This time of year in the United States is full of excess and commercialism. It starts with Thanksgiving -- a day that should be about giving thanks and spending time with family, which has morphed into overeating and watching football for many. The following day is Black Friday, where people spend huge amounts of money to buy things they probably don't need -- sometimes even fighting with fellow shoppers. Yesterday was Cyber Monday -- yet another holiday focused on buying things. Sigh.
Thankfully, there is one day that Americans can use to atone for their sins of greed and gluttony -- Giving Tuesday. Yes, the day after Cyber Monday is celebrated by donating to charities and being an overall better person. Today, Amazon announces that people can donate to Toys for Tots using its popular Alexa voice assistant. Not familiar with this charity? Well, the name is quite descriptive -- it is literally donating toys to needy children.
Ciao. Hola. There are many ways to say hello around the world, even in dead and nearly dead languages. If you own a smart speaker, there's a good chance you greet it by saying 'Alexa'.
Amazon's Echo products have been a huge success, bringing the retail giant's smart assistant to millions of homes around the world. Amazon isn't resting on its laurels though. As well as rolling out new versions of Echo Dot, Echo Plus, and Echo Show it has expanded the list of countries where you can buy them.
Over the years, the way we interact with the world around us has changed considerably. Where once analog and physical interactions ruled, now we value digital, virtual and simulated experiences -- some of which bridge the gap between these worlds.
For example, buying goods online or through a mobile app and then picking them up at a local store is a cross-platform experience for the modern age.
Still reeling from a security breach that affected up to 90 million users, Facebook has announced two new pieces of hardware designed to make video chat easier and more immersive than ever. Portal and Portal+ are 10- and 15-inch smart displays complete with integrated cameras and packed with AI. But even Facebook acknowledges there are privacy concerns.
The social networking giant says: "When you can’t be there, Portal and Portal+ let you feel there". What does it mean by this? The cameras are intelligent, meaning they pan and zoom, following people around the room as necessary. Facebook promises that Portal "follows the action" and "keeps everyone in frame" but -- seemingly acknowledging that people won't trust its claim that the devices are "private by design" and that the mic and camera can be disabled with a single tap -- a physical camera cover is included.
Microsoft has announced that Skype is coming to a range of Alexa devices.
At its hardware event yesterday, Amazon revealed the updated Echo Show with integrated Skype, but later this year voice-activated Skype calling will be landing on other Alexa devices. The feature will make it possible to place and receive Skype voice calls, video calls and SkypeOut calls.
It also announced updates to its Echo Dot, Echo Plus and Echo Show products, with improved audio and the nicer, fabric look Amazon introduced to the Echo last year.
At its surprise event today, Amazon revealed a new smart plug which lets you control home appliances with Alexa.
It doesn’t actually come with an Echo -- or microphones -- built in, but that’s to be expected given it will sell for just $25 (which is pretty much on par with other similar products).
Amazon hosted a surprise event today in Seattle where it took the wraps of a whole raft of Echo products.
One of the weirdest devices it revealed is an Alexa-powered microwave with a built-in Dash button that will allow you to order popcorn should you run out -- prefect for movie night!
Amazon updates its own hardware products on a regular basis, often with little fanfare. There are no major press events, or hyped launches. Today, the retail giant announces another product update that likely won’t thrill the world, but will prove to be another big earner for the company.
The new Amazon Fire HD 8 with Alexa Hands-Free is what you’d guess from the name. An 8-inch HD Fire tablet with added, always ready, Alexa support.
Owning a home is not in a walk in the park. Actually, being a homeowner can be downright daunting. Why? Well, things constantly break and need either fixing or replacing. Not to mention, there is normal upkeep, such as mowing the lawn, gardening, and for some folks, shoveling snow too.
This is why I am such a fan of the smart home. Anything I can do to get a little help is appreciated. Things like smart lights and thermostats not only make my life easier, but they can save me money too. Recently, I have been testing the 3rd generation smart sprinkler controller from Rachio and I came away with a very definitive opinion of it.
Amazon Echo devices are very convenient for listening to music. Not only can you use your voice to play, say, Spotify or Pandora, but SiriusXM too. Unfortunately, the Echo devices aren't exactly audiophile products. While the normal Echo is passable, the Dot is downright terrible for audio quality -- this is probably why Amazon suggests connecting it to an external speaker.
But what if convenience isn't enough? What if you want to use Alexa and also have superior audio quality? Today, a company named Cavalier Audio launches a premium portable Bluetooth/Wi-Fi speaker with Amazon Alexa support that aims to solve that dilemma. The "Maverick," as it is called, promises better audio quality compared to Echo, but also, it is comprised of premium build materials, such as leather.
While summer has only just started, it is already time to start thinking about Back-to-School shopping. Yeah, sorry to bum you out, students. But hey, you don't want to return to school or university without a capable laptop, do you? Come on, isn't it fun convincing your parents you need a new computer for "studying and research?"
If you are looking for a good deal on a laptop, whether for school or any other purpose, Acer has a pretty sweet deal going on Amazon. All of its computers with integrated Alexa are $50 off. In addition, you will receive a free Echo Dot. How cool is that? Best of all, this offer is immediate -- you do not have to wait for Prime Day!
Voice search has become increasingly popular in the last few years and figures from Seotribunal show that around half of teens and 41 percent of adults are using it in their day-to-day activities.
That number is still rising too with 1.8 million people expected to be using voice search daily by 2021. Seotribunal has put together an infographic showing how the technology is being used and more.
Not content with infiltrating people's homes with its range of Echo devices, Amazon is now looking to elbow its way into hotels with Alexa for Hospitality. Amazon has struck a deal with Marriott International that will see the introduction of Echo devices into rooms.
Guests can use these to play music, contact reception and get information about the hotel -- and both Amazon and guests alike will be hoping there won't be a repeat of the recent privacy slip up that resulted in an Echo recording and sharing someone's conversations.
Rumors are swirling that it won’t be long before people could talk to their smart speakers to control aspects of their Xbox One systems. Details are scarce, but here’s what’s known so far.
Microsoft formerly offered voice control functionality for Xbox players through its Kinect accessory. But, once the company discontinued it in 2017, and then quit making Xbox One adapters for the Kinect shortly afterward, gamers became more limited. The Xbox One does have Cortana, but the availability of features that work with Alexa and the Google Assistant could help players do even more with their systems.