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What is Alexa?

Want to know more about Amazon's virtual assistant? Start here.

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What is Alexa? Let's find out.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Alexa is Amazon's virtual assistant, like Siri for the iPhone, but Alexa is built into smart devices like the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Show. There are seven different Amazon-brand Alexa speakers and smart displays available today. 

Say the wake word "Alexa" to your Echo speaker and then, with a simple voice command, you can play music, control smart home devices, shop on Amazon, search the internet, set reminders and more. The Echo has a very powerful microphone that uses what's called "far-field" technology. It's so good it can hear you from across a room. 

And if you have multiple Echo speakers, only the closest Amazon device will respond, thanks to a feature called Echo Spatial Perception, or ESP.

Read more: Which Amazon Echo speaker should you buy?

Here's a list of Alexa's recognized commands, and here are the various smart home gadgets Alexa can control.  Currently, Alexa is built in to the following devices:

That list only covers the Alexa-enabled smart speakers and displays that Amazon makes itself. Third-party manufacturers have built Alexa into all kinds of devices, too, including phones, lamps, thermostats, TVs and refrigerators. 

Here's a guide to getting started with Alexa in your home

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