Spotify voice control is coming to UE’s Alexa-powered speakers

The Alexa-powered Blast and Megablast speakers Ultimate Ears launched late last year will soon give you a way to listen to your favorite tunes on Spotify without lifting a single finger. Ultimate Ears will roll out Spotify voice control through Amazo…

LG appliances now respond to both Alexa and Google Assistant

LG has officially joined the ranks of appliance makers that support more than one voice assistant. The electronics giant has announced that its current collection of ThinQ-branded appliances now takes commands from both Amazon's Alexa and Google Ass…

Amazon’s fart app is the best reason to buy an Echo Button

As of this writing, there’s a single, solitary review for Button Tooter. It’s three stars and three sentences, and it’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. “They clearly ran out of ideas!” the reviewer writes. “It’s kind of fun! How about a game where you can make music. [sic]” Is Amazon’s creation of a fart app a true indication of creativity bankruptcy?

Or is it the sign of a company that’s finally discovered the killer app for its new hardware platform. It’s true that, in the past, fart apps have become a bit of a shorthand for useless mobile software. And for a brief, but glorious moment several years back, fart apps topped the various mobile charts, only to pass like, well, to quote the Oscar-nominated film, “a fart in the wind.”

But Buttons have always been a curiosity among the Echo family, some employee’s side project that somehow made it into production. Amazon’s formed a couple of partnerships with game makers, but the company has clearly spent much more time focusing on the rest of its smart home devices.

I never had any desire to have an Echo Button in my life — and the Button Tooter arrived. Now all I can think about is how much I want a remote button that can make my Echo Spot fart. And $20 seems like a small price to pay for the five or so minutes of pure childlike joy it will bring to my life. When’s the last time you could say that about a gadget.

Because we may have gotten old in the blink of an eye, and technology may have made us callous and uncaring husks of our former selves. The world may be full of hate, and this precise moment in time may feel as though we’re closer to the brink of global destruction by our hands.

But there’s one truth I know, that has always and will always hold in the face of an ever-changing world: farts are funny. So go forth and press, friends.

Use Echo speakers to send announcements around your home

Amazon keeps building out its Alexa ecosystem by adding more features and integrating products. But the platform has more potential than just allowing, say, your Fire tablets in on the voice control fun. But now Alexa has a new ability, Announcements…

Amazon is bringing hands-free Alexa to Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets

Amazon is bringing “hands-free” access to Alexa – a feature currently found on its flagship Fire HD 10 tablet – to the rest of its Fire tablet line, the company announced this morning. Starting this week, owners of either the Fire 7 and the Fire HD 8 (2017) will be able to launch Alexa using their voice, whenever the tablet’s screen is in use or the device is connected to power.

While Alexa has been available on Amazon’s devices for some time, it wasn’t until the Fire HD 10 arrived that Alexa could be used in a hands-free mode. Now that same functionality will roll out to Amazon’s other tablets through a free, over-the-air software update.

Once enabled, device owners will be able to talk to Alexa without touching their tablet – asking her to do things like play a song, turn off the lights, start or pause a movie, check your calendar, control your smart home (including viewing video from connected cameras or doorbells) and more.

The feature essentially turns the tablet into a poor man’s Echo Show, the $230 Echo device with a screen. Of course, there are some drawbacks to Alexa on tablets. The speakers aren’t as good as a full-sized Echo, and tablets don’t have the mic array you’d find on an Echo, either. But being able to say “Alexa,” is a familiar experience for users who expect to be able to talk to a device’s virtual assistant hands-free, as they can with Siri or Google Assistant on other devices.

Alexa on the Fire HD 10 is a better experience than on the 7 or HD 8 because customers can access Alexa hands-free even when the screen is on standby. It also doesn’t require a power connection.

But because the Fire 7 or Fire 8 HD device has to be plugged in or the screen has to be in use, it’s a better option for using the tablet as a smart display, rather than a full replacement for an Echo that works anytime.

Amazon says the feature is rolling out this week.

 

Amazon wants developers to build more Echo Button games

When Amazon launched Echo Buttons last year — the Bluetooth devices that bring a new dimension to games on Alexa — the general consensus was that they were a cute addition to the ecosystem, but probably weren't going to add anything significant to…

Amazon opens Echo Button games to developers

Echo Buttons are one of the stranger bits of hardware to come out of the Amazon labs in recent memory. Announced alongside the latest Echos, the little light up devices are designed to bring interactive game play to the Alexa Echo system.

The company’s already announced a handful of compatible titles, and it seems that list is about to get a bit longer, as it opens up a beta version of the Gadgets Skill API for the hardware.

Developers can platform to associate button presses with different skills and send light up animation to the hardware. A preview version of the API lead to the development of a number of experiences for the two for $20 peripherals, including light up playback of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Trivial Pursuit from Hasbro. The selections are nothing if not eclectic.

The toy company is also using the announcement to launch a new game: an Echo Button version of Simon, the popular 1980s light up memory game. You can download Simon Tap now, and Alexa will list a sequence of colors the players then match. The hardware works with most of the Echo line, including, Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Plus and Echo Spot.

Alexa’s routines can now play music, podcasts and radio shows

Alexa’s routines are getting a musical upgrade. First launched last year, routines allow Alexa device owners to string together a series of actions that kick off with a simple command — like “good morning” or “I’m home,” for example. Until today, the feature included support for news, weather, traffic, smart home skills, as well as, more recently, a set of “Alexa says” commands that let you add a little personality to a given routine. Starting today, Alexa can play your favorite music, podcast or radio show in a routine, too.

To use the feature, you’ll select an artist, playlist, album or station from your music library or one of the supported streaming services. Currently, the supported services are those that already work with Alexa — Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Saavn, Deezer and TuneIn.

Amazon says you’ll also be able to create a volume action to control the audio output on your device.

The addition has the potential to make routines more useful for those who like to have music in their home on a more regular basis. For instance, if you like to start your day with a playlist that gives you energy, you could create a “good morning” routine that turns on your lights and smart coffee maker, then starts playing your favorite upbeat songs.

You also could create a routine for relaxing that includes more soothing music or a nighttime routine that locks the door then plays sleep sounds. A party playlist could be included in a routine that puts your smart light bulbs into a flashing disco mode or crazy colors.

But music isn’t the only option — because some of the services support radio shows or podcasts, those can now be integrated into your routines, too. For instance, a “welcome home” routine could play your daily briefing followed by a podcast or favorite radio show from TuneIn.

Although Alexa gained the ability to run routines before its rival, Google Assistant, Google’s version already supports music, podcasts and radio. So Amazon is playing a bit of catch-up here. In addition, Google Assistant routines can also pick up an audiobook where you left off — that’s oddly not one of Alexa’s routines options today, even though Alexa can read to you from your Audible library. Presumably, Audible support in routines is in the works.

Music is an increasingly important business for Amazon, so better integration with Alexa makes sense. The company this week told Billboard it now has “tens of millions” of paid customers, confirming earlier reports that it has become the third-largest music service behind Spotify and Apple Music.

The ability to customize routines with music and other audio content will be available within the Alexa app for iOS and Android. However, the feature is just now beginning to roll out — so you may not see the option immediately.