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‘Hey Alexa’ Becomes Two-Way Connection Between Radio And Its Listeners.

Radio has only begun to explore the interactivity potential of smart speakers but the next big step is about to roll out in four test markets as iHeartMedia beta-launches a new song request feature for its Alexa skill. The company teamed up with Amazon to use advanced updates to Alexa’s voice artificial intelligence to build the first-to-market feature for a radio streaming service.

Using an Alexa-enabled device, listeners will be able to simply use their voice to seamlessly request songs and even dedicate them to family and friends. Alexa will then send the request to the station, where radio personalities can queue them for on-air playback.

“We’re excited that for the first time our listeners will be able to talk to us directly through Alexa,” said iHeartRadio Chief Product Officer Chris Williams. “This is a direct line to allow our audience to talk back, to share their thoughts and help influence what you hear on the radio,” he said in a video explaining the new feature.

iHeartRadio’s new request a song feature for Alexa is rolling out today on select stations, including CHR “106.1 Kiss FM” KHKS Dallas, CHR “104.7 Kiss FM” KZZP Phoenix, CHR “XL-106.7” WXXL Orlando, and country WCOS Columbia, SC (97.5). The company says it plans to add more stations nationwide shortly.

The song request addition to iHeart’s Alexa skill is also just a beginning. The company says it is already experimenting with the latest Alexa updates to deliver more interactive features in the future, including Q&As with air personalities, voice-driven polls, and contests, among other new features.

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