Items tagged with echo

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...
If you do not care about having a fancy touchscreen on your smart speaker, you can score a pretty good deal on Amazon's original Echo model. Amazon is currently selling its voice-controlled Echo speaker with Alexa integration for $130, down 28 percent from its regular retail price of $180. It is available at that discounted price in both black and white color options as Amazon looks to make room for its Echo Show. Amazon announced the Echo Show last month. It is essentially a newer version of the original Echo smart speaker, but with a completely different design to accommodate a built-in 7-inch touchscreen display. Having a touchscreen gives the Echo Show several advantages over its predecessor—it... Read more...
Following the philosophy that some things are better late than never, Amazon has rolled out the ability to block calls and messages to its Alexa-powered Echo devices. For whatever reason, Amazon did not think to include call and message blocking from the start, which is a bit of a privacy concern—without that ability, anyone with your phone number and Alexa mobile app could leave a message that might get played over your Echo speaker.Users kicked up a fuss over the privacy oversight. Amazon heard the complaints and promised an update to address the issue, which is now available, at least for iOS. The free Amazon Alexa mobile app for iOS devices has been updated to version 2.0.2511 and now includes... Read more...
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