There have long been accusations that digital assistants such as Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri are constantly listening in on and recording conversations, and recent events in Portland, Oregon are simply going to serve as extra fuel for conspiracy theorists.
A couple were disturbed to find that Alexa not only recorded a private conversation they had in their house, but then sent it on to a colleague as a message. Danielle says she and her husband felt it was "a total privacy invasion", and it is unlikely that Amazon's explanation will do anything to encourage her to use her Echo every again.
The smart home is a huge industry right now -- more and more appliances are gaining internet connectivity all the time. For instance, you can control your lights, garage door, television, and sprinkler system with an app nowadays. Hell, there are even internet-connected refrigerators! What a world we live in, eh?
Schlage has been selling smart deadbolt door locks that you can operate via app. Since they also have a key pad, you can share codes with friends and family so they can enter when you aren't around -- don't worry, you can always change the pin. The concept of a child carrying a key around their neck is a thing of the past. Today, the company announces that its Sense Smart Deadbolt and Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt are getting Alexa voice unlock capability. Wait -- is that a good idea? Actually, yes.
The voice assistant hardware market is exploding in popularity lately, with devices running software from Amazon, Google, and to a lesser extent, Apple. We can pretty much leave Cortana out of the conversation despite a very good hardware offering from Harman Kardon.
As Apple's HomePod fails due to a still-disappointing Siri, Google and Amazon's offerings remain the cream of the crop. Which of those two you prefer is a matter of personal preference, although I prefer Alexa having tried both. Today, Alexa is getting a unique new feature that sets it apart from Google even more. Called "Alexa Skill Blueprints," you can easily create custom Skills without any programming experience.
There’s a new Marvel superhero series on Fox called The Gifted that this week inspired my son Fallon, age 11, to predict the first Alexa virus, coming soon to an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show cloud device near you. Or maybe it will be a Google Home virus. Fallon’s point is that such a contagion is coming and there probably isn’t much any of us -- including both Amazon and Google -- can do to stop it.
The Gifted has characters from Marvel’s X-Men universe. They are the usual mutants but the novel twist in this series is that some of these particular mutants are able to combine their powers with terrible effect. They just hold hands, get angry, and it is mayhem squared.
Amazon Echo is amazing. That's my personal opinion of course, but I use it for various things every day. And yes, I know that some of you who wear tin-foil hats will say Amazon is listening to everything. It may well be, but I don't really care, I've accepted that trade-off in exchange for functionality.
I regularly use it to set a timer for cooking or baking, checking sports scores, game schedules, playing music and much more.
Amazon and Microsoft said that Alexa and Cortana would be able to talk to each other by the end of the 2017, but the two personal assistants have yet to receive this functionality until today. However, even without Cortana's help, Alexa is making a big leap forward in the Windows space.
Amazon has teamed up with leading PC manufacturers Acer, ASUS, Lenovo and HP to include its personal assistant on new Windows 10 devices that will arrive in 2018.
We're used to digital assistants controlling more and more aspects of our daily lives, but a UK police force is looking at how Amazon Echo could help in fighting crime.
Police in Lancashire, north west England, are looking at how Alexa could relay information about missing persons or updates on local crime to citizens. It could also be used in the reporting of minor offenses, freeing up police call centers to deal with more serious issues.
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.