Amazon’s Alexa will soon have memory, better understand follow-up questions, and launch skills automatically

In a keynote talk at the World Wide Web Conference and in a post on Amazon’s developer blog, Amazon has revealed a few new capabilities that will soon be coming to Alexa. The upcoming abilities include Alexa being able to remember things you tell it, a better understanding of follow-up questions, and the ability to recognize when one of the 40,000 Alexa skills could better fulfill your request. Read more ›

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Amazon FreeTime on Alexa adds Parental Controls and Family-Focused Features to Echo devices for Free

In conjunction with the release of the Echo Dot Kids Edition, Amazon is bringing FreeTime to existing Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus devices. FreeTime is what Amazon calls their advanced parental control options and family-focused features found on their hardware devices, like Fire tablets and Kindle ebook readers. A paid subscription called FreeTime Unlimited will also be available, which primarily adds access to kid-friendly content, but FreeTime features are free for all. Read more ›

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Amazon releases new Echo Dot Kids Edition with case, content, and 2-year replacement guarantee

Amazon has introduced the Echo Dot Kids Edition. The hardware is identical to the regular Echo Dot but, much like the Fire Kids Edition tablets, it comes with extras oriented towards kids. Those extras include a kid-friendly case, which is available in blue, green, or red, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee. If anything should happen to the Echo Dot, Amazon says they’ll replace it with no questions asked. Read more ›

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Anyone can now easily customize Alexa’s responses using Amazon’s new ‘Alexa Blueprints’

Amazon has announced Alexa Blueprints, a dead simple way to customize Alexa’s responses to questions and make your own Alexa skills without any coding. Using an easy to follow online interface, you can make Alexa give personal answers to questions, play personalized games, guide speakers with specific instructions, and more. Read more ›

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Alexa can now give recaps and stats for NBA and NHL games and players

Giving sports scores has been a feature of Alexa for as long as the voice assistant has been available, but Amazon has now expanded its sports knowledge with the new ability to recap games and give individual player stats, according to Engadget. If you ask “Alexa, recap the [team name] game” for an NBA or NHL team, you’ll receive a recap of the last game played. An NBA recap, for example, will provide the final score and tell you which players scored the most points, got the most rebounds, and gave the most assists with specific values for each stat. Alexa is also better with playoff games, so you can ask “Alexa, when are the next [league] playoff games?” to hear about upcoming postseason season games. You can also ask how a specific player is doing in the playoffs, by asking “Alexa, how many points/goals has [player name] scored in the playoffs?,” and other specific sports quieries.

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Alexa can now broadcast an announcement through all of your Echo devices

Amazon has added yet another new feature to Echo devices called Alexa Announcements. It allows you to broadcast your voice through all of your Echo devices simultaneously. By simply saying “Alexa, announce that…” and speaking your announcement, all of your Echo devices will give off a chime followed by a playback of your recorded announcement. Read more ›

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Alexa Routines now let you play music and adjust the volume

Amazon has added the ability to control audio as part of an Alexa Routine. Routines allow you to predefine a series of actions to occur at a scheduled time or when you manually initiate the routine by saying a specific triggering phrase that you’ve set. Now you can make a specific track, playlist, or podcast play as part of a routine. Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Deezer, and TuneIn are supported in routines. You can add an artist, playlist, album, station, or podcast from any of those services to a routine. Additionally, you can set the specific volume you want a device to be as part of a routine. Even if you have no interest in automating audio playback, the new volume control aspect of routines can be used on its own to normalize the volume of your Echo devices, say, at a specific time in the evening so you don’t wake others in your home when you ask Alexa for something in the middle of the night.

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Current Amazon Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets gain hands-free Alexa with latest software update

A new software update is rolling out to Amazon Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets that adds hands-free Alexa capabilities. These tablets launched with Alexa onboard, but you had to press and hold the tablet’s home button before speaking to Alexa. Now, if the tablet is plugged into power or if the screen is on, you can simply speak to Alexa without needing to touch anything. Hands-free Alexa was previously only available on the Fire HD 10, but with this latest update, it’s now available on Amazon’s entire current tablet lineup. Only the latest 7th generation Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets, that were released in 2017, are receving hands-free Alexa capabilities.

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You can now donate to charities using Amazon Alexa

Amazon Alexa users can now use the voice assistant to donate to charities. Just say “Alexa, donate [amount] to [charity]” to make a donation. You can see the list of 48 charities that are accepted here, or just say “Alexa, make a donation” to have Alexa help you select one. Alexa will use your default Amazon payment method to make the donation, so you’ll need to have voice shopping enabled in the Alexa app before making a donation. Of course, your 4-digit PIN code will be required to donate if you have one configured for voice shopping. Amazon says they’ll share your name, email, and address with the charity when you make a donation, but they will not share your credit card information. You’ll receive an email confirmation from Amazon, as well as an email receipt from the charity, for each donation.

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Alexa gets improved media center functionality with new DVR controls and more

Amazon has announced additions to Alexa’s Video Skill API, which is what enables Alexa to interface with video content and services. The new capabilities are targeted towards controlling more aspects of traditional cable and satellite set-top boxes. Alexa can now manage DVR recordings, which includes starting/setting new recordings. Alexa can now also launch apps and navigate to specific interfaces, like the program guide, on set-top boxes. Read more ›

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