Items tagged with echo

A new study published by Adobe Analytics that looks at the market for voice devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The study surveyed 1,000 consumers in the U.S. and looked at how people use the devices they own and what they use them for. According to the study, the most common use for voice assistant devices is music playback with 70% of owners using their device for that task. Weather forecasts came in a close second with 64% of owners using their device for figuring out what the weather will be like for the day. Asking fun questions was a common use for 53% of people along with conducting online searches, something that 47% of device owners have done. Getting news is a common activity... Read more...
If you are wondering why companies like Amazon and Google put so much time and energy into smart speakers, just look at the numbers. Sales of voice-activated speakers will add an incremental $1.6 billion to the US technology industry through 2019, in part because they tap into the growing smart home market, according to data by The NPD Group. “While many new households will explore the smart home experience in the next two years, propelled by the growing ownership of voice-activated speakers, the biggest and best opportunity for retail may remain in encouraging the installed smart home base to make incremental device purchases, and to then provide services to help consumers fully leverage... Read more...
Smart speakers are growing in popularity, but in addition to providing a level of convenience to home consumers, they can potentially act as another point of entry for hackers and cyber criminals. To demonstrate this, researchers Wu Huiyu and Qian Wenxiang demonstrated at DefCon 2018 a technique for hacking Amazon's second-generation Echo speaker that allows an attacker to spy on the speaker's owner. The hackers spent month developing the technique. On the bright side, they have only managed to intercept the microphone rather than take complete control of the speaker, the latter of which could open the door to hacking an entire home network—speakers like the Echo tap into smart home devices,... Read more...
I had an aunt who used to have her living room lights plugged into a timer, so they turn on and serve as a deterrent to potential burglars. That is how it was done 'back in the day'. What about today? There are fancier methods, and one of them involves Amazon's Echo smart speaker with Alexa. There is a new skill available that could keep would-be thieves away. The skill is called Away Mode and it works by playing lengthy audio clips that sound like people are having a conversation inside. It was created by Hippo Insurance, an insurance outfit located in San Francisco, California. At present, Away Mode contains about a dozen conversations. The varied mix of topics include everything from a couple... Read more...
Amazon's Echo family has expanded over years with the addition of the Echo Dot, Echo Spot, and Echo Show (among others). Last year, Amazon unveiled a second-generation Echo and it appears that this year the company is looking to launch a third-generation Echo Dot.  The first- and second-generation devices were codenamed "pancake" and "biscuit" respectively, and the new third-generation device is rumored to have been developed under the codename "donut". Rather than the flat top of the current Echo Dot, it appears that its newer counterpart has a more rounded appearance. Second-generation Amazon Echo Dot The biggest change, however, is with the addition of what looks to be fabric covering... Read more...
The world of digital assistants is a little bit crowded and immensely competitive. Since its introduction, Amazon has looked at ways of setting Alexa apart from the competition, and it just found another one—equalizer controls. In a blog post, Amazon announced it has added EQ and sound mode controls for smart home entertainment devices using Alexa. If you own an Echo speaker, you can shout, "Alexa, crank up the bass" or "Alexa, turn up treble" and the digital assistant will do exactly that. The new feature is available to customers in the US across the Echo family of devices, and on select Alexa-enabled devices built using the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), such as the Echo Dot. Here are some... Read more...
Amazon's Alexa AI assistant is a neat device that can perform all sorts of tasks, from answering questions to controlling your smart home and controlling video playback, among many other useful talents. Alexa has also been known to be downright creepy on occasion. It wasn't too long ago that Alexa was laughing maniacally and freaking out users. Alexa has also recorded private conversations and sent them out to at least one owner's contacts. Amazon did, however, give a convoluted explanation of how that happened and vowed to change things so that situation wouldn’t arise again. However, Alexa's latest creep-show may be an ever tougher situation to explain away. Alexa has allegedly done... Read more...
Amazon and the Alexa voice assistant that powers the device has come under a lot of scrutiny in the past week following a disturbing story that made the news. A woman's private conversation was recorded by her Amazon Echo and was forwarded (unbeknownst to her) to a person on her contact list. Amazon profusely apologized for the invasion of privacy, and provided the following explanation: Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like "Alexa." Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a "send message" request. At which point, Alexa said out loud "To whom?" At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list.... Read more...
Amazon Echo owners have enjoyed the ability to place calls and send messages with their smart speakers for nearly a year. However, some additional members of Amazon's Alexa-enabled product family are also gaining the ability to communicate with friends, relatives, and colleagues using voice controls. This new tablet functionality is best integrated with Amazon's Fire HD 10, which allows truly hands-free access to make free voice (and video) calls, along with the ability to send messages. Placing a call is a simple as calling out for Alexa and speaking a contact name. If you have a Fire 7, Fire HD 8 or older Fire tablet, you'll have to first press the home button to initiate a call or send a message.... Read more...
Amazon is working hard on teaching its Alexa Voice AI some new tricks. Recently Alexa gained the ability to play music that you have heard previously even if you don’t know the track name. Amazon has now rolled something much more useful into its digital assistant with a new "Follow-up Mode." With this new mode, Alexa continues to listen for five seconds after it responds to your command, at which point you can follow-up for more natural dialog with the AI assistant. In function, this means you can say "Alexa, dim the lights" and then within five seconds you can issue another command without having to say "Alexa" again. The blue ring atop the Echo device will stay lit during its... Read more...
Yesterday we talked about a problem that was plaguing some devices powered by Amazon Alexa that would cause them to laugh suddenly and maniacally. Amazon promised at the time that it was working on a fix and it didn’t waste any time fixing the bizarre fits of laughter Alexa was experiencing. The reason that Alexa is laughing is more than a little creepy. Amazon says that in rare circumstances Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase "Alexa, laugh" even when the phrase wasn't said. Creepy much? To eliminate false responses (and obnoxious laughing keeping you up at night) Amazon has changed the phrase required to make Alexa laugh to "Alexa, can you laugh." Amazon figures that phrase is less likely... Read more...
We sense a great disturbance in the [Alexa] force. Unfortunately for Amazon, Alexa voice services are down for a growing number of Echo users across the United States. Quite comically, Amazon's Super Bowl commercial revolved around the premise that Alexa had lost its voice, forcing stand-ins like Gordon Ramsey and Sir Anthony Hopkins to take over her duties. In this case, however, simply querying Alexa results in Echo devices displaying a red LED light ring, after which she responds, "Sorry, I'm have a little trouble understanding right now. Please try a little later." This was the response I heard when calling upon my own Echo Dot at 2:50pm EST. I had asked Alexa to answer a question for me... Read more...
Google has carved out a significant chunk of the smart home speaker market with its Home speaker line, which now accounts for nearly a third of all installed home automation devices, according to data and analysis by Consumer Intelligence Researcher Partners (CIRP). Just as importantly, Google has managed to shrink the gap in the market place between its speakers and Amazon's Echo line. No small feat, Amazon essentially created the smart home speaker market when it unexpectedly launched its first Echo product over two and a half years ago. It was an immediate success, and continues to be today. In addition, Amazon's successful play in the smart home speaker space prompted others to join the fray,... Read more...
Another holiday season has come and gone, though not before Amazon, the world's biggest online retailer, hit a new shopping record. That seems par for course these days, which itself is pretty remarkable. The holiday season was also a boon for Amazon's Prime membership program. More than 4 million started a Prime trial or paid membership in just one hectic week of holiday shopping. The massive influx of Prime memberships (trial and paid combined) during the past week is proof positive that free two-day shipping on millions of qualifying items continues to be a major draw, though far from the only one. Prime membership has many perks these days, from unlimited streaming of Amazon's catalogs of... Read more...
Amazon seems to have struck gold with its Echo products, capitalizing on the trend towards digital assistants that became popular in smartphones. In similar fashion, smart speakers offer a level of intelligent convenience—just bark out a command and Alexa (if you're using an Echo speaker) will fetch weather information, look up facts on the web, and even order a pizza, among many, many other tricks. But this level of functionality requires that smart speakers constantly listen to their surroundings, leading some to wonder if consumers are giving up too much privacy. There is an article at Gizmodo that advises against buying an Echo (or any voice-controlled) speaker for yourself, a family... Read more...
The smart home speaker market is red hot, with Amazon and Google leading the way with their respective Echo and Google Home products. And with Black Friday and Cyber Monday in view, there will be a lot more smart speakers find their way into homes this week, and through the holiday season. As with all Internet of Things (IoT) devices, it's important to keep security in mind, and Symantec has some tips on that very topic. "While they make life easier in some ways, could voice-activated smart speakers also be endangering people’s privacy and online security? The range of activities that can be carried out by these speakers means that a hacker, or even just a mischief-minded friend or neighbor,... Read more...
Amazon first introduced the Alexa-powered smart speaker back in late 2014, and it made a huge splash in the smart home market. Since that time, Amazon has introduced a steady stream of new Echo devices, but the original has remained largely the same (save for the white color option). That changes today, as Amazon has just announced a smaller, second generation Echo. The new Echo is roughly half the size of the original (at least with respect to height), but still larger than the diminutive Echo Dot. The new AI smart speaker gains a dedicated bass tweeter, and supports multi-room audio, allowing you to stream music throughout your home (or office) using multiple Echo devices. The new $99 Echo... Read more...
There may be a new 4K Apple TV launching tomorrow, but a carefully-timed leak from Amazon is looking to steal the show today. We don't know if this was planned "corporate leak" from Amazon itself, but there are two new Fire TV products that will be arriving shortly from Amazon. The first model features a dongle-style form-factor, which houses some potent hardware (at least for a media streamer). Its design makes it more similar in concept to the Google Chromecast than the Fire TV Stick, which has been the entry point to Amazon's streaming TV offerings. This particular model, which goes by the codename "AFTN", will be a mid-range device that will sit above the Fire TV stick in the lineup. We also... Read more...
If you have multiple Amazon Echo speakers in your household, a new feature has been enabled which will allow you to spread your favorite tunes to every room. The feature is called Alexa Multi-Room Music, and as its name implies, allows you to synchronize music playback with two or more Echo devices. To get started, you will first need to fire up the Amazon Alexa app and create a group that contains two or more Echo devices. So, if you have an Echo in the kitchen and one in the den, you can create a group called “Downstairs”, for example. Afterwards, you can simply say “Alexa, play Dave Matthews Band downstairs”, and music will play from both speakers, fully synchronized so that you should have... Read more...
Microsoft is already dealing with the fallout from Consumer Reports’ decision to pull its recommendation of Surface PCs due to reliability issues, and now a former executive is spilling the beans on turmoil within the company’s Cortana team. Qi Lu, a leading AI researcher, headed up Microsoft’s applications and services unit before abandoning ship earlier this year to work at Chinese tech powerhouse Baidu. In a recent interview, Lu explains that Microsoft at first didn’t really take Amazon seriously, contending that Alexa technology was far behind what Cortana was capable of achieving. “Google and Microsoft, technologically, were ahead of Amazon by a wide margin,” said Lu. “But look at the AI... Read more...
If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines during this whole “AI smart speaker” revolution, then maybe now is the time to pull the trigger. Last month during its Prime Day sales extravaganza, Amazon was selling its original Echo for $89. Since that time, the price has skyrocketed back up to its original MSRP of $179.99. However, retailers like Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, P.C. Richard & Son, and ABT are now matching the Prime Day price of $89.99. This sale price only lasts for today, so here’s your last chance to score an Echo at its all-time low price. If the standard Echo is a little too big and “monolithic” for your tastes, its smaller Echo Dot sibling is also on sale. While the... Read more...
Bigger is better, right? When it comes to smartphones, larger screens have definitely won over the majority of consumers (save for the iPhone SE holdouts), but Facebook might be looking to go “big” in a completely different arena. A new report suggests that Facebook is working on a new smart speaker that will incorporate a display that will make the Amazon Echo Show’s 7-inch screen look puny in comparison. Facebook’s device would allegedly feature a massive 15-inch display, which makes us think that the actual “speaker” portion may be more of an afterthought. The device would incorporate touch functionality and voice recognition that would allow Facebook users to create posts, comment on posts,... Read more...
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