Amazon has been gradually expanding its range of Echo devices, and it has been possible to make free calls between Alexa-enabled devices for a few months -- now Amazon is extending the free calling capability even further.
Owners of any Amazon Echo device -- not just the latest batch -- can now make free calls to phones in the US, Mexico and Canada. No extra hardware or software is needed to take advantage of free calling.
I recently bought the Apple TV 4K, and I absolutely love it. What I don't love, however, is the price. The 64GB model that I purchased cost $200. While that was more than its competitor's 4K offerings, such as Amazon Fire TV, I was willing to open my wallet a bit wider for the compatibility with the Apple ecosystem, such as easily accessing my photos and videos in iCloud.
Today, Amazon unveils a new streaming TV box that features both 4K and HDR, but it is insanely affordable. This all-new Fire TV costs just $69.99! To make things even sweeter, for a limited time, Amazon will sell you an Echo Dot for $10 when you purchase the new Fire TV. Yes, you are reading that correctly -- for $79.99 you get a high-end 4K media box and a standalone Echo device.
Amazon's Echo and associated Alexa assistant have taken the world by storm. Despite being a big company, Amazon's success in this market was very unlikely. Companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple should be leading, but no, an online bookseller has been the true trailblazer in voice assistant technology.
Today, Amazon unveils the next generation Echo, and oh my, it looks amazing. Not only is it much shorter than its predecessor (still taller than Echo Dot), but it is wrapped in fabric, creating a more inviting experience in a home. It even has improved audio quality. Best of all? It is even less expensive at a mere $99. Unfortunately for Apple, this will essentially make its upcoming $349 Siri-powered HomePod dead on arrival.
The Internet of Things, commonly called the IoT, has become a hot topic these days for both the right and wrong reasons. It can be incredibly useful and time saving because of all the things that can be automated around the house, but there are also security risks.
Since the very early days of both Amazon Echo (Alexa) and the Wink home automation hub, the two products have worked together. Now that relationship is getting stronger, with the arrival of yet more Alexa compatible Wink products. While some of these new items will integrate straight with Alexa, others require a hub to work with voice control.
Are you automating your abode? It's become the in-thing these days with more and more products hitting the market. While we can't stress enough about the insecurities that have been discovered, it still can be a fun experience, although sometimes a difficult one.
There's no end, seemingly, to the things you can do, but where many people start is with lights, which, in theory, are easy. Some aren't, so be warned.
Digital assistants can do many things well, but no single one can do everything that we need. That's why we use different ones, depending on what we want to do and what device we are using. But what if they could talk to each other, so we wouldn't have to switch between them anymore?
Amazon and Microsoft have decided to do just that, announcing that Alexa and Cortana will soon be able to work together to help users do what they want much more quickly and easily. Here's what that means for the two tech giants' customers.
When people think of Amazon Alexa, they probably just associate it with asking questions or playing music. For me and many others, however, the assistant is much more than that. She (Alexa is female) controls my lights, thermostat, and even my television by integrating with my Harmony Hub. While relaxing on my couch, I no longer need to reach for a remote -- I just tell her what to do. Is it laziness? I suppose, but it is very cool too.
While Alexa and Harmony work very well together, there is one big issue. When I call upon Alexa, I can't just tell her what to do -- I must first say "Tell Harmony to" followed by the command. For example, when I want to watch TV, I must say "Alexa, tell Harmony to turn on the TV" rather than just "Alexa, turn on the TV. Today, this changes, as Logitech Harmony gets simplified Amazon Alexa voice controls. In other words, the pesky "tell Harmony to" is no longer needed. Finally!
SiriusXM is a really satisfying service. Not only is it great for commercial-free music, but it offers some great talk radio, such as Howard Stern. You can even listen to popular news programs from CNN, Fox News, and more. Let's not forget the great sports coverage too.
Unfortunately, many people only listen to SiriusXM in the car, as that is where their equipment is. Luckily, there is a new convenient way to listen to the satellite service in your home -- Alexa. Yes, Amazon's assistant has a new SiriusXM skill that allows an Echo device to play your favorite channels. I have been using it this morning and it is quite brilliant.
A new study analyzing the way users interact with their "smart speakers" shows that the most used feature of devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home isn't to stream music or even to get the latest weather.
The most commonly used feature of smart speakers is asking "general questions," proving that getting answers to life's daily queries and curiosities from a cloud-based computer voice is becoming an increasingly standard practice in today's society.
Belkin's Wemo smart home devices are absolutely brilliant. Not only does the company offer power outlet and light switch adapters, but it recently introduced a dimmer switch too. The Wemo products are also compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home, making them easy to control by voice.
Unfortunately, Wemo devices are not compatible with Apple HomeKit or Siri. There is good news, however -- Belkin is adding support. Starting this fall, consumers can buy a new product called "Wemo Bridge," which will enable HomeKit support for existing Wemo devices. It simply plugs into an Ethernet port on your router, thereby enabling support for Apple's smart home platform.
The number of digital assistants installed is on track to exceed 7.5 billion by 2012, which is more than the world population.
According to technology research company Ovum, Google Assistant will dominate the voice AI–capable device market with 23.3 percent market share, followed by Samsung's Bixby (14.5 percent), Apple's Siri (13.1 percent), Amazon's Alexa (3.9 percent), and Microsoft's Cortana (2.3 percent).
Of all the email apps I have used in recent years, Newton (formerly known as CloudMagic) is my favorite. It is really easy to use, works with all the major email providers, has some pretty cool features, and, most importantly, is available on Android, iOS and macOS. So it nearly covers all the major platforms, except Windows.
CloudMagic, the company behind the app, has been working to change this since December, however, and now we get the first beta version of Newton for Windows. It is rough around the edges at this stage, as you might expect, but it will get the "core emailing" job done.
Summer is right around the corner, meaning the temperatures in many places will begin rising to uncomfortable levels. It's funny -- in the winter, many people get cold and dream of summer, and once that season comes, they complain about the hot weather. There' s just no pleasing some folks!
Thankfully, with the invention of air conditioning, human beings can use technology to stay cool. If you aren't lucky enough to have central air in your home, a window unit is the next best thing. Today, GE Appliances announces that its Wi-Fi connected window models are getting Amazon Alexa support. In other words, using the power of your voice, you can control the air conditioning.
Turning on a lamp or other light fixture with your voice can feel like magic. I use the feature every day with my Amazon Echo and WeMo smart outlet. At the end of the evening, when heading to bed, I verbally tell Alexa to turn off the lamp. If I need to get up at night for, say, a drink of water, I can easily turn it back on the same way. It is great.
WeMo is not the only game in town, however, as there are plenty of smart outlets an bulb manufacturers. TP-Link is a popular manufacturer of smart devices, and its bulbs are compatible with Alexa voice commands too. Today, the company's color-changing bulbs are gaining a new Alexa skill. Using your voice, you can easily change the color or white balance with ease.
More and more of us are using voice operated personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, but a voice only interface can prove frustrating as it offers no visual cues.
Technology startup Daptly is aiming to build a better assistant with a smart, gesture and voice controlled display that manages your life and seamlessly blends technology into your home or office.