of a handful of other minor operations that she's unlikely to require.

4. She loves to ask questions...Dot does this but how well? Can it be set to use Google (or particular search engines) to answer questions?

No, you cannot select a specific search engine and, as you might imagine given that Amazon and Google are competitors in this space, Google is Alexa's go-to information source.  Exactly what it uses depends on the nature of the question.  Some things access Microsoft's Bing, others invoke Wikipedia...while still others (like questions about local movie screenings, restaurants, etc) will invoke other online services.  As for the quality of general random questions, that is an area where Alexa suffers in comparison with something like Google Home...but not so much as to seriously handicap Alexa, especially if you're mostly looking for useful information rather than idle trivia.

5. Is there anyway that she can say "call <name>" or "Call 911" and it will function as a speaker phone?

No.

6. The perfect thing would be for her to use it to check out audio books from the library...any way to do this (without having a smartphone which she cannot see to use or to charge)?

That depends on what you mean by "the library".

Can it be used to listen to radio stations?

Yes, provided the stations you want are available via one of the streaming services with which Alexa is integrated.

8. Can it be used to get local tv station listings (although she is almost completely blind, we got her a big screen tv she likes to watch)?

Yes, via optional 3rd party supplied "skills" that you can selectively enable.

9. Back again to audio books...can the Dot list the titles in her cloud (again without a smart phone at her location)?

That I don't know, as I've never tried it (as it would be terribly cumbersome compared with looking something up via the app).

10. I saw a friend's Dot and the documentation that comes with it...not a lot. Is there a link to get further info?

Have you tried a Google search on "Amazon", "Alexa" and "Dot"?  There is a wealth of info available on the net about these devices and the Alexa service, but from Amazon and other sources.

11. Echo could improve her life so much (and anyone in her position)...can functionality be added to it?

Yes, via the aforementioned 3rd party "skills" (though you need to have some software development abilities to do this yourself, unless your needs can be met by one of the already existing skills, which are constantly being added to).

Finally, there are so many elderly people who like my mother, is deaf (but can still hear using headphones), blind and bedridden. Something like Echo could open up the world for them and I would certainly be interested in assisting any effort to make Echo functional enough to do so and a way to provide it to them.

Since the Dot has the ability to send its audio output to either a wired or Bluetooth external devices, headphones would certainly be useful for her.

This interests me too as we're looking into using this device locally (village community in the UK) as part of the assistive tech range for older, socially isolated people. I have some thoughts about your questions (many of them answered by DParker) but it's late here so I'll pop back tomorrow.

Hello!
We read your question about Echo / Dot being helpful for your mother.  The short answer is Yes!  We have been working with seniors and those with functional needs for some time now.  Once the user has been able to practice speaking with Alexa, they adapt very quickly.  We highly recommend creating a reference card or two, to help when the phrasing needs reinforcement. 

Regarding question 5, it is not possible to call 911, but our skill is designed to address this type of need, and it is free.  Ask My Buddy lets Alexa users contact their own Personal Alert Network just by speaking.  She could say 'Alexa ask My Buddy to send help' or even a specific contact, such as 'Alexa ask My Buddy to alert Rusty'. 

Ask My Buddy is not a substitute for 911, but rather an additional tool for those trying to preserve their independence, offering the security of knowing help is just a shout away.

p.s. We really do not intend to be breaking any forum rules here by talking about ourselves, but we really felt our free skill is relevant to the question.  Our sincerest apologies if we are incorrect.  Feel free to email us support@askmybuddy.net

Hello!
We read your question about Echo / Dot being helpful for your mother.  The short answer is Yes!  We have been working with seniors and those with functional needs for some time now.  Once the user has been able to practice speaking with Alexa, they adapt very quickly.  We highly recommend creating a reference card or two, to help when the phrasing needs reinforcement. 

Regarding question 5, it is not possible to call 911, but our skill is designed to address this type of need, and it is free.  Ask My Buddy lets Alexa users contact their own Personal Alert Network just by speaking.  She could say 'Alexa ask My Buddy to send help' or even a specific contact, such as 'Alexa ask My Buddy to alert Rusty'. 

Ask My Buddy is not a substitute for 911, but rather an additional tool for those trying to preserve their independence, offering the security of knowing help is just a shout away.

p.s. We really do not intend to be breaking any forum rules here by talking about ourselves, but we really felt our free skill is relevant to the question.  Our sincerest apologies if we are incorrect.  Feel free to email us support@askmybuddy.net

This looks useful and I've found it's available in the UK. Do you have a website we could look at?
Silly me - yes you do! http://www.askmybuddy.net/
« Last Edit: November 30, 2016, 04:12:15 am by strayfish »

1.   Does the Dot communicate directly with one's smart phone for anything (specifically to listen to Amazon/Audible audio or Kindle books) or is this all done via the internet? I'm hoping I can use my phone in San Diego for any or maybe some of Dot's functions requiring one while mom uses the Dot in LA.

You need the app for set up, to attach skills, and to trouble-shoot if something goes amiss, although I imagine you’re going to be doing that yourself. Where it might be frustrating is if the wifi connection drops and for some reason needs to be reassociated with the device because then you need to be nearby to press the button and then follow the instructions in the app to make that connection. The app would tell you if the device was on or offline though and perhaps a neighbour might help with that get it back on again?

2. The Dot should arrive any day...I hope to set it up and test it and then give it to her to use. Can the unit can be reset to listen to her voice (or anything else that my testing it may 'set' on the unit or service)?

It just responds to words no matter who’s speaking. I keep hearing about voice training but I’ve never come across a way to do this. Also, I don’t really see the need.

3. Would my mom need a smart phone with her for any other of the Dot's functions?

As per above. If she can’t use one due to her visual impairments, it would be of limited value although a neighbour could use it if need be. That though, would mean the app was with her and not you so you’d have no monitoring access yourself. She should be aware that whatever she says to the device is recorded/logged so that the person with the app can see what’s been said or activated. It’s a stretch of privacy that she would need to know about and consent to.

4. She loves to ask questions...Dot does this but how well? Can it be set to use Google (or particular search engines) to answer questions?

Not so far – it uses Bing and Wikipedia.

5. Is there any way that she can say "call <name>" or "Call 911" and it will function as a speaker phone?

I just saw Ask My Buddy – that might be an answer.

6. The perfect thing would be for her to use it to check out audio books from the library...any way to do this (without having a smartphone which she cannot see to use or to charge)?

You could take out an Audible subscription for her although you might have to find and purchase the books for her.

7. Can it be used to listen to radio stations?

Yes. In the UK, I can get a whole range of public broadcast stations and also internet stations. The default gateway ‘skill’ seems to be TuneIn so you just say the name of the station and it finds it. There are other gateways such as Radioplayer which you have to access first – ‘Open Radioplayer and play ****’.

8. Can it be used to get local tv station listings (although she is almost completely blind, we got her a big screen tv she likes to watch)?

I haven’t tried this.

9. Back again to audio books...can the Dot list the titles in her cloud (again without a smart phone at her location)?

The only way I know of at the moment to get audio books is via Audible. Mine plays from where I left off but you can roll it back (if you fell asleep for half an hour!) or start at the beginning by giving it commands. In the UK, the RNIB is looking into making its own library available via Echo so it might be worth contacting the audiobook library your mum uses to see what they’re doing.

10. I saw a friend's Dot and the documentation that comes with it...not a lot. Is there a link to get further info?

I found what was in the box to be enough to get going but it’s obvious as you begin to use it that new skills and new requests are coming along all the time. This forum is a good place but if you have the app and you get the emails too, it will be up to you to pass on anything you think is likely to be useful for your mum.

11. Echo could improve her life so much (and anyone in her position)...can functionality be added to it?

I don’t know, but it's early days. There are ideas on this forum you might want to look at though.

Finally, there are so many elderly people who like my mother, is deaf (but can still hear using headphones), blind and bedridden. Something like Echo could open up the world for them and I would certainly be interested in assisting any effort to make Echo functional enough to do so and a way to provide it to them.

Yes, this is exactly what our local group is thinking about. It could be a very valuable piece of assistive technology with enormous potential.

Offline k9kids

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My 91 year old blind mother relies on her two Echos to listen to music and audible books. I have to go to Audible and get them for her.

My wife reads all her books on a Kindle and quite a few of them can also be played on an Echo at a reduced price. The functionality is different than an Audible book, but they're much cheaper.

You can have an Echo play any book in your Audible purchased library, but you need to know the title name. I always start a new book for her and she takes it from there.




You should sign your mom up for The National Library Service For The Blind And Physically Handicapped. Then she can get a Digital Talking Book Machine and have books sent to her or you can download them (for free).

https://www.loc.gov/nls/

Fee free to PM me if you have any questions or want more information. :)
-Paul.

my mother even as easy i make using alexa she still has trouble with. for calling the easiest way for her is to verbally direct dial. i have her say, alexa call 011 555 1234. she remembers her telephone numbers and when she doesn't she much prefers her decades old paper address book. new things even if helpful can depending on the individual make them feel empowered or overwhelmed. often for our mom we find a mix of old and new makes her feel most at ease.