Category Archives: Amazon Echo News

Alexa … Water The Lawn For Me

Echo in kitchen next to running faucetI’ve seen some interesting capabilities added to the Amazon Echo but this one beats everything.

A lawn care company in Denver, Colorado has scored $3.4 million from Amazon to improve and market a gadget that makes watering the lawn easier and more efficient.  Here’s the details …

“Rachio, a 3-year-old company that sells a smartphone-integrated system for controlling residential lawn sprinklers, received an undisclosed amount of funding from Amazon to integrate its product into Amazon’s voice command technology Amazon Echo, also called Alexa.

“Amazon announced that Rachio would receive the funding in an Aug. 27 press release.
“The funding gives us better access to create skills for Alexa,” Rachio spokesman Ben Blackmer said. “So for example, you could say, ‘Alexa, water the garden for 10 minutes,’ and through our integration, we could make that happen.”
 I for one can’t wait for that to be available next summer.
For the full story, on BusinessDen.com, click here.

 

Amazon Echo Now Does Shared Calendars And More!

top view amazson echoAmazon has just announced that in the latest update for the Amazon Echo, support for shared Google calendars will be enabled. Reading off Google calendars was already possible with Echo prior to today but with included support for shared calendars you can stay on top of every event entered. This means if someone has shared a calendar with you because of a specific event or you subscribe to certain Google Calendars, Echo can recap and keep you apprised of all the “goings-on” so you don’t miss any details, and that’s something to be happy about if you pride yourself on being punctual and organized (keep reading …)

You Could Make The Amazon Echo Do Just About Amything

Echo and smart bulbsThere is a thing called the Amazon Skills Kit  (ASK) that lets developers (and that includes you) do just about anything you could think of with the Amazon Echo — within reason, of course.

Amazon has said that ASK is. “a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for developers to create new voice-driven capabilities for Alexa. With a few lines of code, developers can easily integrate existing web services with Alexa or, in just a few hours, they can build entirely new experiences designed around voice. No experience with speech recognition or natural language understanding is required—Amazon does all the work to hear, understand, and process the customer’s spoken request so a developer doesn’t have to. The Alexa Skills Kit is free.

The article went on to give examples of what developers could create with the Alexa Skills Kit including:

“A hobbyist developer can enable Alexa to access his or her child’s school lunch menu—then, each morning simply ask, “Alexa, ask Ballard Elementary School what’s for lunch today” and decide whether to pack a lunch for the child.

“A device maker with an Internet-connected sprinkler system can integrate its sprinklers with Alexa, so a customer can say, “Alexa, ask my sprinkler to water my lawn for 15 minutes.” (Continue reading)

 

Alexa, Can You Read Me A Book? Sure!

Eco by booksI found news today from ZD Net that “an update has just rolled out to the Amazon Echo that enables working with Audible books.Amazon keeps adding features to the Echo, and the latest will make fans of Audible books happy. The notification sent to Amazon Echo owners states that using the new feature is as easy as saying “Alexa, read [book title].” (Continue reading …)

Echo Has Competition — Meet Mycroft

mycroft_front-smAmazon’s plan is for Echo to become the hub for all home networking or for what’s called the Internet of Things (IoT). the idea is today it controls lights tomorrow it controls everything in your house that’s electrical – your refrigerator, microwave, front door, range, Dishwasher, coffee maker or and so on.

but don’t think for one minute that there are other companies also eyeing this space. The newest one is an “open source” product called Mycroft. It’s currently going through a Kickstarter campaign and has raised half its $99,000 funding goal. Mycroft is built around the Raspberry Pi 2 computer and calls Mycroft, “the world’s first open source, open hardware home A.I. platform.” As nearly as I an tell it will do many of the things Echo can do but is priced a bit lower at $129 for production versions (Basic) and $149 (for an Extendable version.

If you’d like to know more about Mycroft and its Kickstarter campaignt click here.

Amazon Echo Home Automation Tricks

Here’s a video I found today that shows some amazing things the Amazon Echo can do … if you just know how to ask. These all have to do with home automation. For example, you can use Alexa to control your TV  — surprised, huh? This video showcases some of the “hacks” or out-of-the-ordinary tasks you could use Echo for. Of course — spoiler alert — you will have to link the devices shown here to Echo using home automation products such as those from Wink.

Alexa’s Knows The Score

soccer ball and netHere’s an article from theVenture Capital Post that explains how Alexa is now a sportscaster …

” A smart” speaker can do simple chores for you. Aside from playing your music, it can give updates of NBA games and schedules.

“Amazon Echo users can now ask Alexa for Chicago Sky’s next play or who scores in the Atlanta Dream game. Aside from the WNBA scores and schedules, fans of NBA, NCAA, NHL, NFL, MLS and MLB can also get updates through Amazon Echo. The new features also include feeds from live events and concerts via Tuneln. Earlier, Amazon has added story-telling element” (Continue reading ...)

How To Consign Your Radio To The Trash Bin of History

Cutaway of Echo and power cordDo you still have a radio — maybe to listen to while you work out or because you still love talk radio or sports talk? And do you feel just a little ashamed because, well, a radio seems so like 1980?

Get an Amazon Echo and you can totally toss that radio.

Echo connects to all those 1,500 or so iHeart radio stations coast to coast. Tired of listening to your local stations? Why not dial up one in New York, Chicago or LA? Maybe you’d like to catch up on what’s going on in your old home town or listen to a Bosox, Yankees, or Giants game. Amazon Echo likely has the answer.

If your favorite sports talk radio station isn’t an iHeart station, no problem. The odds are that Amazon Echo can find and play it for you. Just for the fun of it I recently asked Alexa to play my favorite sports talk station that I knew wasn’t an iHeart station. A couple of seconds later there it was.

it gets even better if you love music. Alexa can play any of the one million songs in the Amazon Prime library as well as all your Pandora stations. Need something fun and uptempo to pace your workouts, just name it and Alexa will play it. One of my favorites is my Pandora station of classic rock radio. Yeah, I know that makes me something of a dinosaur but, heck. Grand Funk Railroad and CCR still get me up and charging.

Another thing I like about the Amazon Echo is its ability to answer questions. Granted it’s not as good as Google but it can still be helpful when I need answers to questions like what’s the equivalent in garlic powder to one clove. Since I listen to a lot of Pandora stations I like to be able to ask Alexa the name of the song playing and what album’s its from.

Next up for me is to start adding some Hue lightbulbs, which Alexa can control.I’m also looking into which Wink devices might make sense for me.

I see news about the Amazon Echo nearly every day and how its capabilities are growing. It’s going to be a fun ride!