Interested to know if anyone has any thoughts on the phonetics that Alexa is better and worse at, rather than just strategies for grouping. [FYI: English UK] For example, the light in the downstairs toilet is now called ‘Bloo’ as it works as a voice instruction much more consistently than ‘Loo’. In part this may be because the hallway outside has a relatively live acoustic environment (ie wooden floor, minimum soft furnishings) and the flex located in a low level socket may not ‘like’ the reverb. However, there do seem to be plenty of words which just don’t work well. I currently have some (mild) throat challenges in addition, which doesn’t help with consistent vocal aspiration, and which Alexa really doesn’t approve of; there doesn’t seem to be any solution to this, other than to use words that start and end with clear and ideally harder consonants - exactly unlike ‘Alexa’!
‘Desk’ & ‘Table’ are pretty well understood; ‘Chair’ is much more consistent than ‘Sofa’. I tried to use ‘Echo’ as the wake word for a while, but gave up. Alexa is the best of the wake words, although it requires and unnaturally (for me) long pause before commencing the instruction itself.
A couple of portable heaters are called ‘Burnie’ and ‘Heather’ - these seem to work well. My main TV is called ‘Trump’, although I am still fiddling around with the command sets (to try and get the source switching to work usefully) as it is quite an old model - works perfectly for turning it off though!
My voice slurs from time to time, which is a problem with all voice assistants, but other than that I have not run into the kind of issues that you describe. I do have some devices using “echo“ as a wake word, although most use “Alexa.”
So first things first: have you done the voice training with the system yet? It does seem to help a great deal with people who have different accents, so might help in your situation if you haven’t done that yet. I always do it first thing, so I don’t really have an experience of not having done it.
For the UK specifically, one company did analyse which accents were most difficult for echo, although it didn’t go into whether voice training was tried. It’s an interesting read anyway.
The one other point, which is also mentioned in the first article I linked to, is that many smart speakers, including echo, can have real problems understanding if the device is placed too close to a wall or other barrier. This creates acoustic echoes which interfere with its ability to parse sounds. So make sure the echo device itself is at least 8 inches away from any solid barrier, and that can help quite a bit in voice recognition.
Some good points. It hadn’t occured to me not to do voice training with the system, so I too have no idea how that may affect things. My son likes to score brownie points by being able to repeat what I say and get Alexa to respond! When I speak to Alexa, at the moment I have varying levels of aspiration in my voice, which is what seems to be the main problem. When my voice feels ‘more normal’ I generally have no issues. I think also I have the English tendency to sometimes run words ending in a vowel into the beginning of the next; if I provide a clear gap at the end of ‘Alexa’, not surprisingly this helps. (Although I would much rather that the voice recognition just dealt with it - I did specifically make sure that when I was doing voice training I maintained this habit, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.)
Regards the location of devices, I know exactly what you mean. (Part of my background is in environmental sound design.) The challenge is to try to find locations for the Flex! I have 2, and the one in the hallway plugged into a low level socket with wooden floor is pretty unhappy. The other one is in the garage - to be honest I haven’t used it enough to offer any cogent thoughts on its location above a work surface and below some cupboards. I did find, however, that a flex plugged into a mains block and placed horizontally on a shelf was possibly more effective than and Echo in the same location. (wrt the Flexes, I have the Amazon ‘Christmas Shopping Window’ until January to decide if I want to keep one or both of them…)
Incidentally, I am particularly impressed with the Show 5 that I have in its ability to understand what is being said to it, over and above the din in an open plan living/kitchen area.
Thanks again. H
As I understand it, the flex was designed with the understanding that it would be flat against the wall, and it does not have 360° microphones the way the other models do, so it’s supposed to have less of an issue in that regard. But there’s definitely always some trial and error in placement.
You might try doing two voice profiles, one on a “normal“ day and one on a high aspiration day. I did that on one of my very tired days when my voice tends to slur more and I think it did help.