Amazon just announced the availability of Alexa Display Cards for third-party manufacturers to incorporate into Alexa-enabled devices that have screens. These are the supplemental visual representations of Alexa responses that first appeared when Amazon added Alexa capabilities to the original Fire TV. Similar Alexa cards were later used on Fire tablets when they gained Alexa capabilities, but now that the the all-new Echo Show is a few days from release, Amazon has given visual Alexa responses a lot more attention and completely overhauled their layout. Part of the new Alexa card display guidelines is a large section dedicated to Alexa’s TV interface, which is very likely going to make its way to the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick in a future update. Read more ›
Amazon’s Echo devices are generally very good at picking out their wake word. This is because, while it’s the device itself that locally identifies that the word has been said, Amazon still verifies after the fact that the wake word was said using their much more powerful cloud servers. Now that same cloud-based wake word verification feature is being made available to 3rd-party Alexa devices. This means non-Amazon made devices with far-field always-listening Alexa capabilities will become as good as Amazon’s own devices at picking out the wake word. Read more ›
Ecobee has officially announced the ecobee4 smart thermostat with built-in full Alexa capabilities. To be clear, this isn’t just a smart thermostat that can be controlled by Alexa, but rather, it’s like having an Echo Dot attached to your wall that happens to also directly control your home AC and heater in a smart way. The ecobee4 has a microphone, speaker, and lightbar to facilitate Alexa communication, as well as a touchscreen and smartphone app for its standard thermostat interface. Read more ›
Amazon already makes the software behind Alexa available to any device manufacturer, through their Alexa Voice Service (AVS) development kit, but now they’re making the Echo hardware available too. Amazon today announced that device manufacturers wanting to add Alexa capabilities can have access to their “high-performance far-field microphone array and voice processing technology.” The hardware-based reference solution includes the same 7-microphone array found in Echo products, wake word recognition, beamforming, noise reduction, and echo cancellation.
This will make it easier for new devices to be created by third-parties with the same always-listening capabilities of the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, as long as those manufactures include Alexa. Most Alexa implementations require the user to press a button first, but soon we should start seeing more hands-free devices emerge. The hardware dev kit is available to OEMs through an invite-only program.
Amazon has announced that Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is now available for devices in the UK and Germany. AVS is what allows any manufacturer to build Alexa into their device. This is distinctly different from the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), which is what allows Alexa to talk to other devices and services. The US already has devices, like the Triby, that have Alexa built-in, with more devices, like a GE lamp, on their way. Now customers in the UK and Germany should start seeing devices hit the market with Alexa capabilities built-in. This news should mean that Alexa will finally make her debut on UK and German Fire TVs soon.
Ever since Amazon made Alexa available for any manufacturer to integrate into their hardware, we’ve seen several new Alexa-enabled products, but most of them were missing one of the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot’s best features, which is always-listening capabilities for hands free interaction with Alexa. That’s not the case with GE’s new LED table lamp. It’s essentially an Echo Dot with a large LED light ring attached to the top. It can do everything the Echo Dot can do, plus light up a room, which of course can be controlled hands free via Alexa. Read more ›
The Omate Rise is a $200 Android powered smartwatched that launched on Indiegogo at the end of last year. It was a big hit, reaching its funding goal in just 15 minutes, and has since surpassed that goal by 700%. Now the watch is back on Indiegogo with a new limited edition run of another 1,000 units, but this time, it now has Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, built in.
A key differentiator of the Omate Rise is that it’s a fully standalone watch that does not rely on a phone to function. It runs a full version of Android, instead of Android Wear, the trimmed down OS for smartwatches, and has a built in standalone 3G radio. It features a 1.3-inch round LCD, a dual 1.2GHz MediaTek MT2601 chipset, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, and a 580mAh battery. While it’s not the first smartwatch to feature Alexa, that title is held by the CoWatch, Omate’s CEO says it will be the first one that will actually be certified by Amazon.