Amazon Fire TV devices have gained a new feature called the Alexa Shortcut Panel. When you tap the microphone / Alexa button on your remote, the shortcut panel appears in the bottom third of the screen with buttons that provide access to the Smart Home Dashboard, which was recently revamped, the Weather, your video Library, and to News, which launches the Fire TV News app. Read more ›
Amazon first launched a Smart Home Dashboard on Fire TV devices a little over a year ago. The dashboard has never really been emphasized or highlighted by Amazon, even though it has existed for quite a while. It always felt more like an experiment than a primary feature, but now the Smart Home Dashboard has been overhauled with a new look that shrinks controls and icons to provide a much denser view of your smart lights, plugs, security cameras, and more. Read more ›
Much like what was just announced for the Omni and 4-Series Fire TV Smart TVs, Amazon has announced that the Fire TV Stick 4K Max will be gaining support for Alexa Home Theater groups this month. This allows audio from the Firestick to be sent wirelessly to compatible Echo devices for a better home theater audio experience than your TV’s speakers can provide. However, when the feature arrives on the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, it also comes with an extra capability that allows you to hear not only the Firestick’s audio through Echo speakers, but the audio of all of your home theater devices, like cable boxes, game systems, and Blu-ray players. Read more ›
Amazon has announced that its line of Fire TV Smart TVs, the Omni Series and 4-Series, will be gaining several new features “over the coming weeks.” One of those features is Apple AirPlay 2 support, which allows iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac owners to easily mirror and cast their screen to the TV. Along with AirPlay 2 will come support for Apple Homekit, which allows for basic control of the TV through Apple’s voice assistant Siri. Amazon also says its TVs will also gain support for Alexa Home Theater groups, which allows you to use Echo devices as wireless speakers. The list of compatible Echos is, unfortunately, smaller with these TVs than with other Fire TV models, and includes only the Echo Studio, Echo (3rd & 4th Gen), Echo Dot (4th Gen), and Echo Plus (2nd Gen). Lastly, only the Fire TV Omni is also getting access to Zoom video calls soon, when you connect a USB webcam. These features are expected to be available later this month.
Amazon has announced that Alexa’s Conversation Mode, first teased a year ago, launches today on Echo Show 10 devices. The new feature allows for more natural back and forth interaction with Alexa without needing to use the wake word before each request. This goes far beyond Alexa’s existing Follow-up mode, which simply keeps Alexa listening after every response, by using audio and visual detection to determine when speech is directed at the Echo device, which Amazon says “represents a major milestone in voice AI.” Read more ›
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Amazon is currently offering a couple of great deals if purchased through Alexa voice shopping. You can get the Kasa Smart Plug Mini with Energy Monitoring for $3.49 by saying “Alexa, order Kasa Smart Plug Mini.” This normally sells for $22.99 and the lowest price that it has ever been in the past is $12.99. You can also get the Kasa Dimmable Color Changing Smart Bulb for $0.99 by saying “Alexa, order Kasa Smart Bulb.” This too normally sells for $22.99 and has only been down to $19 in the past. If you prefer to make your purchase the old fashion way, instead of saying “Alexa, order…” you can say “Alexa, add [ITEM] to my shopping cart.” Then you’ll be able to view the items in your cart on Amazon.com or in the Amazon app and the Alexa exclusive discount will be applied automatically to the order because you used Alexa to add the items. You may order either or both items at the special Alexa discounted price.
The Kasa bulb appears to have sold out but has been replaced by a Sengled Color Smart Blub for $0.99 that normally sells for $14.99. Say “Alexa, order Sengled Smart Bulb” to buy it or “Alexa, add Sengled Smart Bulb to my cart” to checkout on Amazon.com. If you purchased the Kasa bulb you can also purchase the Sengled bulb.
Amazon has added the ability for 4th-gen Echo and 4th-gen Echo Dots to detect occupancy in a room by emitting an inaudible ultrasound audio wave. The capability can be used to automatically trigger Alexa Routines when you enter or exit a room. When configuring the trigger of a routine, select “Smart Home” and then select the appropriate Echo to be given the option to trigger the routine when “People are detected” or when “People aren’t detected.” You also have the option of enabling or disabling ultrasound motion detection altogether for each compatible Echo device. This is done under the device settings of each Echo within the Alexa app.
As promised when Amazon announced its own hands-free Fire TV Smart TVs, Toshiba has revealed it’s first flagship TV with hands-free Alexa capabilities that can be controlled by voice, without needing to pick up the remote. The Toshiba M550 Series TVs, as they are called, feature an array of 4 microphones, a physical mute switch, and multi-color LED indicator lights along the bottom center to communicate if the TV is muted or listening as a result of hearing its wake word. The 4K TVs, which will be available in 55, 65, and 75-inch sizes, feature LED backlighting with full-array local dimming and support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and HDR content. Read more ›
Amazon has added the ability to move music playing on one Alexa device to another. Simply say “Alexa, move my music to [Destiniation Device Name]” stop the music that is playing and start it up on the destination device. Alternatively, you can say “Alexa, pause” to the device that is playing music and then say “Alexa, resume music here” to the device that you want to pick up music playback. This also works on Echo Buds and Echo Auto if you want to switch from listening at home to your on-the-go devices. The capability isn’t limited to music, as you can move and resume podcasts and radio stations as well. Just use commands like “Alexa, move my podcast…” or “Alexa, resume radio…” when relevant.
Amazon has been on a bit of an Alexa Gadget kick related to health. A few months ago we saw the release of a Smart Soap Dispenser that pairs up with Alexa to ensure you and your loved ones are washing for the full recommended 20 seconds. Now, Amazon has announced a new Smart Air Quality Monitor that also works with Alexa to keep track of particulate matter (PM), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), humidity, and temperature in your home. Read more ›