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Joining the Dots: Saint Louis University turns to AI to help better support its students

University to deploy 2,300 custom Amazon Alexa enabled EchoDot devices in its halls of residence to help answer student queries

Saint Louis University in Missouri, has become the first university in the US to bring Amazon’s Alexa-enabled digital assistant devices into every student residence hall room or student apartment on its campus.

The AI powered devices, which are managed by Amazon’s ‘Alexa for Business arm’, have been customised to provide spoken answers to more than 100 different questions specific to the University.

Questions include: “What time does the library close tonight?” to “Where is the registrar’s office?” 

The devices will also be able to provide information about Billiken games (its basketball side), campus events, student organisations, and service and mission opportunities, among many other aspects of student life. 

More questions and answers will be continually added. 

“Part of SLU’s strategic plan is to become a more innovative University,” The university notes on its website. “The idea to leverage personal voice assistants/smart speakers and develop a skill developed from a pilot IT innovation effort in the Spring 2018 to evaluate different voice assistant devices with students in dorm rooms. The pilot students overwhelmingly chose the Amazon Alexa platform as the best device.”

Other standard functionality, such as searching for information online, as well as streaming music through agreed partnerships remain available. .

From a security aspect, the system is not tied to individual accounts and does not maintain any personal information for any of our users, so all use currently is anonymous

Additionally, neither Alexa nor the Alexa for Business management system maintains recordings of any questions that are asked.

Microphones can also be muted at anytime.