All posts in “Amazon Alexa”

Ecobee’s new voice-powered light switch moves closer to whole-home Alexa

Alexa is already everywhere in a lot of homes, thanks to the affordability and ease of installation/setup of the Echo Dot. But Alexa could become even more seamlessly integrated into your home, if you think about it. And Canadian smart home tech maker ecobee did think about it, which is how they came up with the ecobee Switch+.

Ecobee is probably most known for their connected thermostats, which are one of the strongest competitors out there for Nest. The company’s been building other products, too, however, and developing closer ties with Amazon and its Alexa virtual assistant. The Switch+ has the closest ties yet, since it includes Alexa Voice Service and far-field voice detection microphone arrays to essential put an Echo in your wall wherever you have a light switch handy.

The ecobee Switch+ is still a connected light switch that works like similar offerings from Belkin’s Wemo, too, and offers full compatibility with Alexa, HomeKit and Assistant for remote voice control. But it goes a step further with Alexa, acting not only as the connected home smart device, but also the command center, too.

The Switch+ is now available for pre-order from ecobee and select retail partners including, unsurprisingly, Amazon, in both the U.S. and Canada for a retail price of $99 U.S. or $119 Canadian. It should work with most standard light switches, although not 2-way switches where multiple switches control the same light or lights. In-store availability and shipping starts on March 26.

Hollywood’s scariest supercomputer joins the Amazon Alexa family

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“I’m sorry, Alexa. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

No one seems particularly freaked out at the idea of computers in our homes that listen to us, respond to questions, even take direct control of various living conditions. Maybe this HAL-9000 replica will change that.

The malevolent supercomputer from Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey recently landed a new gig: Amazon Echo device. The smart home interface from Master Replicas actually works, as you can see in the above video.

Master Replicas scored the license from Warner Bros. to manufacture HAL-9000 lookalikes. While it can apparently talk like its big screen counterpart and respond to lines from the movie, it also possesses the power of Amazon’s voice-powered AI assistant, Alexa.

According to The Verge, the Echo-like functionality will let you grant your very own HAL-9000 total control of your home (probably unwise). A Fire HD tablet serves as its base, though — as you can see in the video — there are some added features, compliments of Master Replicas.

It’s not clear how much this high-tech nostalgia play will cost, but pre-orders will go live sometime in the spring, with shipping to begin shortly thereafter. 

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Sonos One’s Alexa support comes to Canada

Sonos One users in Canada can now join their peers south of the border in yelling requests at their connected speakers – a free update issued today enables Amazon Alexa on the Sonos One. The One launched with Alexa support in the U.S., but while the speaker has been available to Canadian buyers since late last year, Alexa voice commands are new with the update.

That means Canadians will be able to do tremendously Canadian things like ask for updates from The Weather Network, get flight info from Air Canada, listen to news reports from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and more. I know what all of these things mean because I am, in fact, Canadian myself.

Canadians also have relatively few options when it comes to premium smart speakers on the market: The Apple HomePod and the Google Home Max have yet to launch in country. Still, an Alexa-enabled Sonos One should be all that most Canadians need – in fact, I recently called the Sonos One the best option out there all around in a smart speaker, and that remains true.

There’s finally a board game powered by Amazon Alexa

Your next family game night could include Amazon Alexa. 

Game manufacturer Sensible Objects has released When in Rome, the first board game to incorporate Alexa. 

Through your Amazon Echo device, Alexa teaches you the rules, keeps track of the score, and guides you through the game. 

The game is pretty simple. Players sit around a world map, and each places their marker on a “home city” to start. 

Players then travel around the map to various major cities. As your marker enters each city, Alexa asks you questions about that city’s weather, customs, food, culture, and more. The questions range from easy (“Is San Francisco foggy?”) to difficult (“Which of these is not a real pub?”). 

Players earn points by answering questions correctly. The player with the most points at the end wins. You can also forgo points in favor of action cards, which you can deploy to sabotage other players in various ways. 

For example, one card enables you to “Trash Talk.” If you read Alexa the phrase on the card, she’ll humorously insult the other players. 

When in Rome is the first installment of Voice Originals, the company’s upcoming series of voice-augmented tabletop games. 

The game launches in summer for $29.95. The accompanying Alexa skill, of course, is free. 

Sensible Objects recommends it for ages “5 to 99.” It’s possible for young kids to play, but since it’s a game about world trivia, older kids and adults will likely be the biggest fans. 

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Learn how to build advanced voice and chatbot interfaces plus more with these online courses

Learn how to code and transform your career.
Learn how to code and transform your career.

Image: pexels

There’s a lot we don’t know about the future, but it’s a pretty good bet that many of our systems and infrastructure will be automated. From thermostats to speakers to robot butlers, the Utopian version of Terminator 2 is almost becoming a reality. And the best part is, you don’t have to be a fancy scientist to take advantage of this new era. 

Familiarize yourself with all the necessary skills with the Voice, Chat, and Vision Automation Bundle. This five-course bundle teaches you enough to hit the ground running and become an automation machine. So, what does it include?

An Amazon Alexa Course

Voice-activated assistants let you convey complex information to customers in a free-flowing, conversational way and Alexa is the crown jewel. This course will teach you how to build apps with full Alexa integration for popular Amazon devices like Echo, Echo Dot, and FireTV.

A Machine Learning Course

Machines can do things like pattern matching far better than humans, so it’s important to take advantage of them. This course will teach you SikuliX, a popular scripting/automation technology that works with Python and Java. You’ll also learn how to write image recognition software for common machine-learning functions like OCR.

A Search Engine Course

If you think Google is the be-all and end-all of search, think again. New engines like Elasticsearch combine top-notch search engine technology with impressive data warehousing for true next-level performance. This valuable course will improve your search-related programming skills in ways that you didn’t even know were possible. 

A Chatbot Course

DialogFlow, a conversational interface for bots, devices, and applications is popping up everywhere from online shopping websites to technical support chat windows. This course will teach you how to harness its power and build a Chatbot so natural that your friends will think that they’re talking to an actual person.

A Voice Course

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to move on to the big boys. This course will teach you how to build advanced voice and chatbot interfaces for popular third-party services like Slack and Facebook.

The Voice, Chat, and Vision Automation Bundle normally costs $845, but you can get it now for just $29, a savings of 96%.