Developers to Build Widgets and Skill Cards for Alexa Devices

Amazon stated that it would allow third-party developers to create widgets for its Alexa devices, or what it said will be “rich, customizable, glanceable, self-updating views of skill content.” It won’t be an advertising service, according to Amazon Alexa Skills vice president Aaron Rubenson, but users will see personalized results based on the signals they send Alexa. Comedy Central will be one of the first featured skill cards. Amazon also announced that most Echo smart speakers will support the Matter open standard for smart home devices. Continue reading Developers to Build Widgets and Skill Cards for Alexa Devices

Jeff Bezos Steps Down, Andy Jassy Is the New Amazon Boss

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is stepping down as chief executive of the e-commerce and tech giant, elevating Andy Jassy, former head of the company’s web division, to the CEO position, making it one of the most high-profile executive swaps in years. But behind the scenes, more change has roiled the company with numerous executives departing in the last 18 months, many after working there for years. That’s unusual because many of Amazon’s top staffers started with the company in its earliest days, became wealthy via stock, and were considered loyal lifers. Continue reading Jeff Bezos Steps Down, Andy Jassy Is the New Amazon Boss

Amazon Quietly Changes Terms of Service to Allow Lawsuits

After being deluged by 75,000+ individual arbitration demands filed by plaintiff’s attorneys on behalf of Echo users, Amazon changed its terms of service to allow customers to file lawsuits. It now faces at least three potential class action suits, one of them brought May 18 that alleges that its Alexa-enabled Echo devices record people without their permission. Arbitration requirements are often inserted in many consumer contracts and the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld and underlined the right to mandate arbitration. Continue reading Amazon Quietly Changes Terms of Service to Allow Lawsuits

Amazon and Apple Expand the Capabilities of Mesh Networks

Wireless bandwidth emitted by our Amazon and Apple devices is being used by other nearby devices to supplement existing Wi-Fi. Now, Amazon and Apple are expanding those programs. Amazon Sidewalk is adding post-2018 Echo devices including Echo speakers, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Plus and Echo Spot devices and newer Ring Video Doorbell Pro models to communicate on the Sidewalk network via Bluetooth. Apple’s new AirTag device also sends out a wireless signal that can be used by iPhones, iPads and Macs in the area. Continue reading Amazon and Apple Expand the Capabilities of Mesh Networks

Amazon Sidewalk Rolls Out with Echo, Ring Software Updates

Amazon is slowly rolling out Amazon Sidewalk, first revealed in 2019 as an effort to create smart neighborhoods via wireless Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and 900MHz radio signals that can expand the connectivity reach to up to half a mile. Using a small amount of the home’s Wi-Fi bandwidth, Amazon Sidewalk can connect the user with any compatible device, such as garage door openers or outdoor lights, without any additional hardware. Amazon has unveiled it first as a free software update to Echo speakers and Ring cameras. Continue reading Amazon Sidewalk Rolls Out with Echo, Ring Software Updates

Amazon Unveils Devices for Gaming, Autos and Smart Home

Amazon announced new smart home devices during its fall hardware event last week, including an expanded Fire Stick collection, redesigned Echo speaker lineup, and Ring in-home drone. Amazon is also launching its Luna cloud gaming service, and introducing Car Cam and Car Alarm to Ring’s lineup. Alexa’s capabilities have expanded, from being able to read books to children to a new security feature, Guard Plus, that can detect sounds around a user’s house and trigger dog-barking to scare off intruders. In times of COVID-19, said Amazon head of devices and services Dave Limp, “our homes have become our offices, our classrooms, movie theaters and more.” Continue reading Amazon Unveils Devices for Gaming, Autos and Smart Home

Amazon Music Offers Free Podcasts, Develops New Programs

Amazon Music now offers 70,000+ free podcasts and is also developing new podcast programming, making it the latest streaming music service to dive into the genre. Although the field is dominated by Apple Podcasts and Spotify, Amazon executives believe its offering will be competitive because it will be able to bring in new podcast listeners, especially via its Echo home speakers. Amazon’s free podcasts are available for all of its Music tiers and debuted first in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Continue reading Amazon Music Offers Free Podcasts, Develops New Programs

Amazon Forms Coalition for Voice Assistant Interoperability

Amazon created the Voice Interoperability Initiative to achieve software compatibility among digital voice assistants, encouraging its widespread adoption. Although 36 companies have joined the initiative, Apple and Google have not. Their absence is a significant impediment to the initiative’s goals, since Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant software are installed by default in most of today’s smartphones. Amazon’s Alexa, meanwhile, has no presence on smartphones, although its Echo speakers are a hit with consumers. Continue reading Amazon Forms Coalition for Voice Assistant Interoperability

Amazon Ramps Up Efforts to Bring Alexa to More Vehicles

Amazon first indicated its ambition to put Alexa into cars several years ago, and in 2018 introduced Echo Auto, designed to be integrated into vehicle entertainment systems. Since then, Audi and BMW began selling some models that incorporate the company’s digital assistant. But Amazon faces stiff competition from Apple and Google, which have already made inroads, and some vehicle manufacturers are loath to adopt third-party technology. Although Amazon won’t generate much revenue initially in the auto market, the company believes that opportunities will grow much larger in the future. Continue reading Amazon Ramps Up Efforts to Bring Alexa to More Vehicles

Toshiba Fire TV Model Lowers Price Barrier for Dolby Vision

Amazon and Toshiba are launching a line of Fire TV Edition sets that include support for Dolby Vision. The 4K televisions, which will be sold exclusively through Amazon and Best Buy, come in a 55-inch model ($499.99) that is available today, followed by 43-inch ($329.99) and 50-inch ($379.99) models to be released on June 30. Dolby Vision’s HDR format is regarded as superior to HDR10 because it allows scene-by-scene adjustments to picture quality. The Amazon-Toshiba sets mark the first time that Dolby Vision will be available in more affordable Fire TV Edition models. Continue reading Toshiba Fire TV Model Lowers Price Barrier for Dolby Vision

Alexa Conversations For Complex Tasks With Less Coding

At its re:MARS AI conference earlier this month, Amazon previewed Alexa Conversations, a module within the Alexa Skills Kit that melds Alexa voice apps to allow users to perform complicated tasks requiring multiple skills — all with fewer lines of code. That’s because a recurrent neural network will be able to “generate dialogue flow” automatically, thus limiting the number of steps a user needs to order food or reserve a ticket. Amazon vice president David Limp dubbed Conversations “the Holy Grail of voice science.” Continue reading Alexa Conversations For Complex Tasks With Less Coding

Amazon Testing Wearable That Recognizes Your Emotions

Amazon is working on a new wearable, codenamed Dylan, that reportedly can discern human emotions. The voice-activated gadget, developed by Amazon in collaboration with Lab126 and the Alexa voice software team, is worn on the wrist and is meant to address health and wellness. Lab126 previously worked with Amazon to build its Fire phone and Echo speaker. According to sources, the wearable includes microphones that pair with software and work with a smartphone app to glean the user’s emotional state via the sound of his/her voice. Continue reading Amazon Testing Wearable That Recognizes Your Emotions

Amazon Taking Alexa Digital Assistant Mobile With Earbuds

Amazon is reportedly planning to release wireless earbuds with built-in Alexa support as early as this year, according to those with knowledge of the project. The new wearable will be similar to Apple’s popular AirPods, and fit inside the user’s ear without clips, but Amazon team members at the company’s Lab126 hardware division are working on improving the audio quality. Users will be able to interact with the earbuds via voice and summon the digital assistant by saying “Alexa.” Pricing has not been revealed, but AirPods run $159 to $199, and Amazon has consistently charged less than competitors for its hardware. Continue reading Amazon Taking Alexa Digital Assistant Mobile With Earbuds

Amazon, Eero Stress Privacy Policies Will Remain the Same

After announcing its purchase of Eero last month, Amazon said the deal with the company, which makes easy-to-use Internet routers, just closed. According to Amazon senior vice president of devices and services David Limp, Eero will continue to be its own entity within Amazon, similar to Ring and Blink. Eero sells a package of one second-generation hub and two beacons for $400, which was discounted by $100 on the first day of the announcement. The package is enough to connect hardware in an apartment or small home. Continue reading Amazon, Eero Stress Privacy Policies Will Remain the Same

Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Four years after launching its program to allow outside developers to write apps for Alexa, Amazon’s voice system has some 80,000 “skills” — but no huge hit. In fact, most people with Alexa-enabled smart speakers still use them only to listen to music or make simple requests. That compares to Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, each of which are home to over 550,000 apps, many of which have been huge successes for developers. But voice-centric apps are challenging to build and don’t appear to attract consumers. Continue reading Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

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