Alexa-Illinois Pilot

Project Info

The Alexa-Illinois Group is a project within the SRTI lab designed to bring the usability and convenience of Amazon’s Alexa devices to students, faculty, and staff at the University of Illinois.

It began in the summer of 2018 as a collaboration between lab staff, undergraduate, and graduate students.  Throughout the summer, the group built a dozen Alexa skills designed to improve the experience of students on campus. These skills included dining hall information, workstation availability, campus building information, and many others. For a demonstration, view Alexa Skills Video Part I and Part II.

The Alexa-Illinois Pilot will be conducted during Fall 2018 and Spring 2019. Any student living in University Residence Halls is eligible to participate. The program will distribute 200 Echo Dots to residence hall students with the intent to collect usage data for future skill development.

Sign up for the pilot has now closed.

For assistance with the pilot skills or devices please visit our help page. For help connecting your device to the wireless network please contact consult@illinois.edu. Questions and comments can be directed to alexasupport@illinois.edu.

Available Skills

  • University Housing dining menus
  • University Housing laundry machine availability
  • Campus library hours
  • Engineering workstation availability in computer labs

University of Illinois Amazon Echo Dot Privacy Notice

By default, Amazon Echo devices collect and analyze all sounds, at all times from their surrounding area.

The purpose for this is to be able to detect the “wake” command that activates the device to process voice commands. When the device is listening, but not activated, no audio recordings are stored.

When the wake command is detected, the device activates. It begins storing a recording of the anticipated voice command, and the illuminated ring on the device turns blue. The blue light indicates that audio is being recorded and streamed to the Internet-based Amazon servers that store and process users’ voice commands.

These voice recordings are stored both at Amazon and locally on the device.

The University of Illinois will not have access to these recordings or any individualized information on the use of the Echo devices or Alexa skills but you should still be aware of this potential privacy intrusion.

The University of Illinois will have aggregate information on the use of these devices and skills and will use this information to evaluate and improve the Illinois Alexa skills.

Users can delete the recordings from the device by using the Alexa mobile application but cannot delete the recordings stored at Amazon. The use of those recordings is governed by Amazon policies.

For information about the privacy policies of Amazon in regard to Alexa systems, please read the Alexa Terms of Use and associated policies at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201809740

Please be aware that Echo devices’ ability to interpret their “wake” commands is regarded as imperfect and certain sounds could possibly cause the devices to record and store things that are not intended to be voice commands.

Users should be aware of the recording state of the Echo device before discussing sensitive matters in the area of the device.

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