Alexa Makes Shopping Lists Sharable as Accessibility Feature
Amazon has made shopping lists made with Alexa sharable between contacts. The new feature is supposed to help those with disabilities or limited access to a grocery store during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis work with those who help them get supplies.
Alexa will make and extend shopping and other lists when asked to add items, a boon for people with impaired vision as well as those who like to dictate rather than type. Once a list is ready, a user just has to ask Alexa to send their shopping list to a specific contact. Once the voice assistant confirms it has identified the right person, the recipient gets a message on their Alexa account through the app or an Alexa-enabled device that the list is available to them.
For people who have family or professional healthcare workers handle picking up their groceries due to mobility, vision, or other disabilities, sharing a dictated shopping list is likely quicker and easier than typing and texting or emailing the list, and faster to amend as needed. The pandemic only expands the circle of people who can’t or at least shouldn’t, go out to get groceries and other items. Their loved one or other helper can then go out and get what’s on the list, or connect it to anything on the list available on Amazon and buy them through Alexa to ship to the listmaker’s home if they choose.
Sharable lists are a small but potentially very useful accessibility tool for Alexa. Expanding the ways the voice assistant can serve people in the disabled community is obviously good business, but that doesn’t mean the features don’t boost independence and self-reliance. Amazon has made a point of highlighting such features as they roll out, such as the Alexa Care Hub introduced this summer, which allows people from one home to consensually use a loved one’s Alexa-enabled smart device to keep track of their activity and serve as an emergency contact for Alexa to call. The Accessibility Hub puts all such Alexa tools in one place. Amazon isn’t forging accessibility features alone, however. Israeli voice tech startup Voiceitt recently worked with Alexa to enable people with atypical and impaired speech to use the voice assistant. The startup’s mobile app listens and translates a user’s words into a form Alexa can understand, giving those with limited speaking function access to Alexa and its myriad smart home connections that had been out of reach.