Tag Archives: Alexa

Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube

By Josh Constine

To offset the creepiness of having Facebook’s camera and microphone in your house, its new Portal video chat gadget needs best-in-class software.  Its hardware is remarkably well done, plus Messenger and the photo frame feature work great. But its third-party app platform was pretty skimpy when the device launched this week.

Facebook is increasingly relying on its smart display competitors to boost Portal’s capabilities. It already comes with Amazon Alexa inside. And now, Google’s YouTube is part of the Portal app platform. “Yes, YouTube.com is available through an optional install in the ‘Portal Apps’ catalog” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. You can open it with a “Hey Portal” command, but there currently seems to be no way to queue up specific videos or control playback via voice.

The addition gives Portal much greater flexibility when it comes to video. Previously it could only play videos from Facebook Watch, Food Network, or Newsy. It also brings the device to closer parity with Google’s Home Hub screen, the Google Assistant-powered smart displays from JBL and Lenovo, and the Amazon Echo Show 2 which Google blocked from using YouTube before Amazon added a web browser to the device to reopen YouTube access.

Read our comparison of the top smart display gadgets

YouTube makes the most of the $349 Portal+’s 15.6-inch 1080p screen, the biggest and sharpest of the smart display crop. Whether for watching shows or recipe videos while making dinner, instructional clips while putting together furniture, or Baby Shark to keep the kids busy, Portal becomes a lot more useful with YouTube.

But we’re still waiting for the most exciting thing Facebook has planned for Portal: Google Assistant. A month ago Facebook’s VP of Portal Rafa Camargo told me We definitely have been talking to Google as well. We view the future of these home devices . . . as where you will have multiple assistants and you will use them for whatever they do best . . . We’d like to expand and integrate with them.” Now a Facebook spokesperson tells me that they “Don’t have an update on Google Assistant today but we’re working on adding new experiences to Portal.”

The potential to put both Google and Amazon’s voice assistants on one device could make Portal’s software stronger than either competitor’s devices. Many critics have asked if Facebook was naive or calloused to launch Portal in the wak of privacy issues like the Cambridge Analytica scandal and its recent data breach. But as I found when testing the Portal with my 72-year-old mother, not everyone is concerned with Facebook’s privacy problems and instead see Portal as a way for the social network to truly bring them closer to their loved ones. With Amazon and Google racing to win the smart display market, Facebook may see it worth the tech insider backlash to have a shot at mainstream success before its boxed out.

Source:: TechCrunch Gadgets


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Amazon’s Fire Tablets Are Now Becoming Echo Devices Through a New Feature/Update

By Radu Iorga

Amazon has done some nifty feature bumping for its Fire tablets this week, by introducing a feature on the devices, which turns a Fire tablet into an Echo device. The Bezos-ran giant recently showcased Alexa on Fire tablets, with a special “Show Mode” and a new charging dock.

Amazon wants to push Alexa further and put it at the forefront of the slate experience. This new Show Mode feature has appeared on the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets. It’s supposed to offer an immersive hands free Alexa experience. Show Mode makes the Fire tablet into a full screen mode, which lets Alexa serve up visual responses, aside from the audio based answers.

Thus, Alexa can be asked for news, weather, calendar events and more. Alexa is already four year old, being available on Amazon Echo speakers in 2014. The company launched some Echo branded speakers over the past years and they became so popular that they even made it to the “Mr. Robot” TV show as some sort of character, if we can call it that. It was pretty late to arrive on tablets, hitting Fire devices back in 2016.

 

Another late arrival is the fact that the Fire HD 10 inaugurated the hands free experience on a slate last year. The Fire 8 and Fire HD 8 got the similar feature a bunch of months ago, albeit with some limitations. This new update should be available over the air from July 2nd. Basically, all the compatible Amazon tablets instantly become Echo Show devices or alternatives of it.

Amazon also debuted a new accessory, the “Show Mode Charging Dock”, which switches the Fire tablet into a full screen Alexa mode when it’s hooked up. It also provides wireless charging to the Fire Tablet, ditching a few cables. From what I can see the dock is ideal to put the tablet at about a 45 degree angle. The dock costs $40 for the Fire HD 8 tablet and the one for Fire HD 10 is priced at $55.

The post Amazon’s Fire Tablets Are Now Becoming Echo Devices Through a New Feature/Update appeared first on Tablet News.

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Acer Bringing Amazon Alexa to Windows PCs Starting May 23rd

By Radu Iorga

Tomorrow is a big day for Amazon Alexa, that’s coming to Windows PCs, to spite Cortana. Acer is pulling off this move, by launching the famous assistant included in the TV show Mr. Robot on its devices. This is a premiere, which we detail below.

Acer announced this week that Alexa will be rolling out new Windows 10 PCs, within the Switch, Swift and Aspire series, that have Amazon Alexa on board. This is big news for Amazon, that already had its assistant on phones, tablets and various smart speakers. Acer’s notebooks are the first in the industry to offer this support, even the Acer Spin 3 and Acer Spin 5 series, which are available at retailers right now.

The inaugural models for this are the Acer Spin 5 and Acer Spin 3 devices, with availability slated for May 23 and the 26th respectively. Amazon Alexa has also been confirmed as supported on the Acer Nitro 5 Spin convertible gaming notebook line next month. Plus, the Aspire All in One PCs are also expected to get a similar treatment. We’re not 100% sure how well Alexa integrates with Windows 10 PCs and how much it lets you access from the OS.

A comical moment would have having Alexa start up Cortana or viceversa. Alexa can be asked to manage smart home devices from the PC, including lighting, thermostats and home appliances, all of that via voice. Amazon could have released Alexa in the Microsoft Store, to put it on all device brands, but Microsoft is probably not a big fan of that. In the meantime we expect Cortana to get an upgrade and become smarter, like Google Assistant did recently.

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HP’s Latest Envy All in One PC Has Alexa Built In, Huge Curved Screen

By Radu Iorga

Over the past 24 hours HP went berserk and launched a few PCs, laptops, desktops and more goodies. Chief among them is an unusual setup: an All in One HP Envy PC, with Alexa built in. This one lets you control the smart home gear around the house and also works as a powerful computer.

This is a 34 inch curved screen machine with Alexa and HP highlighted this thing in the device’s official description. It’s actually the first AIO with Alexa. If you use vocal commands you will be able to play music and check the weather, plus do tons of other querries. Bang & Olufsen speakers ensure optimal acoustics and a wireless charging pad juices up your phone.

The AIO has a wood grain finish, making it blend seamlessly with the surroundings. Inside we find an Intel core 8th gen CPU, GeForce GTX 1050 graphics and the resolution is an unusual 3340 x 1440 pixel resolution. No pricing or configs are available just yet, but we expect something north of $1500. Obviously this machine runs on Windows 10 and the Alexa integration doesn’t come alone, as you also get far field microphones and the blue light that activates when you’re doing voice commands.

The acoustics involve a soundbar with 4 B&O speakers, plus two passive radiators. If you ask me, the device’s base feels a lot like a sort of amplifier.

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Alexa’s Calling and Messaging Features Now Available on Tablets

By Radu Iorga

Alexa is not just your one stop place for vocal commands, reminders, recipes and so forth. It also has a voice and video calling functionality, which was recently unlocked on tablets. It was already available on the Echo and now it reached slates.

Amazon announced over the past 24 hours that it’s activating the support for calling and messaging features on iPads, Android tablets and Fire OS tablets. On Amazon Fire HD 10 for example, Alexa calling and voice messaging works via hands free, so you basically just ask Alexa to take some action. Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 or older generation slates will let you press the Home button to place a call or send a message.

It’s that easy, it seems. They also support Drop In, which is a feature that lets you use Alexa devices as intercoms. Basically you can connect with other devices around the home or in friends and families homes, if you enable that dedicated feature. In order to use the calling and messaging features, you need the latest version of the Alexa app and also to verify the phone number, then import contacts.

The expanded support for voice calls and messaging shows that Alexa is more than just a regular virtual assistant and hub for smart home features. Voice integration has been promised since January, so in the future you’ll speak to Alexa in a dedicated app, not just through Alexa devices. We see this as a way to matter more in the world of mobiles, where Amazon already failed with Fire Phone.

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