Amazon offering $5 future credit for using Alexa to order from Prime Now

Amazon just added the ability to place Prime Now orders using Alexa. To promote the feature, they’ll send you a $5 promo code, to use on a future Amazon order, just for trying it out. Place any Prime Now order using Alexa before April 30 and you’ll be emailed a $5 promo code in about seven days. This a new different promotion from the one from last week that gave you $5 for reordering something with Alexa, which, by the way, has been extended until March 24.

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Alexa can now order items from Prime Now with 2-hour delivery

If you live in an area with Prime Now, you can now use Alexa to place your orders. When placing a voice order, just add …from Prime Now to the end of the request. The voice assistant will automatically choose the next available 2-hour delivery window. When confirming the order, Alexa will ask “what else can I get you” so you can add additional items to the same order. Additionally, starting today, Prime Now in select cities has made cold beer and wine available for order.

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Amazon adds full Alexa capabilities to their iPhone app

Amazon has brought Alexa to the iPhone. There have been other iPhone apps that enabled access to Amazon’s voice assistant from the iPhone, but this is the frist time Amazon has done it themselves. Instead of creating a separate app to access Alexa, the voice assistant has been built-into the standard Amazon app. Read more ›

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Amazon will pay for Alexa Skill hosting with free $100 monthly credits

Amazon just started a new promotion for developers where they’ll pay up to $100 per month of AWS hosting for Alexa Skills. For the majority of skills, this would make publishing and hosting a skill on Amazon’s cloud servers completely free for the developer of the skill. Developers simply need to apply for the credit once and they’ll receive $100 of AWS credit once their skill is live. Then, if the skill’s hosting usage surpasses AWS’s free tier and uses up the initial $100, the developer will automatically receive an additional $100 AWS credit each month.

This new promotion essentially makes all but the most CPU and bandwidth intense skills completely free to host, since the majority of skills don’t require much as far as hosting resources are concerned. While most of the 10,000+ Alexa skills currently survive on the AWS free tier alone, this promotion should hopefully encourage developers to create more elaborate skills without worrying about hosting fees.

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Amazon adds native smart lock support to Alexa

Amazon has announced the addition of smart lock control to Alexa’s repertoire of native abilities. The voice assistant has been able to control WiFi enabled door locks for several months, but it required using Alexa Skills and hubs like the Samsung SmartThings Hub or Wink Hub. With the addition of native support, you’ll be able to simply say “Alexa, lock the front door” without having to use a skill. The new feature also supports lock queries, so the voice assistant will tell you the state of your lock by asking “Alexa, is the front door locked?” Locks from August, Yale, and Schlage already support the new feature.

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Amazon’s Alexa now supports Office 365 calendar integration

Amazon has added support to another calendar service to their voice assistant. Alexa can now integrate with Office 365 calendars. Support for Google Calendar was added about a year ago and then just last month we saw the addition of Outlook.com support, which also includes Hotmail and Live.com calendars. Now those of you using Microsoft’s office suite can ask Alexa what is on your calendar and have Alexa add items to your calendar using just your voice. You can link Alexa to an Office 365 account through the Alexa app or web portal.

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Audio synchronization coming to the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot for whole home audio support

The Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and possibly other Alexa devices will soon be able to synchronize audio across multiple devices. Users have reported seeing a new audio synchronization feature appear in the Alexa app. The feature, often referred to as whole home audio, will allow you to use multiple Alexa devices to play music as if they were satellite speakers connected to the same audio source. Read more ›

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Amazon’s Alexa may soon distinguish between different voices

A report from Time magazine claims that sources familiar with Amazon’s Alexa strategy say Amazon is working to get Alexa to distinguish between different voices. This would allow different members of a household to access personalized Alexa capabilities without having to switch profiles. Time says the feature, called Voice ID, would match the person speaking to a voice sample, or “voice print.” It could allow only a parents voice to make purchases through Alexa, while blocking children, without requiring a PIN, like it does now. Another use would be automatically playing personalized music to match the taste of the person making the request. There’s no word on when, or if, this feature will be released.

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Amazon’s Alexa now has over 10,000 3rd-party skills

Amazon has revealed that Alexa has surpassed 10,000 skills. Alexa Skills are similar to phone apps, in that they are created by 3rd-parties to add functionality to the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Tap, Fire TV, and Fire TV Stick. The number of skills being created has shot up exponentially in recent months. Back when Amazon added the ability to rate and review skills a little over a year ago, there were only 91 skills. Just 6 months later, when Amazon improved skill discoverability and added the ability to enable skills by asking Alexa, the number of skills were up to 1,400. By the time Amazon finally launched dedicated web pages for Alexa skills five months later, there were over 4,000 skills. Now that number has more than doubled in just under 4 months.

Of course, just like with Fire TV apps, the number of total Alexa skills is not nearly as important as the number of quality skills. You’ll have to ignore a bunch of cookie cutter trivia games and fact skills to find ones that truly add value to your device.

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Alexa is coming to existing Amazon Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks in the UK and Germany

Ever since the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot officially launched in the UK and Germany, it was expected that Fire TV owners in those countries would eventually get access to Alexa on their devices, just like Fire TV owners in the US. Now that the Fire TV Stick 2 with Alexa has been officially announced for the UK and Germany, Amazon has confirmed that Alexa will also be added to all existing Fire TV and Fire TV Stick models in those countries. Read more ›

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