A lot of the available 'skills', or mini-apps for Amazon's Alexa are pretty pointless. There's one that makes fart noises, one that finds out how much Dogecoin is currently worth, that kind of thing.
But the new skill from the British Red Cross has the potential to be not just useful, but lifesaving.
Simply called First Aid, the skill allows you to ask Alexa for voice instructions in a first aid situation. For instance, "Alexa, ask First aid how to help someone having a seizure." It gives step-by-step voice advice, including how to deal with major bleeds and burns before the ambulance arrives.
The British Red Cross's research showed that an alarming 59% of people who died before they reached hospital could possibly have been saved if someone had given them first aid. 93% of bystanders called an ambulance, but half didn't even try helping the person in the meantime. You could argue that it's because people don't know how to help and don't want to make it worse, but given that everyone has a tiny computer in their pockets with access to all of humanity's collective knowledge, this seems a bit weak.
Still, if even one life is saved with the new Alexa skill, we'd say it was worth it.
Joe Mulligan, Head of First Aid Education said:
"The British Red Cross’s new skill for Amazon Echo will teach people simple first aid so that they feel well prepared to help someone in an emergency. The benefits of accessible education are well documented, and we hope that spoken instructions will make it even easier for people to learn these skills.
This is a very exciting time for us, and highlights our ambition to embrace new digital technologies to reach and engage more people in first aid education. We’ll be developing this product all the time based on user feedback, and we’re looking forward to seeing it grow."
You can install the skill on your Alexa device by saying "Alexa, add the First Aid skill." You'll want to do that ahead of time, because it takes a while to get up and running, and "waiting for an Alexa skill to install" is a pretty lame way to die.