Amazon promises most Echo speakers will get upgraded to Matter

Technology

The Verge 21 July, 2021 - 11:00am 20 views

The open-source cross-platform smart home standard

While the company doesn’t provide a timeline for those upgrades, the general idea is that Matter will launch by late 2021, so it shouldn’t be long until Amazon’s newest and / or more popular devices receive the capability.

A bigger question is whether any of them will work as Matter hubs. Google announced in May that in addition to upgrading its Nest devices to Matter, it would allow its devices that support the Thread protocol (like the Nest Wi-Fi, Nest Hub Max, and second-gen Nest Hub) to double as connection hubs for Matter, too, not simply as a voice assistant to control Matter gadgets. But while Amazon’s Eero routers were early to adopt Thread, Amazon’s Echo smart speakers were not.

The announcement comes as part of Amazon’s Alexa Live developer event today, where it’s revealing quite a few additional things that Alexa devs will soon be able to do. The company has a message for Matter developers: “We will soon be rolling out tools that make it easy for you to build Matter certified devices, and are ready to start testing your Matter devices now.”

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Current Echo smart speakers and displays will support Matter

TechHive 21 July, 2021 - 01:02pm

Matter, the open-source smart home standard that promises to unite Amazon’s, Apple’s, and Google’s smart home platforms, is one of the most exciting developments that we’re tracking in the smart home space. Now comes word that most Amazon Echo speakers will receive firmware updates enabling them to support Matter.

The announcement, made during Amazon’s Alexa Live developer conference today, means that almost all Alexa-powered Echo devices will be able to control Matter-enabled smart products, a development that will give the upcoming standard a major boost.

All current and many legacy Echo speakers will get the Matter update, Amazon says. Indeed, only three older Echo speakers won’t work with Matter: the first-generation Echo and Echo Dot speakers, as well as the Amazon Tap, a long-discontinued portable Bluetooth speaker with Alexa on board.

The list of Matter-compatible Echo devices does include all Echo Show displays, as well as the Echo Studio, Echo Plus speakers, and the diminutive Echo Flex.

Amazon’s Matter announcement more or less matches Google’s earlier promise that all of its Nest speakers and displays will support Matter. That said, Google went a step further, noting that its Thread-enabled products, including the Nest Wi-Fi, the second-gen Nest Hub, and the Nest Hub Max, would serve as Matter connection hubs. It’s not clear what Amazon intends to do about Thread; as far as we know, no Echo speakers or displays have Thread radios.

The open-source smart home standard formerly known as Project CHIP, Matter is an IP-based protocol that’s compatible with Wi-Fi, ethernet, and Thread. Matter has the backing of some of the biggest names in the smart home space, including Amazon, Google, Signify (owner of the Philips Hue smart lighting brand), and Samsung’s SmartThings.

Matter-certified devices will be able to recognize each other and work seamlessly together across different ecosystems, including Apple’s HomeKit, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant-powered Nest platform.

That means if you buy a Matter-certified smart gadget, you’ll be able to control it with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, and it will work with any other Matter-enabled devices you own.

The first Matter products are expected to arrive late this year, and Amazon says it’s now ready to start testing Matter-enabled products.

Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart home and home entertainment products.

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Alexa finally gets a masculine-sounding voice option

The Verge 21 July, 2021 - 12:23pm

A long-overdue addition for Amazon’s assistant

The new voice option was actually added several days ago alongside an announcement for new celebrity voices like Shaq and Melissa McCarthy, but it went largely unnoticed until it was spotted by The Ambient. You can hear a sample of the new voice option here.

The “Ziggy” wake word joins the existing “Alexa,” “Computer,” “Echo,” and “Amazon” wake words that have already been available to use with Alexa for years. Amazon isn’t specifically associating “Alexa” with the feminine-sounding voice and “Ziggy” with the new masculine-sounding option; users can use either of the voice options with any of the wake words.

You can switch between the two voice options — which Amazon refers to as “Original” and “New” — by asking Alexa to “Change your voice,” and you can similarly select a new wake word by asking it to “Change your wake word.” The change seems to be device-specific, though, so you’ll have to set the new voice on each of your Alexa devices.

Amazon has been a holdout when it comes to offering a masculine-sounding voice option for its digital assistant; Apple and Google offer multiple voice options for Siri and Google Assistant, respectively. Neither of those companies associates specific voices with gender anymore, either: Apple’s Siri options are presented as “Voice 1” and “Voice 2,” while Google’s voice options are listed under a variety of colors.

That’s despite that same documentation emphasizing that Alexa is not “a person with a physical body or a gender identity” and that “Amazon doesn’t let organizations (for example, skills or AVS) refer to Alexa as ‘she’ or ‘her.’”

The new masculine-sounding Alexa voice option is reportedly only available in the US for now, but it will presumably be making its way to other regions soon.

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Amazon says most Echo speakers will support the Matter smart home platform | Engadget

Engadget 21 July, 2021 - 11:55am

It's unclear when the Echo support will actually arrive, but at this point we're expecting Matter devices to launch later this year. Google has already declared strong commitment for the platform — so much so that we've speculated it could help unite the fragmented smart home ecosystem. Google devices supporting the Thread standard, like the Nest Wi-Fi and Nest Hub Max, will also work as Matter connection points (AKA hubs). But as The Verge notes, it's unclear if any Echo devices will work as Matter hubs.

“The Matter mark will serve as a seal of approval, taking the guesswork out of the purchasing process and allowing businesses and consumers alike to choose from a wider array of brands to create secure and connected homes and buildings,” the CSA said in May after the Matter rebrand. 

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We found a secret Amazon section full of incredible sales on devices — Kindle, Fire TV, Echo Frames and more

Yahoo Lifestyle 21 July, 2021 - 11:13am

Did you know Amazon has a hidden section devoted to secret sales on its own devices? It's true! 

On any given day, the retail giant adds and removes sales from this secret department on a handful of Echo smart devices, Fire TV video streamers and Kindle e-readers — and let us tell you, the savings are good! If you’re looking to build out a smart home or just want to read mountains of e-books on one gadget, you need to know about this page.

So what’s on sale? Here's a taste: Amazon’s top-rated Insignia 24-inch Smart HD Fire TV can be had for just $110 — that's 35 percent off!

And Amazon will give you free shipping too. But if you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get so much more — from access to new movies and TV shows, discounts at Whole Foods, exclusive sales and two-day shipping on many, many items. Not yet a member? Let's fix that: You can sign up for a free 30-day trial here. (And even those without Prime get free shipping on orders of $25 or more).

Check out our favorite finds below, and shop the rest of the secret sales on Amazon devices here:

Made with a 300ppi glare-free screen, the Kindle Paperwhite — on sale for $85 — offers a display bright enough to mimic the effect of reading from an actual page, without the headache-inducing reflection. Just as cool: An adjustable light shifts to accommodate the setting.

"...The display is gorgeous," raved a five-star reviewer. "I love how crisp the lettering is and how the pages actually look like real paper. There's barely any glare on the screen when held up in sunlight —a huge advantage over the iPad Mini ...."

Grab the e-reader that nearly 90,000 shoppers love — it's at an all-time low price right now.

Need a new TV? Amazon has the wildly popular Insignia 24-inch Smart HD TV — Fire TV Edition on sale for just $110! The standout set delivers eye-popping colors and exceptional picture quality — both of which are rare in this price range. The audio is top notch, too — and Alexa is included in the remote. So if you’re not a fan of endlessly scrolling through a grid of movie titles (and who is), you can just say, “Alexa, play Knives Out,” and she’ll make your wish come true.

“I am honestly very pleasantly surprised with how much I like this TV,” shared a satisfied Amazon shopper. “As far as clarity goes, I believe HD720p is plenty for this screen size. I’m a bit of a TV snob and the lower clarity is not noticeable in this size.”

Echo Frames — 60 bucks off right now — are designed to direct audio towards your ears, while also minimizing what the people around you can hear. So now you can listen to your favorite music and podcasts without worrying about what anyone else thinks or hears. 

A huge perk of the Echo Frames? Alexa is built-in, so you can make calls (when synced to a smartphone), set reminders, add to your to-do lists, hear the news and control your smart home with just the sound of your voice — all from your frames! Noisy outside around you? No problem. Echo Frames will automatically adjust the volume based on the noise level of your environment.

Shoppers are rocking the Echo Frames. "Sound quality is fantastic and I'm impressed with the quality of the microphone as well," added a smitten user. "...It's pretty secret-agent awesome."

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Everything Announced at Amazon Alexa Live 2021 | Digital Trends

Digital Trends 21 July, 2021 - 11:00am

Perhaps the biggest emphasis of Amazon Alexa Live is the ways in which developers will be able to implement new and existing Alexa tools to make smart products more intuitive and customizable.

One advent is a tool called APL (Alexa Presentation Language) Widgets. For the first time, developers will have the ability to create visual companion widgets to accompany certain skills on devices like the Echo Show, Fire TV, Fire tablets, as well as other devices. These include things like animations, graphics, pictures, slideshows, and video files. Amazon further outlines this rollout with an example.

Say you’ve designed a trivia game for an Alexa device. When the user says “Alexa, open Quick Trivia,” an intro card for  Quick Trivia will show on your Echo Show screen. As you play the actual game, questions, answers, and relevant background images are displayed as you work your way through the challenges.

Another new tool is called Featured Skill Cards. A second visual enhancer, it will allow Echo Show and other Alexa-powered display owners to see additional info on their display and Alexa app after certain voice commands are given. In an outlined example, a Skill Card displayed a detailed breakdown of a user’s gift card balance when they asked what their remaining balance was.

Developers will also be pleased to learn about three big updates to Alexa’s Name Free Interaction (NFI) Toolkit. One of these is Featured Skills in Discovery Phrases. Now, when consumers say things like “Alexa, tell me a story,” or “Alexa, let’s play a game,” the developer’s skill can be suggested via both voice and screen.

The second update is Personalized Skill Suggestions, a multi-layered customer feedback model that will allow skill builders to interact in more personalized ways with device users.

The third update is entitled contextual experiences, an overall overhaul of NFI practices to allow for the discovery of new skills with simple phrases spoken to Alexa.

In addition to the aforementioned developer tools, an expanded suite of revenue-generating tools will be extrapolated during Amazon Alexa Live 2021.

One of these is called Paid Skills which will allow customers to pay a one-time fee when downloading a skill to access its premium content, reducing the need for future upsells. In-skill purchasing itself will also see an expansion into both India and Canada.

Alexa Shopping Actions will allow developers to sell skill-based products through Amazon.com. One such developer, Starfinder, an Alexa-based science-fiction role-playing game, will now allow customers to buy their tabletop board game using Alexa Shopping Actions. Additionally, developers will now be able to earn a commission for referring products to customers within their skill parameters.

There’s a bevy of new entertainment features coming to Alexa, all of which will be covered extensively during Amazon Alexa Live 2021.

Fans of Amazon Music will enjoy a new feature called Spotlight. Using the Amazon Music for Artists mobile app, artists can now upload new and existing records directly to their artist profile, granting listeners behind-the-scenes access to bonus material and other musical gems.

Tired of the sluggish response from certain music services on your Echo Dot. With the latest Interactive Media Skill Components, radio, podcast, and music providers will be able to process Alexa requests in a faster and more efficient way for listeners. Added to this, a Song Request Skill Component will allow radio DJs to take song requests and dedications using Alexa. iHeartRadio will be one of the first streamers to use this feature.

Enjoy party-gaming with your pals? With the new Shared Activities API, developers will be able to design Alexa-powered multiplayer games that can be shared and played amongst friends.

This next batch of updates focuses on how Alexa will improve a number of its on-the-go functions. For the foodies of the smart world, the all-new Food Skill API allows restaurants to build a better meal experience for their customers through Alexa. We imagine this will play out through simple voice commands. When a user says “Alexa, where’s the nearest pizza place?”, the assistant will respond with recommendations and options to order directly from listed restaurants, thanks to adept discovery skills. Expect only the highest-quality pizza suggestions from your Echo Dot going forward.

A new tool called Send to Phone will now Alexa users to ask their Echo product a question, and then head out the door, pop open their Alexa app, and continue the Alexa exchange (started on the Echo speaker) on their mobile device.

Furthermore, improvements to Event-Based Triggers and Proactive Suggestions will allow customers to enable skills that will remind them to do everything from locking the door when they leave the house to suggesting a workout playlist for a morning job. Whole Foods plans on using these expanded skills to launch a remodeled curbside experience in the latter part of 2021.

Sick of running out of air filters for your HVAC when you need them the most? With extensions to Alexa replenishment skills, users will be able to re-order replacement parts from a host of new carriers. Carrier and Resideo, two thermostat manufacturers, will now be able to replenish your air filters automatically. Bissel will be doing the same for robotic vacuum filters.

With Alexa Custom Assistant Momentum, companies will now be able to customize their own voice assistant experience using Alexa tech. This means wake words, voices, personalities, and capabilities that are totally unique to the developer but built on Alexa’s framework. Qualcomm, Garmin, and a host of others will be the first brands to take advantage of Alexa Custom Assistant (ACA).

Verizon will also be taking advantage of the ACA suite with the rollout of the company’s very first smart display. The Verizon Smart Display will allow Verizon customers to set up new service, oversee their Verizon account, and do everything else we can expect from a smart display. FCC filings for this device indicate the tablet will have an 8-inch display, front-facing camera, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities.

As we’ve outlined extensively before, Matter will be joining forces with major tech companies to make for a faster and more stabilized smart home experience. Nearly every Echo device is receiving the Matter upgrade, making it easier for customers to set up and use their Echo speakers.

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Amazon will let devs compete for your Echo Show’s screen and everything else Alexa just added

The Verge 21 July, 2021 - 11:00am

Widgets, featured skill cards, and more

Here’s what to expect from those and everything else the company’s announcing at its Alexa Live event today.

As you can see in Amazon’s mockup above, widgets look pretty much as you might expect. In a blog post, Amazon describes them as “rich, customizable, glanceable, self-updating views of skill content” where you can check items off a to-do list or activate a skill’s functions, without needing to say “Alexa” first. It’s not yet clear how limited they are or if they might effectively be a way to build a touchscreen app for an Echo Show.

Featured skill cards might be slightly controversial, depending on how useful they are. It promotes new Alexa skills on your home screen, even if you haven’t asked for them. It’s not exactly an advertising service, Amazon Alexa Skills VP Aaron Rubenson tells The Verge, not something developers will have to pay for. “It’s open to everybody to raise their hand and say they want to be part of it,” he says, adding that you’ll see personalized results based on other signals you send Alexa. One of the first featured skill cards will be Comedy Central, and Rubenson says he might well see it because he already listens to some comedy in his Alexa Flash Briefing each morning.

But even if you don’t have an Echo device with a screen, you may get more Alexa skills suggested to you soon. Amazon says it’s expanding its name-free interaction toolkit to let skills volunteer to be promoted when you speak phrases like “Alexa, how did the Nasdaq do today?”

“We’re letting developers raise their hand and say, ‘My skill can handle that request,’” says Rubenson. And if you agree to use Amazon’s suggested skills, Alexa can pass along your request instead of making you repeat yourself.

While Amazon was the only one that previously profited from physical merchandise sold through Alexa, the company will now let Alexa skill developers sell products inside their skills as well with Alexa shopping actions and get up to a 10 percent affiliate marketing commission from Amazon, too. As expected, you can only sell products listed on Amazon.com, though they don’t need to be your products. (Rubenson couldn’t say whether Amazon would allow skills that are effectively just stores.) Amazon’s also introducing paid skills, so don’t be surprised if you have to pay before using your next Alexa app instead of using an in-app purchase afterward.

While Amazon still doesn’t seem to have attracted rivals Apple, Google, and Samsung to its voice interoperability initiative yet, it does have some news on that front as well. Rubenson says Samsung will have a fridge with both Bixby and Alexa “operating side by side,” and the company’s Alexa Custom Assistant (which lets brands create their own Alexa-powered assistant) will appear in a Verizon smart display where Alexa can handle standard Alexa tasks while the new Verizon assistant can handle requests like checking your wireless bill. Rubenson says they can hand off requests to each other, too.

In addition to those highlights, here’s a quick bulleted list of other Alexa updates that caught my eye:

That’s not the whole list, mind you: there’s even more in Amazon’s full blog post. In addition, Amazon is announcing today that almost every Echo smart speaker will support Matter, a new ambitious open standard for smart home devices.

The new features are all coming as part of the company’s Alexa Live developer conference today, where it’s seeking to attract the next generation of programmers to build skills for its voice assistant. Amazon says it now has 900,000 registered developers and 130,000 skills (up from 750,000 developers a year ago and 100,000 skills in September 2019), and Rubenson tells us developer revenue has doubled annually, with some skill developers making over $1 million a year.

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Today's best deals: Exclusive sale for Prime members only, free Echo Dot deal, $3.75 Alexa smart plugs, $50 off a Dyson killer, more

BGR 21 July, 2021 - 09:12am

You’re definitely going to want to scroll all the way to the end of today’s daily deals roundup. That’s where you’ll find 10 exclusive deals that are available to Prime members only! You can score a huge $61 discount on a best-selling Roomba, or get two Anker wireless chargers for $33.99. Before we get to all that, however, let’s take a look at some deals that are available to everyone.

You’ll find all that and more when you scroll down below. And on top of all that, you can score a free Echo Dot when you buy a discounted Fire TV! Also, don’t forget to check out all those awesome deals for Prime members only!

Amazon’s coolest Alexa device you’ve never heard of is down to $19.99 right now

Yahoo Entertainment 20 July, 2021 - 07:06am

EARLIER: Amazon has so many deals on smart home gadgets right now, we’re not even sure where to start. In terms of popularity with our readers, nothing is as hot as Gosund mini Wi-Fi smart plugs. They work with your smartphone as well as voice commands thanks to Alexa and Google Assistant. They’re also on sale for just $3.75 each right now with the coupon code LJFPY4K4. Another hugely popular smart home gadget right now is the MyQ smart garage door opener. Control your garage with your smartphone or Alexa, and never worry about leaving it open again. It’s down to just $23.99 today, plus you can get a $40 Amazon credit with this special promotion.

TP-Link Kasa smart LED bulbs start at just $9.51 right now. Additionally, multi-color Kasa smart LED bulbs are $17.99 each instead of $25. Those are both phenomenal deals. But if you’re looking for something unique in the smart lighting category, there’s a fantastic deal you need to check out.

The Echo Glow is a smart gadget from Amazon that you might not have ever heard of before. It retails for $30, but you can snag one right now for just $19.99!

When people think of Amazon’s Echo brand, they think of smart speakers and smart displays. Those are definitely the two most common categories of Echo gadgets, but they’re not the only ones. You’ve got the Echo Auto that adds Alexa to your car, plus the Echo Buds that rival Apple’s AirPods. Amazon even has Echo Frames smart glasses now.

The Echo Glow is another nifty gadget that falls into the Echo category. It’s not a smart speaker or a display, however. Instead, it works alongside your other Alexa devices and helps set the mood. You can change the color using Alexa voice commands or the Alexa app on your smartphone. You can also create timers or make schedules. Plus, there’s a dance party mode that changes the colors in sync with the music you play on your Echo speakers.

Amazon’s Echo Glow multicolor smart lamp is an awesome little gadget that’s great for kids and adults alike. It retails for $30, but Amazon has it on sale for just $19.99 this week. Don’t miss out on this great deal!

Here are the key takeaways to keep in mind about the Echo Glow:

The Echo Glow smart lamp is great for kids and adults

Pair it with any compatible Alexa device to control it with your voice

Also compatible with Amazon’s Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet

Adjust the brightness, color, and more with simple commands

Create schedules so you can automatically adjust the color and brightness of your Echo Glow

Set timers for relaxation time or count down to dinner

Amazon’s “Certified for Humans” designation means it’s very easy to use

You can create lighting cues for your kids or to serve as reminders for yourself

Add color to playtime or while you relax

Rainbow Timer mode cycles gradually through the colors of the rainbow

Start a dance party to enjoy light show while you listen to music on an Echo smart speaker

Everyone loves smart home gadgets and it’s pretty easy to see why. They can add so much convenience to your life by simplifying daily tasks. On top of that, it’s just so cool to be able to control things with your smartphone or a voice command. We’re truly living in the future! Head over to … The post Get these best-selling Alexa smart plugs for $3.75 before they sell out appeared first on BGR.

Unless you’re a BGR Deals reader, you’ve probably never even heard of Depstech’s wireless borescope cameras before now. Don’t feel bad though, because most people out there probably have no idea what they are. Rest assured, however, that once you try out one of these awesome little gadgets, you’ll love it and you’ll be so … The post Crazy wireless camera that lets your phone see anywhere is down to $29 at Amazon appeared first on BGR.

The city of Amsterdam has just installed the first ever 3D-printed stainless steel footbridge over one of its canals, and the design looks awesome. The post First 3D-Printed Steel Bridge Installed in Amsterdam appeared first on Nerdist.

It traps over 99.97 percent of odors, smoke, dust and other atmospheric nasties.

Movies on the list are made up of popular titles like Charlize Theron's "The Old Guard" and Kevin Hart's "Fatherhood."

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This top-rated weatherproof model rivals Nest and Ring — for a lot less.

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The inventive speaker creates a colorful light show to the beat of your favorite music.

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“This little fan has saved me during hot, humid nights."

This bestselling smart device cleans 99.97 percent of pollutants from your indoor air and provides a constant cool breeze.

Expect your confidence to be knocked down.

Now's the time to pounce on Apple's most popular buds.

I only wish I'd gotten it sooner.

Amazon brings Fire TV Experience to legacy Sticks, TVs and soundbars

What Hi-Fi? 20 July, 2021 - 05:12am

Support for six different users and Amazon Kids too

Amazon heralded the Experience update as its most significant Fire TV software addition when it originally arrived to the Fire TV Stick Lite and Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen) back at the end of 2020. The firmware has since become available on the Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube (1st and 2nd Gen), and Fire TV (3rd Gen), and now more or less completes its coverage with the inclusion of the Amazon Fire TV Stick (2nd Gen) as well as Fire TV smart TVs and Fire TV soundars too.

The Experience UI design pares things down to three main screens. The Home page drops you straight into an offer of your favourite apps nestled within a main menu navigation bar. Then you get a sample of film and TV content below through the App Peek feature.

Find allows you to discover content by categories such as TV Shows, Movies, and Kids & Family, and then there's Live for live content.

On top of all this, owners of the 2nd Gen Stick will also get the Amazon Kids area that arrived on more recent Fire TV Sticks back in April. Set up a Kids profile to open up a section of the Experience with thousands of shows and films that are suitable for children.

Parental controls allow you to manage apps and pre-purchased content from a range of services, and there's the Parent Dashboard, accessible on mobile and desktop, where you can monitor activity and set viewing limits.

Should you wish to go the whole hog, you can combine it with the Amazon Kids+ subscription (£1.99, $2.99 per month) for even more content, including the likes of Peppa Pig, Mr Bean, Paw Patrol, iCarly, Fireman Sam and Lego Ninjago.

The Fire TV Experience update will be rolled out to these older devices in the coming weeks. Look out for the notification or head into the settings menu for a look.

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