SAN FRANCISCO – Shower caddy? Check. Twin sheets? Check. Echo Dot ... check?
Starting this fall, some students at Northeastern University in Boston will be given the option of getting an Echo Dot smart speaker linked to their university accounts. They'll be able to ask Amazon's Alexa what time their classes are, how much money's left on their food card and even how much they owe the bursar's office.
The program gives students instant access to information they would have to call or go online for, as well as taking pressure off the school's offices. It also makes Amazon's digital assistant a go-to source for a generation who will inhabit a world in which talking to computers is commonplace and who will soon have paychecks to spend.
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At the same time, it raises questions about security and privacy for young adults living in close quarters, often on their own for the first time.
The specialized Alexa skill is called Husky Helper, after Northeastern's mascot. The developers started their work by asking for a list of the most common questions students asked when calling the school's student services phone lines.