Just west of downtown St. Louis, a stone’s throw from the Gateway Arch sits St. Louis University. Founded in 1818, this private, Catholic college is steeped in subculture and college pride. But the centuries-vintage school — the oldest college west of the Mississippi, in truth — is the first to put a clever audio system in dorm rooms.

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As at maximum faculties, new initiatives are shooting up every day. You can see the evolution of era and the passing of time in one test of the varied campus structure.

Next door to the implementing, Romanesque domestic of nineteenth-century St. Louis entrepreneur Sam Cupples is the Pius XII Memorial Library, built in 1959 and currently remodeled to include 3-D printers, robots and collaborative spaces with touchscreen tables and whiteboard walls.

Across the concourse is the latest dorm on campus, Grand Hall. It opened in 2017 and houses 528 first- and second-12 months students, but even more recent than the dorm rooms is the addition of a tiny, %-shaped roommate for every pupil: the Amazon Echo Dot.

Now in its second yr, the Alexa at SLU initiative is a fixture inside the residence lifestyles culture. Each dorm room comes prepared with an SLU-emblazoned, 2d-gen Echo Dot and instructions on the way to use it, what students can ask and what to do if there are technical troubles.

The community of two,three hundred Echo Dots is powered with the aid of Amazon’s Alexa for Business platform. A personal SLU talent built via Amazon Web Services is enabled on every Echo Dot. That skill can solution more than 135 questions on campus activities, constructing hours, even nearby meals options.

Students can circulate music, podcasts and stay radio thru iHeartRadio and speak to any smartphone range, which includes contacts in SLU’s directory of student services.

How did Alexa come to university? That adventure begins with David Hakanson, who joined SLU in 2013. He’s now the vice chairman, chief facts officer and leader innovation officer overseeing the university’s IT department.

An adopter of clever domestic generation in his very own home and a proponent of higher schooling as a pioneering space for tech, Hakanson did what all tech junkies do while they’re looking for the next big issue: He hit the CES show ground in Las Vegas.

“One of the things we do every 12 months is ship a crew to the Consumer Electronics Show,” said Hakanson. “We realize that quite a few the technologies you see there are going to return to our house, and for us, it’s going to visit our college students.”

That concept become demonstrated by the three students I talked with all through my campus go to. Each one came to college from a home with a clever speaker in it.

“My parents truely each sold each different an Alexa for Christmas at the same time,” said Justin Pointer, a sophomore in aerospace engineering.

Hakanson is aware of that an growth in clever home tech off campus is going to persuade what college students convey with them on flow-in day.

“The students are both going to need to deliver it right here, or they’re going to need to use that sort of era to engage with the university,” said Hakanson. “It became obvious there has been a huge awareness round voice technology, Alexa and the related domestic.”

The crew’s CES visit sparked a discussion about a way to quality use voice assistants to enhance the campus experience. The result changed into a focal point on residence lifestyles, bringing a community of smart audio system on line and growing an SLU-specific Alexa talent to help new students navigate campus life.

Kyle Collins, assistant vice chairman for era transformation, led the crew in growing the SLU ability. Their intention? Helping new students acclimate to college lifestyles.

“The aim become truly approximately learning campus and getting humans relaxed with campus,” stated Collins. “Being 17 or 18 years old, living for your personal with any person you probable don’t know that properly, it could be quite a few stress. We’re trying to ease that transition into school lifestyles.”

David and Kyle started out with a pilot program. Sets of Google and Alexa clever speakers were deployed to college students with the venture to set them up, use them and document lower back. The overwhelming student reaction turned into in favor of Alexa.

It also helped that Amazon has a teams of AWS representatives and masses of assist for ability building via Alexa for Business, a quarter of the smart speaker universe Google has never genuinely focused on.

Protecting privateness
All main voice assistant systems have faced their truthful percentage of public skepticism in terms of privacy, and the SLU crew is well aware of that. That’s a part of the motive why Alexa for Business made experience for a college campus application.

“The regular Alexa platform is meant for a family in which every body is related; in a house corridor state of affairs, you’ve got or three folks that are not associated in a single space,” stated Hakanson. “If this is related to a unmarried individual’s account, then there are loads of privateness issues which can give you that, and rightfully so.”

For that motive, there is no in my opinion identifiable records recorded, saved or handed over to the SLU group. Each Echo Dot is categorized with a sticky label containing the dorm room number and a MAC deal with, but there may be no facts amassed on which room is asking which questions.

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