Amazon releases Echo Look “style assistant” camera with Alexa

The Alexa capable camera that I discovered is called the Echo Look and has just been launched. Turns out it’s not a home security camera like I assumed, but rather, an Alexa powered “style assistant” that acts as a smart mirror, of sorts, to rate your outfit. Using your voice, you can use Echo Look to take pictures of your outfit, which can be catalogued in a “lookbook,” shared to friends on social media, or judged for how flattering it looks. Read more ›

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Amazon bans nearly all ads from Alexa Skills

Amazon has updated their Alexa Skills Policy to outright ban nearly all advertisements from skills. The policy used to state that ads were only not allowed in Alexa cards, which are the visual snippets of information that appear on the Fire TV and Fire Tablets, that compliment Alexa responses. Now the Alexa skills policy states that a skill will be rejected from entry into the Alexa Skill Store if it “contains any advertising for third-party products or services, except in streaming music, streaming radio or flash briefing skills.” Read more ›

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Amazon’s Alexa can now manage Google’s G Suite work calendar

Amazon Alexa’s calendar support has been steadily growing over the years. It started with reading Google Calendar, then moved to adding items to Google Calendar. Recently Outlook.com support was added followed quickly by Office 365 integration. Now Amazon has added support for what’s likely the last large calendar platform, and that’s Google’s G Suite work calendar.

If you pop open the Alexa app, you can now link up your G Suite account. Once done, you’ll be able to have Alexa read off events coming up on your calendar, as well as dictate events to add to the calendar. Some handy commands to try, which work for all supported calendars, are “When is my next event?” and “How’s my day look?

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Ecobee4 thermostat confirmed to have hands-free far-field Alexa

It’s now pretty much confirmed that the soon to be released Ecobee4 smart thermostat has full-blown Alexa capabilities built right in. Blue light and all. Dave Zatz, who first revealed the next-generation thermostat’s big new feature, has posted an image of what appears to be official documentation outlining the thermostat’s Alexa functionality. Just like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, the Ecobee4 will have far-field voice recognition that will always be listening for the Alexa wake word. Read more ›

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Ecobee4 smart thermostat to come with built-in Alexa

My buddy Dave Zatz from zatznotfunny.com has uncovered evidence that the unannounced Ecobee4 smart thermostat will have Alexa capabilities built-in. Dave first speculated the next-gen thermostat would have Alexa when he found the device’s FCC report and noted that the new model appears to have gained a rear-facing speaker. In addition to the image above, which shows off an Alexa blue light bar on top of the device, Dave has found marketing materials that confirm Alexa is in tow. Read more ›

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Amazon makes the microphone technology in Echo available to third-party manufacturers

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.

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Select Amazon customers can get a free $5 promo code for ordering a $25 Amazon gift card with Alexa

Amazon is running a new promotion where select customers will receive a free $5 promo code via email when they order a $25 Amazon gift card using Alexa. To qualify for the offer, you must have received an email regarding the promotion. Check your inbox for an email with the subject line “Special Offer: Get a $5 promo code when you use Alexa to voice order a $25 gift card.” If you received such an email, then you just need to order a $25 Amazon gift card using any Alexa device by saying “Alexa, order a $25 gift card.” The gift card order must be placed by April 16 to qualify for the free $5 promo code, which will be emailed to you once the gift card ships. The $5 promo code must be used by June 7. If you did not receive an email about this offer, you will not receive the free $5 promo code.

Update

If you didn’t get the email, scroll through this page while logged into Amazon and see if there is a banner about this promo on the page. If there is a banner, then you qualify for the offer.

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Alexa can now directly change smart bulb colors

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant has been able to change the color of smart bulbs for a while, but it was in a roundabout way. You had to first setup a scene with a new color and then ask Alexa to activate the scene. Now Alexa can finally just directly change the color of a smart bulb.

You can say “Alexa, set the bedroom light to orange” to select a specific color, but what’s probably more useful is the ability to say “Alexa, make the living room light warmer/cooler” to adjust the color temperature from a blue-ish white to an orange-ish white, and vice versa. You can also say “Alexa, set the kitchen light to cool/warm white” if you want a specific temperature of while. The new ability is already available with Philips Hue, TP-Link, and Lifx bulbs. You just need to have the respective Alexa Skills enabled.

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Alexa added to all Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick models in the UK and Germany

Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick owners in the US have had access to Alexa on their devices for over a year, but the voice assistant hasn’t made an appearance on Fire TV devices overseas yet. That has finally changed with the new 5.2.4.1 software update currently rolling out to all Fire TV models globally. In addition to bringing the new Fire TV user interface to older 1st-generation models, as well as a few other new features, the update adds Alexa to all UK and German Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks. Read more ›

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Any Alexa skill can now be used without enabling it first

Alexa skills are the equivilant of apps for Amazon’s voice assistant, and the company has incrementally been making it easier to use new skills. You first had to use the Alexa app to enable a skill before it could be accessed, but then Amazon added the ability to enable a skill using your voice. Now they’ve taken it a step further by making it possible to simply say “Alexa, open [SKILL NAME]” and it will immediately be available without first having to enable it. Read more ›

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