Alexa on the Amazon Fire TV to receive a complete visual overhaul

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 ›

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Amazon’s Alexa servers were down for a few hours yesterday

This is just a quick PSA that Amazon’s Alexa servers were down around mid-day yesterday for 2-3 hours. If you were having issues using Alexa yesterday, rest assured it was not an issue with your hardware or your setup. If you’re ever experiencing issues with Amazon devices, a good first step is to check Amazon’s Cloud Status page to determine if the issue is on Amazon’s side. The “AWS Lambda (N. Virginia)” servers handles the majority of Alexa’s requests.

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Amazon Echo and Echo Dot will soon be able to stream live audio from security cameras

Amazon today announced additional details about the new security camera capabilities of Alexa. Along with that announcement, it was revealed that Alexa devices without a screen, like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, will also have access to live feeds from security cameras. Obviously, since those devices don’t have screens, you won’t be able to view a camera feed using them, but you will be able to say something like “Alexa, listen to the baby’s room” to hear a live audio feed of a particular security camera. While that’s not nearly as useful as viewing a camera, it’s better than nothing. This is also a good indication that easy access to security cameras using Alexa will be coming to other Alexa-enabled devices, like the Fire TV and Fire tablets.

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Amazon announces new security camera support for Alexa with additional launch partners for Echo Show

Amazon has today announced developer details about their security camera integration with Alexa. The Amazon Echo Show will be released next week and we already know you’ll be able to call up a live feed of your security camera by simply asking Alexa. This announcement doesn’t reveal any new features, but it does show more camera manufacturers are on board. Support for Arlo and Ring cameras were already revealed with the announcement of the Echo Show, but now we know that cameras from Nest, August, EZViz, Vivint, Amcrest, and IC Realtime will also be support. With the new developer options, other security camera manufactures should be able to easily add Alexa support as well. Nothing official has been said about security camera access through Alexa on devices other than the Echo Show yet, but I fully expect you’ll be able to ask Alexa on the Fire TV to view a live feed of your security camera in the coming months.

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You can now listen to SiriusXM through Alexa on devices like the Amazon Echo and Fire TV

SiriusXM, the satellite radio network, has just released a new Alexa Skill that allows you to listen to the service’s radio stations through Alexa. Even though this is an Alexa skill, accessing SiriusXM stations is similar to accessing music through service’s like Spotify or Pandora. Once you have the Alexa skill enabled, which you can do by saying “Alexa, enable SiriusXM,” and configured your login credentials through the Alexa app, you can then ask “Alexa, play [station name] on SiriusXM” to start listening to a station. Read more ›

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Amazon Dash Wand Review — What Alexa can and can’t do

When Amazon added Alexa capabilities to the Dash Wand, they instantly made a mostly forgotten device interesting again. At just $20, the Dash Wand is now the least expensive Alexa-enabled device Amazon makes, and it’s even more affordable for Prime members since they get a $20 credit when activating the device, making it essentially free. Since it wasn’t originally designed to be an Alexa device, there are limitations to its voice capabilities, compared to something like the Echo Dot. Here’s an overview of the Dash Wand, as well as a detailed look into what Alexa on it can and can’t do. Read more ›

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Amazon Echo & Echo Dot will soon use a yellow light to indicate unheard messages

When Amazon introduced their new calling and messaging features for Alexa devices, they selected a pulsing green light as the indicator of an unheard message waiting to be played. The issue with that is it’s very similar to the spinning green light that indicates a call is coming in, so it’s very easy to mistake one for the other.

Amazon will soon be resolving this by replacing the pulsing green message indicator light with a solid yellow light. Yellow is not used for any other Echo and Echo Dot light ring functionality, so it should be obvious that a new message is waiting, that is, now that you know what it means. If you see a yellow light ring, just say “Alexa, play my message” to hear the message. Amazon says this change will go into effect “in the coming weeks.”

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Amazon adds the ability to block specific contacts from calling and messaging your Alexa devices

When Amazon added the ability to send and receive calls and messages through Alexa devices last month, they did not include a key component, which was the ability to block certain people from calling or messaging you. They have now corrected that misstep through the most recent update of the Alexa app. Now, if you go to the contacts section of the Alexa app, at the bottom is a new “Block Contacts” option. When selected, you’re given the option to block specific contacts on your contact list from calling and messaging you. The new Alexa app, with the new blocking option, seems to only be released to iOS devices at the moment, but I’m sure Android devices will gain the new app with this new ability soon.

SourceThe Verge
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Alexa devices will soon be able to control set-top boxes and video apps directly

Amazon has just announced an extension to their Alexa Skills Kit called the Video Skill API. This will allow developers to control set-top boxes and video apps directly through more natural language. Once a device or service you use implements these new capabilities, you’ll be able to simply say something like “Alexa, play Manchester by the Sea” and the content will start playing through the appropriate device. Read more ›

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Alexa gains named timers and reminders

Amazon has added the ability to set named timers and reminders on Alexa devices. This means you can now have multiple timers, each with a different name by saying something like “Alexa, set a 20 minute rice timer” and “Alexa, set a 7 minute timer for cookies.” You can then ask “Alexa, how much time left on my rice timer” and Alexa will know which of your multiple timers you’re talking about. When the timer goes off, Alexa will tell you the name of the timer by saying “Your rice timer is done.” Read more ›

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