Voice Shopping: Target Expands its Partnership With Google

Target announced that it is expanding its partnership with Google to cover a number of initiatives: consumers will be able to shop Target via Google Express home delivery (including by voice), Target’s REDcard payment card will be integrated into Google’s shopping platform, and new support for store pick-ups of purchases made through voice will be introduced. Amazon’s biggest rival Walmart announced in August that it would also team with Google for voice-based shopping efforts. The moves could help Google Home compete with Amazon’s Alexa-powered smart speakers. Continue reading Voice Shopping: Target Expands its Partnership With Google

Amazon’s Alexa Now Recognizes Up to Ten Different Voices

Amazon stated that an Alexa-enabled device can create a Voice Profile by the user reciting ten phrases to the Alexa app, which allows it to then recognize that individual’s voice. The AI-powered assistant will then deliver results based on the user’s profile or previously enacted preferences. This capability will first be available for shopping on Amazon, Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers, news briefings, calls and messages (not including SMS messages). More features will be unveiled in the future. Continue reading Amazon’s Alexa Now Recognizes Up to Ten Different Voices

Amazon Launches Alexa on Music Apps to Attract New Users

Amazon, ranked third in streaming music, launched virtual assistant Alexa on its Amazon Music apps this week to better compete with No. 1 provider Spotify and No. 2-ranked Apple. Amazon Music will provide a button which users can push to access Alexa “play” commands that will work as they do on Echo. Amazon determined that Alexa is now the primary way that users listen to Amazon Music. Competitor Apple offers its virtual assistant Siri on Apple Music. Meanwhile, Google has decided to stop supporting the Amazon Echo Show on YouTube. Continue reading Amazon Launches Alexa on Music Apps to Attract New Users

Sony, Harman Kardon and JBL Debut New Smart Speakers

At the Berlin trade show IFA this year, manufacturers showed smart speakers that incorporate voice assistants from Amazon and Google. Sony debuted its LF-S50G, one of the first third-party products, including Google Assistant and offering 360-degree sound and a digital clock, due out in December for $200. Another rival is the $250 Harman Kardon Allure, which offers Amazon’s Alexa and features ambient lighting that keeps the music’s beat. In addition, JBL’s new LINK series features three wireless speakers with Google Assistant and Chromecast support. Continue reading Sony, Harman Kardon and JBL Debut New Smart Speakers

Amazon, Microsoft Partner to Connect Their Voice Assistants

In a competitive landscape, Amazon and Microsoft are forming a rare partnership to enable communication between their respective voice assistants, Alexa and Cortana. This will allow users to summon Cortana using Alexa and vice versa, by the end of 2017. Chief executives Jeff Bezos and Satya Nadella made the move because of their concern that keeping digital assistants in a walled garden could hold back their progress, and that, by facilitating communication between them, end users could enjoy each one’s unique strengths. Continue reading Amazon, Microsoft Partner to Connect Their Voice Assistants

Best Buy and Amazon Testing In-Home Sales Consultations

Best Buy and Amazon are both betting on salespeople who make visits to homes as one potential model for selling more consumer electronics. Best Buy is already testing that theory by hiring hundreds of salespeople in several cities to do just that. The free service is slated to roll out in the U.S. this fall. For Best Buy, getting salespeople in the home is another way to sell more TVs and CE gadgets while increasing business for its Geek Squad, which offers tech installation and repair services for a fee. Likewise, Amazon is expanding its free “smart home consultations” to help promote interest in its smart speakers and related products. Continue reading Best Buy and Amazon Testing In-Home Sales Consultations

Walmart and Google Partner to Better Compete With Amazon

Amazon dominates e-commerce, but now Google and Walmart Stores are partnered to compete. Google will enable customers to place orders via its virtual assistant, and Walmart will join Google’s online shopping market Google Express. Walmart will fulfill orders made through Google Express, and will also share consumers’ purchase history with Google, which streamlines re-ordering of products. Voice-enabled shopping is a rapidly growing market sector, with Amazon enabling it through its Alexa voice assistant and Echo speakers. Continue reading Walmart and Google Partner to Better Compete With Amazon

Anytime: Amazon May Be Developing a New Messaging App

Amazon may be developing a standalone messaging app called Anytime that would allow people to connect without the need to include phone numbers, which is how other messaging apps such as Viber and WhatsApp typically connect. The company has reportedly been running a survey to gather feedback about a service “for smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart watches designed to let people chat with text and video, send each other fun photos with filters, play games and engage with other Amazon services,” reports TechCrunch. Earlier this year, AWS launched a communication service called Chime for enterprise customers. Continue reading Anytime: Amazon May Be Developing a New Messaging App

Echo Dot Leads the Charge for Amazon’s Record Prime Day

Amazon’s annual Prime Day proved to be a major success on Tuesday, breaking its own single-day sales record for the second consecutive year. According to the e-commerce giant, Prime Day sales surpassed those of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with total sales figures more than 60 percent higher than the previous year’s event. Deals are reserved exclusively for Prime members, and the company signed more new members on July 11th than any other single day in its history. The Echo Dot smart speaker was the best-selling Amazon device as well as best-selling product from any manufacturer across all categories. Continue reading Echo Dot Leads the Charge for Amazon’s Record Prime Day

Samsung and Alibaba Join the Digital Assistant Speaker Race

According to sources, Samsung Electronics is integrating its digital assistant Bixby into a voice-activated speaker, in a project dubbed “Vega” that has been ongoing for more than a year. Competition is stiff in the voice-powered speaker market, with popular options from a variety of tech leaders. Digital assistants — including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and now Samsung’s Bixby — use artificial intelligence to “learn” over time. New speakers are joining the race later this year, and China’s Alibaba Group is currently debuting an inexpensive version, Tmall Genie. Continue reading Samsung and Alibaba Join the Digital Assistant Speaker Race

Media Companies Are Creating Video Content for Echo Show

Amazon launched its $230 Echo Show smart speaker this week. The device features voice control powered by digital assistant Alexa and a 7-inch touchscreen with the ability to display photos and video. Another key feature is the speaker’s Flash Briefing that provides a customizable playlist of news updates upon request. Since videos are made available to users through Flash Briefings, media companies — including Bloomberg, CNN, Fox News, NBC and Reuters — are already producing video content specifically for the Echo Show and updating their Alexa Skills. Continue reading Media Companies Are Creating Video Content for Echo Show

New Amazon Video API Turns Alexa Into a Remote Control

Amazon unveiled its Video Skill API, a new tool set to help content creators turn virtual assistant Alexa into a sophisticated TV remote. With the API, Alexa can search for titles, actors or genres; play or pause media and adjust the volume. Developers can also create their own Alexa commands. It keeps track of enabled services, which means the user won’t need to specify a provider or device or add any extra commands. Alexa already controls Fire TV, but the Video Skill API now opens up those controls to any cable or satellite TV company. Continue reading New Amazon Video API Turns Alexa Into a Remote Control

WWDC: Apple Unveils Product Updates and New HomePod

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off yesterday in San Jose, California. During his keynote, CEO Tim Cook noted that 5,300 developers from 75 countries were attending this year’s conference. Among the more noteworthy announcements, Apple shared information regarding its High Sierra macOS update; iOS 11 with improved Siri (including language translation), iMessage features, and Core ML to make machine learning easier; a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro (starting at $649, available next week); a beefed-up iMac Pro; a completely redesigned App Store; and an Echo-like smart speaker called HomePod (shipping in December for $349). Continue reading WWDC: Apple Unveils Product Updates and New HomePod

Amazon Debuts Touchscreen Echo Show, Adds Video Calls

Amazon will ship a touchscreen version of its Echo speaker, the Echo Show, on June 28. Now available for pre-order at $229.99 or two for $360, Echo Show has the same capabilities as the first Echo, with the Alexa voice assistant, but adds a built-in display that shows information generated by Alexa queries. Users who have the Alexa app can make or receive a video call through Show; a new “Drop In” feature lets friends and family make a call at any time, and the call receiver has 10 seconds to reject it or switch it to audio-only. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Touchscreen Echo Show, Adds Video Calls

Google Home Adds Feature to Purchase Home Goods by Voice

Consumers can now use the voice-controlled Google Assistant on Google Home to order products and supplies and get them delivered within a few hours. The products and delivery times vary based on where the user lives, and Google has partnered with brands such as Costco, Walgreens and Whole Foods to supply the goods. Customers using the new feature either pay a delivery fee for each purchase or subscribe to the Google Express delivery service. The Amazon Echo smart speaker already has a voice-powered purchasing capability. Continue reading Google Home Adds Feature to Purchase Home Goods by Voice

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