Hulu, PlayStation Vue, CBS, NBC, Showtime, Bravo, and more apps to gain voice control on Fire TV

Alexa’s ability to control Amazon Fire TV devices using your voice has been expanding over time but is still fairly limited. That will soon change because the Fire TV’s voice control capabilities will be extending beyond Amazon’s own content and into several 3rd party apps later this year. Read more ›

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Amazon Echo and Alexa are coming to Japan for the first time later this year

Amazon announced today that Alexa and the Amazon Echo will be released in Japan later this year. It’s not clear if the entire line of Echo devices will be made available to Japanese customers, but it seems as though at least the new 2nd generation Echo will be sold in Japan. Read more ›

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Alexa-to-Alexa calling and messaging is now available in the UK and Germany


Customers in the UK and Germany can now also make Alexa-to-Alexa calls using either the Alexa app, an Amazon Echo, or an Echo Dot. This, unfortunately, does not include calling phone numbers, like has just become available in the US. After completing the setup process in the Alexa app, customers in the UK and Germany can use their Echo devices to call their contacts who also have Echo devices and who have also set up calling through the Alexa app.

Update

It appears as though the feature is rolling out slowly and not all at ounce, so some UK and German customers still don’t have access to it.

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Echo devices can now call US, Canada, and Mexico numbers for free — No extra hardware necessary

All Amazon Echo devices, including the Echo Dot, Echo Show, and the new next generation Echo models, can now make landline phone calls to the US, Canada, and Mexico completely for free without needing anything extra to buy. This is an expansion of the Alexa-to-Alexa calling capabilities released earlier this year which now lets you call regular phone numbers, whether or not the person you are calling has ever used an Alexa device. Read more ›

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Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick can now display security camera feeds

As promised, the Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Edition televisions can now directly display live feeds from home security cameras. The feature works through Alexa, so you’ll need to use either a voice remote or the Fire TV Remote app. Just say “Show [camera name]” and a live feed of that camera will be displayed in full screen. Read more ›

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Amazon announces $34.99 Echo Connect speakerphone

Amazon today announced the Echo Connect, a $34.99 device that plugs into a standard landline phone line and allows Echo speakers to make phone calls to anyone. The device lets Alexa use your existing phone service and number to make calls through an Alexa-powered speaker and can even be used to call 911 using only your voice, in the event you’re unable to get to a phone during an emergency. When calls come in, your Echo devices will notify you and give you the option to answer hands-free. The Echo Connect is compatible with all of Amazon’s new and existing Echo speakers. It can be pre-ordered today and will be released on December 13.

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Amazon announces new smaller 2nd-gen Echo speaker for $99

Amazon today announced an all-new Echo smart speaker as the succesor to the very popular original Amazon Echo that kicked off the recent wave of home voice assistants. The new speaker is about half the size of the original Echo and comes in a variety of stylish exterior finishes and colors. Read more ›

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Alexa is now available in the Amazon Music app for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets

Amazon has announced that they’ve added Alexa to their Amazon Music apps in the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes App Store. You’ve already been able to summon Alexa within the Amazon shopping app and request music that way, but that was never an ideal way to access your music. Alexa’s integration in the Amazon Music apps gives you a much nicer way to use your voice to access all of your tunes.

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You can now manage which Alexa Skills can send your Echo devices notifications

Amazon introduced Alexa notifications earlier this year and kicked things off with the ability for Echo device’s to notify you when your Amazon shipments were on their way. Third-party Alexa Skills were said to follow with notifications privileges and now they’re here with a new way to manage them in the Alexa app. Read more ›

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Amazon reportedly working on Alexa-powered smart glasses and home security camera

Amazon is working on a pair of smart glasses with Alexa capabilities, according to a report by the Financial Times. The retailer is said to also be working on a home security camera that works with the Echo Show’s ability to view live camera feeds, which is a feature that will also be coming to the Fire TV and newly revealed Fire HD 10. Read more ›

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Alexa on the new Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet will support Echo Spacial Perception (ESP)

The all-new Fire HD 10 tablet that was announced this morning is Amazon’s first tablet to feature hands-free Alexa capabilities. That means you’ll be able to belt out your Alexa commands without needing to first press and hold the home button, like you have to do with Amazon’s other tablets. For those of you with Amazon Echos and other Alexa devices in your home, you’ll be relieved to hear that the Fire HD 10 does come with Amazon’s Echo Spacial Perception (ESP). Read more ›

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Hackathon winners demonstrate what retail shopping might be like with the help of Amazon’s Alexa

The winner of TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF 2017 Hackathon gives us a glimpse into what shopping at physical stores will be like in a future where voice assistants break out of the home. Hundreds of engineers and designers competed to create the most interesting project they could in 24 hours. The winner, Alexa Shop Assist, imagines a future where devices like the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot are scattered throughout a store to help shoppers easily navigate the space and get answers to questions without needing to hunt down an employee. Read more ›

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Alexa now supports Skills for kids with Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, and others on board

Amazon has announced that Alexa in the US now supports kid skills. Developers can now publish fun and educational skills for children under the age of 13. This was previously not allowed due to the FTC’s strict guidelines under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) but Amazon now allows customers to manage parental consent for Alexa devices. Before using an Alexa skill made for children, an adult must first authorize that the active Alexa profile may use such skills. Read more ›

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Amazon releases new “Today in Music” flash briefing for Alexa

There are already over 3,000 different Flash Briefing skills to choose from for Alexa, but Amazon has added a new one of their own. “Today in Music” is a new daily program from Amazon that helps uncover interesting content available through Amazon Music Unlimited. The show covers new releases and music history. It plays short clips of tracks mentioned as well as short interviews with highlighted artists. If that sounds like something that interests you, just ask Alexa to “enable Today in Music” and the program will play first the next time you ask for your flash briefing, which can be done by saying “Alexa, what’s new?” You can disable the flash briefing or manage the order that its played in the Alexa app under Settings > Flash Briefings.

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Amazon and Microsoft partner to let Alexa and Cortana summon each other

Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistants will soon be able to grant access to each other. The two companies announced a partnership today that will allow Alexa users to say “Alexa, open Cortana” to speak to Microsoft’s voice assistant and Cortana users will be able to say “Cortana, open Alexa” to speak to Amazon’s voice assistant. With Alexa being consumer/entertainment focused and Cortana being more business/productivity focused, this partnership should pan out well without stepping on each other’s toes. Through Cortana, Alexa customers will be able to use “unique features like booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email.” Access will be made available later this year and should work through any Alexa-enabled device, including the Amazon Fire TV.

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All Alexa devices can now remotely control music playback on Echo devices

While the new ability to synchronize music playback across multiple Echo devices is getting most of the attention today, Alexa has also gained another very powerful new feature that is going mostly unnoticed. You can now remotely control music playback on Echo devices using any Alexa device. Without having to do any kind of setup, you can ask Alexa on any device to start, stop, or change the music being played on specific Amazon Echos, Echo Dots, and Echo Shows that you own. Read more ›

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Amazon Echo devices now support multi-room audio playback

After several leaks, Amazon has now added support for multi-room audio to the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show. The new feature allows you to group together multiple Echo devices and play music on all devices simultaneously. The feature is also being made available to 3rd-party speaker manufacturers so non-Echo devices can also sync music with Amazon’s own speakers. Read more ›

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Alexa finally arrives on all Android phones via Amazon Shopping app

Exactly a month ago, Amazon confirmed that Alexa would be added to their Amazon Shopping app on Android device, just as it was added to the same app for iOS devices earlier this year. It has finally happened so Android phone users can now access Alexa on the go. Just be sure you have the latest version of the Amazon Shopping app and tap the microphone icon in the top-right corner to talk to Alexa the same way you do on Fire TV or Echo devices. Read more ›

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Amazon expands program that pays Alexa skill developers

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.

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Amazon Fire TV Edition televisions gain new option to turn on with Alexa

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.

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