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Alexa, Help! (Multimedia)

Amazon’s digital assistant being piloted on campus
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News Feature

Bridgewater State University has a new helper and it’s “someone” you may have heard of. 

It's Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, now available right on campus.

Wondering when the Information Technology Division’s service center is open or how to change your password? Just ask. Alexa knows. Where can you print your homework? Ditto. BSU has brought Alexa to campus to help students and employees find the information they need. (See demonstration video below.)

The pilot ALEXA @ BSU self-service kiosk is now live in the Moakley Center. The kiosk, available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, features an Amazon Alexa device. Alexa answers common IT questions and connects users through video to IT staff.

In a world where technology has made texting and e-mailing commonplace, this restores face-to-face interactions – via video.

“It brings some humanity back to technology,” said Raymond Lefebvre, vice president of information technology and chief information officer.

ALEXA @ BSU comes as IT prepares to consolidate help desks in Moakley and Maxwell Library into one service center in Maxwell. The new center will include ResNet, which supports residence hall technology, Computing Support Services, Media Services, and the Service Management Office.

The consolidated location will offer one-stop services, while the kiosk ensures people will not be left without any resources at Moakley, said Mr. Lefebvre.

BSU is partnering with n-Powered. The company is working with several universities to incorporate Alexa technology into residence halls. Only BSU, though, brought it to a more public setting in the form of a self-service kiosk, Mr. Lefebvre said.

The kiosk also uses another new piece of technology on campus – the HoloBlade from Holo2Go. Its rapidly spinning LED lights create images that appear 3D. It draws attention to the kiosk and could have other uses throughout the university.

“Like any new technology in beta, ALEXA @ BSU may have glitches,” Mr. Lefebvre said. “The hope is we’ll work through any glitches with feedback from students, faculty and staff.”

If successful, kiosks could be deployed elsewhere, including at BSU’s Attleboro and Cape Cod campuses. Alexa may eventually be able to give students personalized information, such as their class schedules and account balances right from their smartphones, with the kiosks used to complement that new service. 

“We are on the cutting edge with this kind of technology as we try to provide students with the tools they need to be successful.” Mr. Lefebvre said. (Photos by Brian Benson, University News)

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