Alexa’s flash briefing feature is a great way to hear a summary of news from multiple sources, but if you want a more detailed news report, there’s now a new feature that will give you just that. Alexa customers in the US can now ask their devices to “play news” or “tell me the news” from a specific news organization, as reported by Engadget. Doing so will play what is essentially a playlist of news stories from that one publication, with each story being longer than what you get during a flash briefing. Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, Newsy, and NPR are the first to provide the new format. If you’re not interested in the story being played, you can simply ask for the next story to skip ahead. Alexa devices with screens, like the Echo Show and Fire TVs, will play news videos when available.
Support for the Apple Music Skill has just arrived on the Amazon Fire TV. All Fire TV models in the US can now use Alexa to listen to their Apple Music subscription by simply making a music request by voice and adding “on Apple Music” to the end of the request. If you’ve already set up the Apple Music Skill, from when support arrived on Echo devices, you’re already set to listen through a Fire TV device. For everyone else, you’ll need to link the skill to your Apple Music subscription through the Alexa app. From there you can also set Apple Music as your default music service, if you’d like, so that all music requests play through Apple’s service, without needing to specifically say “…on Apple Music.” Additionally, Fire TV Cube owners will be able to listen to Apple Music synced up with other Alexa devices, since the Cube gained support for whole-home audio a few months ago. Support for Apple Music on both Fire TVs and Echos will be coming to the UK in a few weeks.
Roku has released an Alexa skill that allows customers to control Roku media players and Roku TVs with their voice through an Alexa device, like an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. The skill allows you to control media playback, launch channels, and search. Roku TV owners will additionally be able to use the skill to power on/off the TV, change the volume, change channels, and switch inputs. Read more ›
Amazon has launched a new feature for Alexa called Song ID that allows the voice assistant to announce the artist and title of each song before it plays. You likely wouldn’t use the feature for albums you know or playlists you created, but it can come in handy when playing stations or playlists curated by other people that are filled with new music you’ve never heard before. It sort of turns Alexa into a radio DJ who announces each song as it plays. To turn the feature on, simply say “Alexa, turn on Song ID” at anytime. As you’d expect, say “Alexa, turn off song ID” to turn it off.
Amazon introduced Alexa Blueprints last year as a way for anyone to create their own Alexa SKills, without any coding, right from a web browser. They later made it possible to share those custom skills with friends and family, but now they’ve announced that you can publish your custom skills to the Alexa Skill store for anyone to use. Read more ›
Amazon has teamed up with ChooseCo, publishers of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure series of books, to bring their guided adventure stories to Alexa devices. A new Choose Your Own Adventure Alexa Skill has been released using Amazon’s Audible brand. The skill currently offers two different books that are both free. Read more ›
Amazon has announced the release of a Baby Activity Skill API for Alexa devices. This will allow parents to use natural language with Alexa to log their babies activity through apps and devices. To start off, the API will allow Weight, Sleep, Diaper Change, and Feeding commands. Read more ›
Amazon has published some interesting information about how they’re preventing Alexa devices from activating to mentions of their wake word in movies, TV shows, ads, radio, and more. An audio fingerprinting system is used to identify and store individual media mentions of Alexa that can be used to determine when the wake word should be ignored. This is done both in the cloud, to quietly turn Alexa devices back off after a media trigger, and locally on Alexa devices themselves, to completely prevent devices from waking up in the first place. Read more ›
Amazon has just put up a cryptic page for a, presumably fictitious, new Amazon Beta Testing Program that is somehow linked to an upcoming 2019 Super Bowl LIII ad. The page explains that the program is a “top secret division of Amazon which employs celebrities to test Alexa-enabled technologies such as sub-aquatic audio waveform resonance, interspecies language translation, and voice-controlled body de-stressers.” Four 10-second videos are embedded on the page, featuring celebrities Harrison Ford, Forest Whitaker, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, and twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly. Read more ›
Amazon has announced a new tool for developers that makes it much easier to add in-skill purchasing (ISP) to Alexa Skills, as spotted by CNET. Where before, developers had to use an unintuitive command-line interface to add purchases to their skills, they can now use a simpler web interface built directly into the Alexa Developer Console that they’re already used to using. For Alexa users, this will likely mean that more and more of the 70,000 Alexa Skills will likely begin adopting and experimenting with premium features that require paying money. Be sure you’ve got an Alexa PIN set up for voice purchases if you have kids or others that might inadvertently buy something while interacting with Alexa.