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Should universities equip dorm rooms with smart speakers?

August 17, 2018

Should universities equip dorm rooms with smart speakers?

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- St. Louis University students living in student housing will now be able to ask an Echo Dot questions like “What time does the library close?” and “What’s happening on campus?” 

The university announced it will provide Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers to each dorm room and student apartment on campus, which amounts to more than 2,300 devices. 

The Echo Dots will be able to answer questions about campus activities, rattle off important dates and share the football schedule.

The university is paying for the speakers through a partnership with Amazon and a developer that coded a “skill” so that the device can answer university-specific questions.

On a page answering questions about the Echo Dots, the university clarifies that the devices weren’t paid for through tuition raises. 

There are some privacy concerns with smart speakers. To pick up on when the user issues a voice command, Alexa microphones need to be on and listening to background noise. People are worried that they could get hacked or used to monitor conversation.

Students are allowed to opt out of using the device by unplugging it and then plugging it back in when the school year is over. They can also mute the microphone when they’re not using it.

Watch how the speaker works in the video at the top of this post and vote in our poll on whether you think universities should offer smart speakers in dorms. 

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