Amazon Tracker: Alexa All Grown Up

Alexa is growing up. This month, she learned to receive push notifications for four basic skills, including breaking news and food delivery; to video chat, via the Echo Show unveiled on May 9; and how to give fashion advice via the Echo Look. She even learned how to talk like a human with whispers, pauses, and emotion.

Amazon announced on May 17 that its digital assistant would soon be able to send notifications to Alexa-enabled devices, including the Echo.

These notifications don’t have to drive you crazy. They’ll arrive with a gentle chime and a pulsing green light on the Echo device. They won’t just play automatically, either; users must ask Alexa, “What did I miss?” to review them.

For that reason, the new technology may make the most sense for food delivery and Life 360’s family location information. News and weather require a voice command either way, so receiving a notification may be a moot point.

Ultimately, users will be able to decide which ones they want to receive, change their minds later and opt out of notifications, or tell Alexa to enter “do not disturb” mode.

In hardware, Amazon said it would start shipping its new Echo Show on June 28. It works the same way as the Amazon Echo but with the addition of a seven-inch screen that allows users to make video calls as well as viewing media. The feature, “Alexa Calling,” will work on all Echo devices and the Alexa app.

The Echo Show can be used to view YouTube videos, song lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, all without touching a thing. The Show costs $229.99 and can be pre-ordered now.

One thing the Show can’t do is capture still photos. That’s the wheelhouse of the Echo Look, announced last month and so far available only as an app, with a dedicated device on the way. TechCrunch called the $200 vertical camera a “standalone selfie machine,” designed to let users take full-length photos and short videos of themselves.

The Look combines machine learning with advice from fashion experts to give instant feedback on users’ outfits (and probably shopping recommendations) as Amazon looks to increase its presence in the fashion and apparel sector.

So far, the Look is only available by invitation, but the app is up and running as of May 22.


More new hardware from Amazon:

Now kids can have their very own Fire tablet – not a toy, but the same technology as Mom and Dad’s – and it’s designed to be totally kid-proof, or Amazon will replace it.

The Fire 7 Kids Edition and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition were announced on May 17, along with the latest editions of the regular Fire and Fire HD. At $99.99 and $129.99 respectively, the kids’ tablets come with access to over 55,000 curated websites and YouTube videos, plus a year of Amazon FreeTime.

FreeTime features more than 15,000 books, videos, and educational apps and games, giving kids freedom of choice and access while giving parents control over duration of screen-time, age-appropriateness of content, and educational goals.

“These tablets offer age-appropriate digital content that’s both fun and educational for kids, plus a suite of parental controls and features to help parents teach kids how to use technology responsibly,” said Stephen Balkam, Founder and CEO, Family Online Safety Institute.

FreeTime also recently became available as an app on Android phones and tablets, adding even more members to its 10 million kid-strong user base.

Meanwhile, Mom and Dad’s tablets just got lighter, faster and smarter. At $49.99, the new Amazon Fire 7 is thinner than ever, with sharper display, improved Wi-Fi connectivity, and Alexa. The Fire HD 8, at $79.99, features the sharpest display yet, 12 hours of battery life, support for up to 256 gigabytes of storage, and, of course, Alexa.


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