Alexa Now Can Dash Off Text Messages to Android Phones

2016.06.13 01

Amazon on Tuesday introduced new functionality that enables its Alexa virtual assistant to send and receive SMS messages on devices running Android 5.0 or higher. Carrier charges may apply.

Alexa, the software that powers the Echo line of smart speakers, can play and send personalized messages from contacts for users who have set up voice profiles.

Users will hear a chime when they have a new SMS message, and see a yellow light ring on their Echo device. They’ll also be notified in the Alexa App.

The SMS feature isn’t available for iOS because Apple doesn’t share its messaging API with third parties, Amazon said.

The feature currently is available only in the United States.

Text-to-911, group messages, and MMS are not supported.

Alexa’s new SMS capability is being over hyped, contended Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“Accessing the feature for most will be more trouble than it’s worth, since Alexa interactions are still kind of clunky,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Alexa “works for simple instructions — but for more complicated interactions like this, most people will not bother,” Jude predicted. “It’s far easier simply to use the SMS functionality on the smartphone.”

The SMS feature “will add to the perceived utility of the Amazon offering, but will ultimately be of limited use unless it’s improved over time,” he said. “The Jude rule is, people evaluate a purchase on the basis of all the features they get, but then only use 10 percent of them.”

Alexa Now Can Dash Off Text Messages to Android Phones

Apple’s HomePod Set to Barge Into Hot Speaker Market

2018.01.26 01

HomePod, Apple’s long-awaited entry into the torrid smart speaker market, will be available Feb. 9, the company announced Tuesday.

The HomePod, which is not quite 7 inches tall, will be offered in white and space gray. It can be pre-ordered at Apple’s website for US$349 starting Friday.

Unlike other smart speakers, which support a variety of music services out of the gate, HomePod will support the Apple Music subscription service exclusively.

Although Apple Music has a catalog of 45 million songs, that limitation could curb initial sales of the product, noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

Apple’s HomePod Set to Barge Into Hot Speaker Market

10 of the best things you can do with the Amazon Echo

2017.05.12 04

If you’re considering buying an Alexa device (including the new Echo Show or Echo Look) or got Amazon Echo as a gift, there’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot Alexa can do, but here are the 10 best tips and tricks to get you started.

1. Make phone calls (basically, landline calls)
2. Control your smart home
3. Get cooking ideas and tips
4. Get the news
5. Entertain your kids for hours on end
6. Learn about more features
7. Get fit (or try to)
8. Control your TV
9. Use Spotify to play music
10. Train Alexa to do practically anything else

10 of the best things you can do with the Amazon Echo

Nucleus Home Intercom Gets Alexa Advantage

2016.08.10 03

The smart home of the future could be a wee bit smarter with the addition of the Alexa-powered connected intercom system Nucleus announced last week.

The Nucleus intercom, which last fall made its debut without Alexa, is a tablet that connects to a home network through WiFi or Ethernet to allow family members to communicate with each other both inside and outside the home.

The inclusion of Amazon’s Alexa technology in the US$250 Nucleus lets it understand voice commands. For example, users can ask it to play music from services like Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. They also can call up the latest weather report by saying, “Alexa, what’s the weather?” or add an item to a list, for example, “Alexa, add milk to my shopping list.”

The Nucleus intercom has an 8-inch touchscreen with 1280 x 800 resolution, a 5-MP camera with a wide 120-degree viewing angle, a microphone for two-way conversations, and stereo speakers for streaming music.

It can be paired with a smartphone through an iOS or Android app.

The promotional material for Nucleus suggests a potential target market for the intercom, observed LSA’s Sterling.

“The reason that multiple generations are featured in its promotional video is that this may be an easier solution for older adults and grandparents than navigating Hangouts, FaceTime or Skype,” he said.

“The appeal for this might be in connecting remotely with people who are technically challenged,” said ABI’s Collins. “They can go to a simple device for a simple application.”

Nucleus Home Intercom Gets Alexa Advantage

Amazon Wants Developers to Make Choose Your Own Adventure Games for Alexa

2016.08.07 2

Amazon really wants developers to start making choose your own adventure style games for their Alexa device. There is a new framework available called Alexa Skills Kit that allows authors and developers to create decision trees to program audio mysteries and adventures.

Choose your own Adventure started to become very popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s and they sold 250 million copies during this time period. They were published by Bantam, which is now owned by Penguin Random House, but they let the copyright lapse and other companies picked it up.

I think this platform will appeal to authors that grew up in the 80’s and want to create an adventure style game that would take advantage of new technologies and appeal to a new generation.

Amazon Wants Developers to Make Choose Your Own Adventure Games for Alexa

Alexa Takes On Smart Home Security Responsibilities

2016.08.07 01

Millions of customers using Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant technology now can add locks that can be controlled remotely to the growing ecosystem of smart home capabilities.

August Home last week announced that Amazon’s line of voice-assisted products, including the best-selling Echo, now support its smart products, allowing users to lock and unlock their front doors and other points of access using simple voice commands.

August product line includes the August Smart Lock, the August Smart Keypad and the August Smart Doorbell Cam, which allow customers to secure and keep track of home security using a smartphone app.

The ability to remotely control home security marks the latest series of capabilities for Alexa voice-command products, which now have about 1,900 third-party skills from a range of companies, including Kayak, Lyft, Honeywell and others.

Customers are using Alexa-enabled devices to listen to music, set alarms, get news, shop online, order pizza, and perform a variety of household talks including controlling lights and window blinds.

Alexa Takes On Smart Home Security Responsibilities

Devs Light Up for Alexa

2016.06.13 01

Amazon last week announced the availability of more than 1,000 different skills for its Alexa voice assistant technology. Third-party developers have created the vast array of new capabilities for the highly popular line of consumer products that use Alexa, which includes the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap and Amazon Fire.

The announcement comes less than a year after Amazon released the Alexa Skills Kit, which allows outside developers to create new services to work with the voice-activation technology.

Developers have ramped up the creation of new skills for the Alexa ecosystem — only 135 were available in January.

Devs Light Up for Alexa