All posts in “Amazon Alexa”

Your nightstand needs this Alexa-compatible smart alarm clock that’s on sale

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Image: vobot

Odds are you’ve probably had the same fake-wood-paneled drugstore alarm clock since the Bush administration, or you’ve resorted to setting an alarm on your smartphone and laying it next to your pillow every night. 

If any of that sounds familiar, you should check out Vobot. This cute little device is like a combination white noise machine, personal assistant, and stereo, plus it’s fully compatible with Amazon Alexa. It deserves a prime piece of nightstand real estate if you ask us.

Check it out in action:

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Vobot is a completely self-contained device that connects to Alexa via an onboard app, so you never need to worry about smartphone compatibility or pairing issues. It uses voice, touch, and motion controls, so all you need to do is tap its screen and talk to check the weather, hear the news, or play music. Plus, Vobot’s white noise and hypnotic music features can help you get to sleep faster, and if you prefer listening to music or audiobooks while you fall asleep, you can stream them through Amazon, iHeart Radio, and TuneIn. You can also choose peaceful wake-up music, so you’re never kicked awake by a harsh buzzing alarm ever again.

Normally the Vobot sells for $59, but Mashable readers can take 23% off and get one for $44.99.

Amazon could drop 8 new Alexa-powered devices, including a microwave

Disclosure

Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

Like this, but a microwave.
Like this, but a microwave.

Image: mashable

“Alexa, cook my burrito.”

Yes, that could be our glorious future as Amazon is planning to introduce at least eight new Alexa-powered devices this year, according to an internal document obtained by CNBC

Some of them will be revealed at an event later this month, CNBC reported. We could see a subwoofer, receiver, car gadget, and amplifier. But also, that microwave. Imagine the possibilities: telling Alexa to defrost your Trader Joe’s pasta, and, um, probably lots of other useful stuff. 

Some of the devices will simply be able to connect to Alexa; others will have the digital assistant built in. 

You can already use Alexa on GE’s smart microwave, which, sadly, is not called the Funcooker. Sonos released two speakers that feature Alexa. 

Amazon isn’t the only company trying to spread its digital assistant. JBL has released several smart displays equipped with Google Assistant. 

Both companies face competition from Apple, which released its Siri-powered HomePod smart speaker earlier this year. 

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Amazon Echo Dots are coming to every St. Louis University dorm room

This is the first university campus to implement personal smart speakers (other higher education institutions like Arizona State University have put devices in communal student spaces) but is really part of a greater trend of smart speakers taking over shared areas.
This is the first university campus to implement personal smart speakers (other higher education institutions like Arizona State University have put devices in communal student spaces) but is really part of a greater trend of smart speakers taking over shared areas.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Alexa, can you wake me up for my 8 a.m. class?

St. Louis University in Missouri is equipping all its dorm rooms — more than 2,300 of them — with Amazon Echo Dots that are customized to SLU-specific questions: sports, concerts, speakers on campus, and other collegiate activities.

This is the first university campus to implement personal smart speakers (other higher education institutions like Arizona State University have put devices in shared student spaces), but this is really part of a greater trend of smart speakers taking over communal areas.

“Every minute we can save our students from having to search for the information they need online is another minute that they can spend focused on what matters most: their education,” David Hakanson, the university’s vice president and chief information officer, said in the announcement earlier this month.

The university conducted a pilot test of the technology last semester in select residence halls, and the results clearly came out positive.

SLU now dedicates an entire webpage called Amazon and Saint Louis University to introduce the program, outfitted with frequently asked questions, a statement on privacy, and a list of SLU-specific questions students can ask the device.

There’s even a promotional video welcoming the devices to campus:

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Although the privacy statement (akin and linked to Amazon’s Alexa for Business frequently asked questions page) says questions will not be tracked, audio will not get recorded, and that no personal information is linked to the devices, this still seems like a privacy scandal waiting to happen.

Even if Amazon and SLU both promise to not track attributable or specific student information (both will be collecting broad-sweeping data though), cyber-savvy interlopers — students included — are surely going to try hacking the devices and some data will mostly likely be leaked or collected.

A simple search of “how to hack alexa dot” yields thousands of results, with alarming links to stories like “A Hack can Turn an Amazon Echo into a ‘Wiretap’.”

Cyberthreats already pose a massive threat for universities. New York University, with one of the best cybersecurity programs in the country for example, was targeted by Russian hackers and as of March 2017 had hundreds of open IT risks, many of them categorized as a “high risk.”

Alexa is now just another target.

So while this may increase convenience and quality of life in the immediacy, the long-term effects (casual things like identity theft, privacy breeches, etc.) might need a deeper evaluation.

It is important to note, however, that these concerns are not new or specific to the new SLU partnership with Amazon and is instead a privacy concern for device users worldwide.

“What is most exciting to me is the enhanced connectivity to the campus community these devices will provide,” said Kent Porterfield, SLU’s vice president for student development, in the announcement. “The more connected and engaged students are, the more they learn and benefit from their SLU experience.”

The university, according to the AWS business frequently asked questions page, has the ability to collect information from the SLU-specific questions, which will be interesting to see whether that changes how the university engages with its students.

Who needs new friends when Alexa’s around?

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Alexa Cast lets you skip the Bluetooth when streaming to your Amazon Echo

Disclosure

Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Apple has AirPlay so Google has Cast, so it was probably only a matter of time before Amazon made its own media-streaming technology.

Amazon just debuted Alexa Cast: a new way for customers to enjoy their favorite tunes on Alexa devices. However, compatibility is very limited as it only works with Amazon Music. 

This ability has been missing for quite some time. The main way to stream music directly from another device to an Echo is to use Bluetooth, and that will still work. Alexa Cast is a welcome new option, though, and the feature is available now on the iOS and Android Amazon Music apps. Just be sure to update the app to the latest version.

Turning on Alexa Cast is not very different from using Google Cast: Simply hit the Alexa Cast icon and choose the Echo device where you want your music to play. The app will stay in sync with the music as it’s playing through the Echo, allowing you to stop playback or control the volume quickly. 

This casting technology is compatible with all Alexa-enabled devices, meaning it works with Echo’s and third-party products like the Sonos One or C by GE Sol lamp

For now, Alexa Cast only works with Amazon Music. However, if Amazon were to release an API, other services like Spotify would be able to take advantage of the feature, but there’s so far no indication that will happen. Certainly don’t expect it to arrive for YouTube anytime soon, as Google and Amazon are constantly fighting.

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