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Amazon is bringing an Auto Mode to Alexa on smartphones
by João Carrasqueira
Amazon has announced a new capability for the Alexa app on Android and iOS devices, which it calls Auto Mode. This new feature lets people use their smartphones in tandem with Alexa in-car devices, like the Echo Auto, adding a display to the experience.
With the new Auto Mode, the Alexa app will present a new full-screen experience that gives users quick access to Alexa features. The home screen includes quick shortcuts to begin playing music, start guided navigation, or make a call. Of course, voice commands are also available for all of this.
Additionally, the app has three more tabs, shown in a persistent menu bar at the bottom of the screen. The Navigate tab includes shortcuts to locations saved in the Alexa app so navigation can start more quickly; the Communication tab lets users make calls, drop in to their Alexa devices or home, or make announcements to them; and the Play tab offers quick access to playlists.
Amazon is also launching a new Featured Routine for Alexa, called Start My Commute, which allows users to get weather and traffic updates, as well as entertainment before they start driving. The routine can be further customized once it's enabled.
As a side note, Alexa can now be used to pay for gas at over 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations across the United States, This feature was first announced back in January, and it's now available.
By Abhishek Baxi
Qubo Baby Cam, a baby monitor with AI smarts and Alexa integration, launches in India
by Abhishek Baxi
Hero Electronix has launched a smart baby monitor in India with a kid-friendly design. The highlight of the Qubo Baby Cam is its AI-powered features like virtual cradle and baby cry monitor which have been tailored to address the specific needs of parents.
Hero Electronix is a Hero Group company that forayed into the consumer technology market in 2019 with the launch of Qubo connected smart devices. The US$5 billion Hero Group is one of the top business houses of India.
Qubo Baby Cam is designed to be an extra pair of eyes and ears to work on parents’ behalf. It is designed like a penguin to visually blend in any kid’s room due to its toy-like appearance. The baby cam offers 1080p Full HD video stream with night vision to monitor the baby from the companion Qubo app. Apart from real-time monitoring, the app also gives you a time-lapse video of the child’s activities through the day that you can save for memories or share with your friends and family. There’s also two-way talk with echo cancellation that lets parents connect with their children or babysitters.
The AI features are what makes it different from any other smart security cameras. You can create a smart virtual cradle that ensures that your new-born is always in a designated safe zone. There’s ‘baby cry alert’ that is able to isolate the baby’s cries from surrounding noise and generate an instant alert on the app if the baby is upset. The baby cam can also play a customized lullaby in case the child tends to move or start crying.
The Qubo Baby Cam works with Amazon Alexa devices with screens, like a TV with Fire TV Stick or an Amazon Echo Show. There’s no support for Google Assistant though. The entire Qubo portfolio as yet works only with Alexa.
The Qubo Baby Cam is available at a price of ₹7,490 ($101) across leading online and offline stores in India. As per market estimates, the projected size of the smart home/security market in India is expected to touch $6 billion by 2022 and $53 billion globally.
By Jay Bonggolto
Amazon announces a slew of features for Alexa
by Jay Bonggolto
Amazon introduced today a bevy of new features for Alexa along with announcements for its redesigned Echo Dot smart speakers, new Fire TV experience, and more. Soon, the digital assistant will be able to recognize sounds other than a wake word or secure your home while you're away, among other capabilities.
Alexa is also getting the new Guard Plus, which incorporates existing Guard features bolstered by additional home security options such as connecting you to an emergency hotline when you need medical or police assistance. You will also receive alerts when Alexa detects irregular sounds in your house while you're in the office, for example. The digital assistant can also play the sound of a siren or a barking dog from an Echo device to stop potential intruders. It will be available in the U.S. for $4.99 a month or $49 a year, with a free one-month trial upon signup. Ring Protect Plus customers can get it for free.
For customers who want to keep connected with their distant family members, Amazon has unveiled Care Hub. It allows your aging family members, for example, to call you even if their phone is away in case of an emergency. They only need to say, "Alexa, call for help". Alexa is also adding more privacy controls, which will let you delete your voice history or choose not to save your voice recordings at all.
Another feature coming to Alexa is support for hands-free group calling for up to eight users. You'll also be able to join a Zoom or Amazon Chime video call by just using your voice. There's even an option to add video effects like bubbles or a garden landscape to your Alexa or Drop In call.
Alexa will also be able to recommend recipes once your delivery from Whole Foods Market or Amazon Fresh arrives. Amazon is also launching new sound detectors for the digital assistant in order to listen for sounds of a baby crying or someone coughing, for example.
You'll also be able to watch Netflix shows on the Echo Show using your voice and share music with friends or family, who can then listen to the song you've sent on their Echo device or through the Alexa app. There's the Reading Sidekick as well for kids to help them read books, with a preview coming to Amazon Kids+ customers in the next few months.
All these features will be rolled out later this year, along with the Alexa voice profiles for kids. This feature was introduced earlier today with the debut of the new Echo Dot Kids Edition.
By Jay Bonggolto
Amazon refreshes the Echo Dots with a clock and a ball-shaped design
by Jay Bonggolto
At its hardware event today, Amazon announced a new look and fresh features for its Echo Dot smart speakers. Among the highlights are the ball-shaped design for the refreshed Echo Dot and a new Echo Dot with clock.
The changes mark a huge departure from the Dot's original puck-shaped design, although the new-generation smart speakers still retain the spherical design and fabric finish of the Echo. The new smart speaker features a 1.6-inch, front-firing speaker that's powered by Amazon’s first-generation AZ1 Neural Edge processor incorporating machine learning applications. The processor boasts of an all-neural speech recognition model that Amazon says "will process speech faster, making Alexa even more responsive."
Amazon also redesigned the Echo Dot Kids Edition with new Panda and Tiger designs and animal-themed alarms. It comes with a one-year subscription of Amazon Kids+, with access to thousands of hours of children-oriented Audible books, interactive games, and educational skills. The new Dot Kids Edition will also allow parents to create an Alexa voice profile for their kids, featuring kid-friendly responses, games, skills, music, and more.
The redesigned Dot smart speakers will be available in Charcoal, Glacier White, and Twilight Blue color options. The Dot is priced at $49.99, available for pre-order today and will ship later this year. The one with clock option is priced a bit higher at $59.99. In addition, the Dot Kids Edition is available for pre-order today at $59.99, with shipping scheduled for later this year.
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By Jay Bonggolto
You can now share your Alexa Routines through URL links
by Jay Bonggolto
Amazon announced today that Alexa Routines can be sent to friends and family members through shareable URL links. The new capability is now available only to customers in the U.S.
To share a Routine, you can simply open the Alexa app, choose the Routine you want to send, and then pick a method through which you want to share it. You can send Routines to others via text, email, or social media.
For those who have received a Routine on their mobile device, they can just tap on the URL and follow the instructions on the screen. Then, they can start setting up that Routine and customize it based on their preferences.
Toni Reid, Amazon's Vice President of Alexa, said:
Routines are a set of automated tasks that you can bundle together in the Alexa app such as turning on a light, checking your calendar, turning off your alarm, and more. If you haven't set up one yet, Amazon is recommending eight Routines that you can enable on your phone such as Family Routine and Fitness day Routine. If you're on desktop, you can set up these recommended Routines by holding your phone’s camera up to their QR code.