Earlier this year, Amazon introduced a program that pays developers of the most popular Alexa skill games. Today they’ve announced that the rewards program is expanding to now include Alexa skills in six more categories. Developers of Alexa skills in the categories Education & Reference, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, Music & Audio, and Productivity will now also earn money if their skills receive enough engagement. Amazon has still not revealed specifics on how much can be earned, but they will use metrics such as the total minutes a skill is used, the number of new customers, the number of recurring customers, the skill’s customer ratings, and more to determine how much a developer is paid each month. One Alexa developer tells TechCrunch that he estimates the top skill in a category receives about $5,000 each month, #6 gets about $2,000, #7 gets about $1,000, and #300 gets about $100.
When Amazon made it possible for stand-alone Alexa devices, like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, to control the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, control of Fire TV Edition televisions was not quite ready initially. It is now possible to control the televisions with Alexa as well and Amazon has added a new option in the TV’s settings menu to allow Alexa to turn on the TV. In order for Alexa to turn on the TV, it must remain in a low power state, similar to the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick’s sleep mode, so having the feature enabled will consume a little more power than usual while the TV is off. If you don’t plan to use Alexa to turn on your Fire TV Edition television, it’s probably a good idea to turn the feature off. You can do so from the Settings > Alexa menu on the TV. With the option enabled, giving any Alexa command that relates to your TV, like “Alexa, launch YouTube,” will power on the TV if it is off. Of course, you can also just say “Alexa, turn on Fire TV” if you prefer. See here for a list of other commands that can be used.
The UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom are among the most popular portable Bluetooth speakers available and now they’re even better with the addition of Alexa capabilities. Ultimate Ears has released a software update to their speakers that adds access to Amazon’s voice assistant directly from the speaker. Once configured, you just tap the Bluetooth button on the speaker and speak Alexa commands into the speaker’s microphone. The option to use Alexa is only available through UE’s Android app at this time. That seems to imply that the speaker must be connected to a phone for Alexa to work, but their help pages don’t make it clear if that’s the case or not. If that is the case, it’s distinctly different from the Amazon Tap which truly has Alexa built into the speaker without needing a phone. Either way, if you want access to Alexa through a much better sounding portable speaker than anything Amazon offers, the UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom are definitely the way to go.
Ikea entered the home automation market earlier this year with a new line of products called TRÅDFRI, which means “wireless” in Swedish. With a hub that costs just $29.99 and smart bulbs that start at $11.99, they are among the least expensive ways to add smart lights to your home. At launch, the product line only worked with Ikea’s app and $14.99 physical remote, which greatly limited their appeal. Now the TRÅDFRI has gained compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, as well as Apple HomeKit and Google Home, making them much more appealing to Amazon Echo and Fire TV owners.
Anker, best known for their USB chargers and battery packs, has been expanding their product line into home goods under their new Eufy brand. Those products have mostly been vacuums and lights, but they’ve now announced the Eufy Genie, which is an Alexa smart speaker that closely resembles the Amazon Echo Dot in both appearance and features. With a retail price of only $34.99, the Genie undercuts the Echo Dot by $15 and has the potential for being a good alternative to Amazon’s own hardware. Read more ›
It appears as though Amazon is close to enabling a whole-home-audio feature that will allow customers to synchronize music playback across multiple Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices, according to a source who has spoken to German blog Caschys (transalation). The blog, which has correctly surfaced information about unreleased Amazon devices and features in the past, claims that internal tests of the new feature have been successful and that we can probably expect the feature to be released soon. Read more ›
Amazon’s Alexa has always been able to identify certain music requests that go along with activities, like asking for music that works well for a dinner party, but now Amazon has greatly expanded Alexa’s ability to understand activities and match them with appropriate music. Amazon doesn’t seem to have provided a complete list, but there are apparently now over 500 “activity utterances” that Alexa understands. These activities include things like music for cooking, sleeping, meditation, and much more. Amazon says Alexa can also provide music for more interesting activities, like music for “hooking up” or “baby making music,” so feel free to get creative with your requests. You can also pair an activity with a genre, like rock music for cooking or classical music to focus, in order to get music tailored closer to your taste. This new ability for Alexa works with Amazon’s Prime Music and Music Unlimited services.
It has long been one of the most requested features, but Alexa devices like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot can now finally be used to control the Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Edition television. If you have multiple Alexa devices and/or multiple Fire TV devices, things have the potential to get a little confusing, so Amazon has created a linking process that allows you to assign specific Alexa devices to specific Fire TV devices. Here’s what that process looks like and how it works. Read more ›