Alexa


'Alexa' Articles

Amazon's Alexa to Offer NHS-Verified Health Advice to Britons

From this week, users of Alexa devices in the United Kingdom will be able to get expert health advice from the voice-activated smart speakers, thanks to a partnership between Amazon and the National Health Service. When health-related queries such as "Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?" or "what are the symptoms of flu?" are put to the devices, Amazon's algorithm will use information from the NHS website to provide answers. Britain's NHS says the technology will help patients the elderly, blind and those who cannot access the internet through traditional means, to get professional NHS-verified health information in seconds, potentially reducing the pressure on the NHS and GPs, specifically when it comes to providing information for common illnesses. Currently, Alexa gets its answers to health-related questions from a number of sources, including the Mayo Clinic and WebMD. As a point of contrast, Apple's Siri currently retrieves answers to health-related queries from Wolfram Alpha and Wikipedia. Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock offered the following comments on the new Amazon-NHS partnership: We want to empower every patient to take better control of their healthcare and technology like this is a great example of how people can access reliable, world-leading NHS advice from the comfort of their home, reducing the pressure on our hardworking GPs and pharmacists. Through the NHS Long Term Plan, we want to embrace the advances in technology to build a health and care system that is fit for the future and NHSX will drive this

Alexa Now Supports Apple Music in Australia and New Zealand on Echo, Sonos, and Fire TV Devices

Alexa now supports Apple Music in Australia and New Zealand on Amazon Echo and Amazon Fire TV devices, and compatible Sonos speakers, as reflected in a recently updated Apple support document. This means Apple Music subscribers who own one of those devices in those countries can now ask Alexa to play songs, artists, playlists, and more from Apple Music. This functionality first launched in the United States in December before expanding to the United Kingdom and Ireland last month. Read our guide on how to set up Apple Music in the Alexa app, including how to make it the default music service so that you don't have to say "on Apple Music" each time you ask Alexa to play something. (Thanks, Brad!)

'Alexa Guard' Security Feature Rolls Out to Amazon Echo Devices in the US

Amazon announced this morning that Alexa Guard is now rolling out to all Echo device owners in the U.S. The free feature update, which has been trialed by a select few over the last few months, turns Echo speakers into security devices when no-one's home by allowing them to listen for key sounds indicating danger or intrusion. Users need to say "Alexa, I'm leaving" to set Alexa Guard to Away mode, after which the device will listen for sounds like breaking glass and the sound of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. According to TechCrunch, Amazon has worked with licensed contractors to break hundreds of different glass windows with different instruments in order to create a wide range of different sounds for Alexa to listen for. Upon detecting an ominous sound, Alexa sends the owner Smart Alerts via phone notifications. Users can also play the detected sound from the Alexa mobile app or Drop In on their Echo device remotely to find out what's happening. Alexa can arm a Ring or ADT security system, with the user able to choose to forward Smart Alerts they receive to Ring or ADT. Users with Away Lighting can also use the alert to turn on lights so as to make it look like they're actually home. For more details about Alexa Guard, check out Amazon's FAQ.

Employees Who Listen to Amazon Alexa Requests Can Access Customers' Home Addresses

Earlier this month, Bloomberg shared details on the thousands of employees that Amazon employs around the world to listen to voice recordings captured in the homes of Amazon Echo owners when the Alexa wake word is spoken, with the purpose of improving the service. There was some concerning information in the report, including employee access to private recordings, recordings that are upsetting or potentially criminal, and an employee tendency to share private recordings in group work chat environments. As it turns out, there's something Alexa owners should be even more worried about -- some of these employees have access to the home addresses of Amazon customers. In a new report on the team Amazon employs to listen to Amazon Echo recordings, Bloomberg says that employees have access to location data and can "easily find a customer's home address" by typing geographic coordinates into third-party mapping software. The new information was shared by five anonymous Amazon employees who spoke to Bloomberg.Team members with access to Alexa users' geographic coordinates can easily type them into third-party mapping software and find home residences, according to the employees, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program. While there's no indication Amazon employees with access to the data have attempted to track down individual users, two members of the Alexa team expressed concern to Bloomberg that Amazon was granting unnecessarily broad access to customer data that would make it easy to identify a device's owner.Bloomberg

Alexa Support for Apple Music Expands to Sonos Speakers

Amazon Echo devices have been able to use Alexa-based voice commands to control Apple Music since December, but the feature has been limited to Amazon's own devices until today. Sonos One and Sonos Beam owners in the United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland are now also able to use Alexa to control Apple Music after adding the Apple Music skill to the Alexa app. In the US, UK, and Ireland, you can now use your voice to control @AppleMusic through your Sonos One, Beam, or Echo device. Just add the #AppleMusic skill in your Alexa app. pic.twitter.com/2yNius56jo— Sonos (@Sonos) April 17, 2019 To get Alexa controls for Apple Music on Sonos, users will need to update to the newest version of the Sonos app, enable the Apple Music skill in the separate Amazon Alexa app, and link an Apple Music account. From there, Sonos owners will be able to use commands like "Play My Chill Mix on Apple Music," or "Play Beats 1 Radio on Apple Music." It's not yet clear if other Alexa-enabled devices will also be gaining support for Apple Music controls in the future, but right now, the feature is available on all Amazon Echo and Fire TV devices along with the Sonos One and Sonos

Thousands of Amazon Employees Listen to Alexa Requests for Improvement Purposes [Updated]

Amazon has thousands of employees around the world that listen to voice recordings captured in the homes of Amazon Echo owners, reports Bloomberg. Voice recordings are captured when the Alexa wake word is spoken and then a subset of those recordings are listened to, transcribed, annotated, and added back into the software as part of Amazon's effort to help Alexa better respond to voice commands. Amazon has facilities for Alexa improvement in places that range from Boston to Costa Rica, India, and Romania. Seven people familiar with Amazon's review process spoke to Bloomberg and revealed some insider details on the program that may be concerning to Echo users. While much of the work has been described as "mundane," employees have sometimes come across more private recordings, such as a woman singing off key in the shower or a child screaming for help. Amazon employees have internal chat rooms where they share files when help is needed parsing a word or, more concerning, when an "amusing recording" is found. Two workers told Bloomberg that they've heard recordings that are upsetting or potentially criminal, and while Amazon claims to have procedures in place for such occurrences, some employees have been told it's not the company's job to interfere.Sometimes they hear recordings they find upsetting, or possibly criminal. Two of the workers said they picked up what they believe was a sexual assault. When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress. Amazon says it has procedures in place for

Apple Music Now Available on Amazon's Alexa Devices in the UK and Ireland

Amazon Echo and Fire TV devices in the UK and Ireland are now compatible with Apple Music, reports Pocket-lint. In the United States, Amazon Echo models have supported Apple Music since December of last year, allowing Echo speakers to integrate directly with Apple's music service, but the functionality was not made available in other countries. Amazon Echo owners in the UK can now install the Apple Music integration using the Amazon Alexa app for iPhone or iPad and then use Alexa commands to play songs, albums, and more from the Apple Music service. As of mid-March, Apple Music is also available as an option on the Amazon Fire TV.

Siri on HomePod Asked 800 Questions and Answered 74% Correctly vs. Just 52% Earlier This Year

Apple analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures recently tested the accuracy of digital assistants on four smart speakers by asking Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana a series of 800 questions each on the Amazon Echo, HomePod, Google Home Mini, and Harmon Kardon Invoke respectively. The results indicate that Siri on the HomePod correctly answered 74.6 percent of the questions, a dramatic improvement over the speaker's 52.3 percent success rate when Loup Ventures asked it a similar 782 questions in December 2017. Siri on the HomePod remained less accurate than Google Assistant on the Google Home, which correctly answered 87.9 percent of questions in the test. Meanwhile, Alexa on the Echo and Cortana on the Invoke trailed Siri on the HomePod, correctly answering 72.5 percent and 63.4 percent of questions in the test. Munster attributed the HomePod's improved accuracy to "the enabling of more domains in the past year," as a series of software updates in recent months have enabled the speaker to make and receive phone calls, schedule calendar events, set multiple timers, search for songs by lyrics, and more. Methodology Loup Ventures says it asked each smart speaker the same 800 questions, and they were graded on two metrics: whether the query was understood and whether a correct response was provided. The question set was designed to "comprehensively test a smart speaker's ability and utility" based on five categories:Local – Where is the nearest coffee shop? Commerce – Can you order me more paper towels? Navigation – How do I get to uptown on the

Amazon Confirms More Alexa-Enabled Speakers Will Eventually Support Apple Music

Amazon has confirmed that Apple Music will eventually be supported on additional Alexa-enabled speakers, according to a tweet from Mashable's Raymond Wong spotted by AppleInsider. Amazon didn't provide a timeframe for the rollout. A variety of third-party Alexa speakers and devices are available from brands such as Sonos, JBL, Ultimate Ears, and First Alert. 🚨UPDATE!!!🚨Amazon has confirmed to me @AppleMusic will be coming to other Alexa enabled devices in the future. When? Idk... but hopefully soon https://t.co/ZYqyfNKWk1— Raymond Wong📱💾📼 (@raywongy) December 19, 2018 Apple Music went live on Amazon's line of Echo speakers last Friday in the United States. This allows users to link Apple Music with their Amazon account in the Alexa app for iOS and use Alexa voice commands to control playback of Apple Music songs and playlists and Beats 1 radio on Echo speakers. To access this feature, simply use a voice command such as "Alexa, play music by Ed Sheeran on Apple Music" or "Alexa, play today's hits on Apple Music." Apple Music can also be set as the default music service in the Alexa app so that "Apple Music" does not need to be specified each time. Apple and Amazon announced this new partnership in late November, with Amazon saying it is "committed to offering great music providers to our customers," and referring to Apple Music as "one of the most popular music services."

Apple Music Now Playable on Amazon Echo Speakers via Alexa in United States

Apple Music can now be streamed on Amazon Echo speakers via Alexa in the United States, a few days ahead of schedule. As spotted by 9to5Mac, it is now possible to link Apple Music with your Amazon account in the Alexa app for iPhone and use Alexa voice commands to control playback of songs, playlists, and Beats 1 on Apple Music on Amazon Echo speakers. To access this feature, simply use a voice command such as "Alexa, play music by Ed Sheeran on Apple Music" or "Alexa, play today's hits on Apple Music." Apple Music can also be set as the default music service in the Alexa app, so that "Apple Music" does not need to be specified each time. Other streaming music services supported on Echo speakers include Spotify, Deezer, Vevo, SiriusXM, Tidal, and Pandora. Apple and Amazon announced this new partnership in late November, with Amazon saying it is "committed to offering great music providers to our customers," and referring to Apple Music as "one of the most popular music services." Apple Music playback on Amazon Echo speakers is currently limited to the United

Amazon Alexa App Gains Redesigned Interface for Controlling Devices and Groups

Amazon is currently rolling out an updated version of its companion app for Alexa-enabled devices that includes a significantly redesigned user interface. The visual changes are immediately apparent on firing up the app, and center around a new Devices and Groups tab located in the lower right of the screen. With the new menu selected, the devices are listed in a horizontal strip along the top of the interface, allowing users to control individual smart lights, audio devices, and power outlets all from the same screen. Below that, Alexa devices are also grouped by room indicated by colored cards, which have on/off buttons and can also be tapped to control and edit included devices. Elsewhere, users can add new devices by tapping a plus button in the upper right of the interface, while the original clunky sidebar menu remains available via a button in the upper right. The changes to the app come on the heels of Amazon's recent additions to its ecosystem of Alexa-powered devices, which include new Echo speakers, a subwoofer, amplifiers, a microwave, wall clock, and more. The Amazon Alexa app is a free download on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link]

Skype Calling Features Coming to Alexa Devices Later This Year

Microsoft has revealed that Skype is coming to Alexa devices. The partnership between Microsoft and Amazon means that owners of devices in Amazon's Echo range will soon be able to make outgoing Skype voice and video calls, accept incoming Skype calls, and also make SkypeOut calls to most phone numbers around the world. Announcing the upcoming feature in a blog post, Microsoft said device owners will be able to say something like "Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype," or if Jimmy is calling you on Skype, they'll be able to say, "Alexa, answer." This isn't the first time Amazon and Microsoft has seen fit to merge existing products and services. The two companies partnered on Alexa and Cortana integration last year. "Since then, we've added Alexa integration on Xbox and are continuing to work together to bring the best of Skype and Alexa together to enable intelligent communications for our users," said Gaurav Sareen, corporate vice president for Microsoft. "We're excited to continue bringing the best of Microsoft and Amazon together."Skype calling on Alexa will begin rolling out later this

Amazon Working to Further Lessen Reliance on Power Cords for Future Echo Speakers

In an effort that would give future Echo speakers with Alexa a new advantage over Apple's HomePod, Reuters today reports that Amazon is working with chipmakers to build Alexa speakers that would not require a constant power source. As it stands, most smart assistant devices -- Amazon's main Echo, Apple HomePod, Google Home, etc -- require a constant draw of power due to their always-on microphones listening for the user's voice commands, among other reasons. Now, Amazon has partnered with chipmaker DSP Group to build a standardized chip that is "a little smaller than a U.S. 10-cent coin" and optimized for lower power consumption. Amazon and other companies will be able to use the chip to place Alexa into their own smart devices that offer greater portability to users. Amazon already has the Amazon Tap, a portable Bluetooth speaker that doesn't need to be plugged in to use all of its features. With a "hands-free mode" users can ask Alexa questions and command her to play music, which slightly affects battery life: 9 hours of continuous playback compared to 8 hours with hands-free mode activated. There are also third-party companies like Fabriq that sell portable Alexa solutions, but these devices are still a small portion of the market in comparison to AC-powered speakers. With Amazon and DSP Group's new partnership, it appears that Amazon is looking to greatly bolster the amount of cord-free Alexa devices available to buy, while also improving the user experience with internal chips that can run always-on listening features without as much of a hit to battery

Amazon Alexa App for iOS Gains Voice Controls

Amazon today updated its Alexa app for iOS to add a promised voice control feature that's designed to allow iOS users to tap the Alexa button and use voice commands to ask Alexa to play music, answer questions, check the weather, and more. As noted by TechCrunch, Amazon introduced voice control to its Alexa app for Android back in January, and at the time, said the feature would be expanded to iOS devices "soon." Soon turned out to mean six months, but starting today, iOS users can speak with Alexa in the Alexa iOS app and ask standard Alexa questions. There is no native functionality, so pushing an in-app button to activate Alexa is required rather than just saying the "Alexa" trigger phrase. The new voice control feature will be rolled out to all iOS users "in the coming days." The Amazon Alexa app can be downloaded from the iOS App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Amazon's Alexa Recorded a Woman's Private Conversation and Sent it to a Contact

A woman in Portland recently had an alarming experience with her Alexa-enabled devices after a private conversation was recorded and sent to a random contact, according to a news report from Seattle's Kiro7 news. The woman, Danielle, and her family had Amazon devices situated in each room for home control, and two weeks ago, one of those devices apparently recorded a conversation about hardwood floors and sent it to a person on their contact list. There are no details on how the recording was delivered to the contact. But Danielle said two weeks ago their love for Alexa changed with an alarming phone call. "The person on the other line said, 'unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" she said. "'You're being hacked.'" That person was one of her husband's employees, calling from Seattle. "We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she said. "At first, my husband was, like, 'no you didn't!' And the (recipient of the message) said 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"Danielle confirmed that the recordings received by the contact were indeed conversations picked up by her Alexa device, and in no way was she informed that Alexa was sending the recording to a contact. She contacted Amazon and was told that the "device just guessed what we were saying." Amazon apologized and told her it would fix the issue. Alexa has an option to send a message to a contact name using a voice recording, but Alexa is supposed to vocally confirm such

Amazon's Alexa App Finally Gains Support for iPhone X

Amazon today updated its Alexa app for iOS devices to introduce iPhone X compatibility, allowing the app to be displayed full screen on the longer display of the iPhone X. Prior to today, the Amazon Alexa app displayed unattractive black bars at the bottom and top of the app, so this should be a welcome change for Amazon users who have an iPhone X. The addition of Alexa support comes just over a month after Amazon promised the update was in the works. The Alexa app for iOS is designed to be a companion to Alexa devices, allowing iPhone users to set up and manage Alexa-enabled equipment. While many popular apps have been updated with support for the display of the iPhone X, there are still some notable holdouts even months after the release of the new smartphone. Inbox by Gmail, for example, continues to lack iPhone X support, as do several Apple apps, including iTunes Connect, iTunes Remote, and AirPort

New Survey Says Amazon and Google Have a More 'Positive Impact on Society' Than Apple

In a new survey conducted by SurveyMonkey and shared by Recode, 11 percent of respondents said that they believe Apple has the most positive impact on society today. Apple came in third place, however, falling in line behind Google at 15 percent and Amazon in the top spot at 20 percent. Survey respondents were given the option of choosing between a number of technology companies between April 8-9, and it totaled 2,772 adults based in the United States. When asked which company they believe has the most positive impact on society, 20 percent elected to choose "none of the above." Despite the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal, 10 percent of respondents chose Facebook as having the most positive impact today. Microsoft rounded out the top 5 slots at 7 percent, followed by Tesla at 6 percent, Uber at 3 percent, Netflix at 2 percent, and a list of companies at 1 percent. The survey also dived into the CEOs of the companies and asked respondents which leaders had the greatest impact on people's daily lives. Amazon came in first place again, with 22 percent saying CEO Jeff Bezos and his decisions impact them in some way each day. Google's Sundar Pichai came in second at 18 percent, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was third at 17 percent. Amazon has been a competitor for Apple in a few areas over the last couple of years, particularly in areas like AI assistants and smart home accessory support. Most recently, The Information reported that an increasing number of home builders have opted to go with Alexa-enabled smart homes, rather than install HomeKit products

Alexa App on iPad Can Now Initiate Phone/Video Calls and Send Messages to Echo Devices

Amazon is now allowing users to make phone calls, video calls, and send messages from an iPad, Android, or Fire tablet to an Alexa-enabled Echo device. Previously, users had to activate calls or send messages using an Echo, so now it should be easier to communicate within Amazon's Alexa ecosystem (via Engadget). To receive calls, users need any device with the Alexa app installed or an Echo speaker. The update also introduces Drop In support for the Alexa app on iPads and other tablets, meaning that iPad users can quickly send a message to someone near an Echo in a different room. Engadget noted that the new features are easiest to access on Amazon's own Fire HD 10 tablet, where Alexa is supported across the software, but iPad users will of course first have to open the Alexa iOS app to initiate calls and send messages. Amazon's Alexa assistant has been in the news recently for scaring some users after creepily laughing for no apparent reason. Amazon has acknowledged the events and said it's working on a fix to roll out to affected users. Additionally, late last week Alexa gained a new "Follow-Up Mode," which lets the assistant respond to multiple questions in quick succession, without requiring the user to repeat the "Alexa" wake up command. Amazon Alexa is available on the iOS App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Amazon's Alexa Gains Follow-Up Mode for Back-to-Back Requests Without Repeating Wake Word

Amazon's Alexa personal assistant, built into dozens of different products, today gained a new "Follow-Up Mode" that's designed to allow users to ask multiple questions in succession without the need to repeat the "Alexa" wake up word. As noted by CNET, Follow-Up Mode allows Alexa to continue to listen for five seconds after an initial response to see if you have an additional request. During this five second listening period, the blue ring on an Alexa device will light up to indicate that Alexa is listening. Anything else you say during this time period will not require you to add "Alexa" into the statement to wake up the Alexa device. If you don't say anything else, your Alexa device will go back to sleep until the next time the "Alexa" wake word is uttered. With Follow-Up Mode, Alexa cannot respond to multiple requests, like "Turn the lights on and set the thermostat to 70," but you can ask two requests in succession. Asking "Alexa, turn on the lights" and then stating "Set the thermostat to 70" after the first "OK" from Alexa works, however. According to Amazon, Follow-Up Mode is designed to make sure Alexa only responds if a legitimate request is spoken rather than simple background noise. A conversation with Alexa can also be ended immediately by saying "Thank you" or "Stop" after an initial request, and Follow-Up Mode won't activate when listening to music, making a call, or listening to an audiobook. The new Follow-Up Mode can be enabled in the Settings section of the Amazon Alexa app. Select a device and then scroll down to the new "Follow-Up

Amazon Working on a Fix for Alexa Devices Scaring Users With Creepy Laughter

For the past couple of weeks, speakers equipped with Amazon's Alexa voice-based personal assistant have been randomly laughing, scaring and creeping out speaker owners who have affected devices. Complaints have been surfacing on Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms over the course of the last few weeks, but the issue started receiving widespread attention this week after it was shared on BuzzFeed. From Reddit:A friend of mine at work just a couple of days ago told me this very thing happened at his moms house. He was face timing with his her(he jokes she is jealous of Alexa, his dad just loves it) and out of the blue in the background Alexa started to laugh, he even heard it on his end. Said it was super creepy. I'm waiting the have the holy hell scared out of me one quiet evening...or even worse, awakened by the one a foot from my head while I'm sleeping. Some audio examples of the Alexa laugh, with a humorous skit from Jimmy Kimmel included In a statement provided to The Verge this morning, Amazon said that it is aware that some Alexa-enabled devices are randomly laughing and a fix is in the works. "We're aware of this and working to fix it," Amazon said. So Alexa decided to laugh randomly while I was in the kitchen. Freaked @SnootyJuicer and I out. I thought a kid was laughing behind me. pic.twitter.com/6dblzkiQHp— CaptHandlebar (@CaptHandlebar) February 23, 2018 Customers who have an Alexa-enabled device and are creeped out by the random and unprompted laughs may want to turn off their speakers until Amazon is able to locate the issue and push