Amazon Calling coming to Fire Tablets “Soon”.

13 05 2017

I was pleased to learn that the new Alexa app on our iPhone and Android phones is capable of making and receiving Amazon Echo Calls and Messages.

I updated all the apps on my 5th Gen Fire Tablet but the Alexa app is still the old app with old icon and menu structures and no ability to use Amazon calling functions.

After a fruitless search online I found no information on Amazon’s website or any news sites about support for Amazon Calling on Fire Tablets. I started a support chat session for my Fire Tablet and soon learned that the Alexa app on Fire devices will support Amazon Calling “Soon”. Amazon aren’t providing specific dates, but indicated its a priority for them.

I also asked about the website http://alexa.amazon.com and if it would support Amazon Calling. The support rep was a little more cagey and did not indicate that such functionality is being developed. The rep did say however that Amazon’s ultimate goal is to have Amazon Calling on any and every device.

You can read the transcript between myself and Amazon tech support here.

Part of my motivation to find out about this is that I hoped I could turn my Fire Tablet into a ‘poor mans’ Amazon View at no extra cost; just put it on a stand and make or receive calls. It sounds like they will certainly support audio on Fire Tablets. I’m not sure they will go as far as video calls on a Fire device as this will undermine View sales. However how cool would it be if you could make a video call using a Fire Tablet or even better your TV using Fire TV?

Advertisements




Amazon quietly unleashes a sleeping giant – Alexa – to a TV near you

5 03 2016
Fire TV Stick now comes with Alexa

Fire TV Stick now comes with Alexa

What this isn’t

This post isn’t about Amazon Echo, a device that has received rave reviews from most of its owners.

It isn’t about the newly announced Echo Dot or the Echo Tap devices that extend the Alexa experience around your home.

As great as those devices are, they won’t extend Alexa into a household unless someone buys a new (relatively expensive) tech gadget.

What this post *is* about.

Amazon have started giving Alexa away for free!!

Alexa is a very powerful cloud platform, not a cute name associated with an expensive gadget for upwardly mobile techies.  You maybe able to use Alexa on a device you already own – a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick for nothing. The latest software update to Fire TV and Free TV Stick has Alexa technology built in. You may already have Alexa attached to your TV which is ready to respond to your commands, you just didn’t know it.

You can be excused for not knowing about this. While the Amazon Echo Dot and Tap have been getting all the press lately, on the Verge and Lifehacker, articles announcing Alexa as “coming” on Fire TV devices have gone largely unnoticed.

The Amazon Echo is quite expensive at $179, the Tap at $129. Alexa on your Fire TV comes in at $0. Free. Nada. So now instead of looking at Alexa as a device (Echo, Dot or Tab) we now see it for what it is,  an all encompassing cloud platform. This is just the start of something huge Amazon are building.

Fire TV Set Top Box

Fire TV Set Top Box

Using Alexa on your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick device.

Your Fire TV device needs the latest Fire TV software version, version 5.0.5. You probably already have it, if not, it’s easy enough to request an update.

Next download the Fire TV App on your Android or iOS phone. Turn on your TV and Fire TV device, launch the app and sync to your Fire TV device. That’s it you’re ready.

You’ll notice a microphone icon at the top of the app interface, drag it down and *hold* it down. It works like a walkie talkie, you have to hold the microphone button while you talk. Speak your command like, “add sausages to my shopping list”. Alexa verbally responds on your TV speakers “Sausages added to your shopping list” and there is your shopping list displayed on your TV. Echo can’t do that, it hasn’t got a 56″ HD display to work with.

Try something else like “Play Adele”, and Adele plays on your TV. Say “Downton Abbey” and your Fire Tv device shows a tile for the TV show. Much quicker than searching with the remote text input on fire TV.

Screenshot 2016-03-05 at 12.27.33

Sometimes Alexa is dumb.

Some commands fail, either Alexa didn’t understand what you said, or doesn’t know how to respond. For example instead of understanding the word “Democrat” she may hear “Dimmock Rat”. Current affairs typically trip her up. So how do you figure out what she heard?

Next you need to download the Alexa app to your smart phone. Once installed you can look at the history of voice commands and in plain text is what Alexa heard you say. You ca also play back the audio of your command. A little bit creepy to think Amazon stores your voice commands indefinitely, but at least you can see and hear what they have recorded. Transparency helps with the creepy factor.

The Alexa app also shows you your shopping list, useful at the store so you don’t forget the sausages you wanted.

Alexa also has a to do list you can mange verbally. If you already have a calendar and don’t want another ‘to do list’, then you can attach your Google Calendar to Alexa instead and then have Alexa read you calendar to you audibly by saying “What’s my schedule?”.

Alexa can also play your current Audible book to your TV, just say “Play my Audible Book” and it starts and aslo shows the books cover art. It is fully whisper sync compatible and synchronizes with your other audible playing devices. If found it important to say “Stop playing my book” to be sure it recorded my place in the book.

Managing links to other services such as Uber or Dominoes pizza is best done on your compuer via Amazons Alexa website alexa.amaxon.com

If you like it, add the voice remote for Fire TV for $29.

You can add a voice remote

You can add a voice remote

Using the free Fire TV smart phone app is great, but navigation isn’t as easy as with a physical remote. Its easy to trigger a TV show accidentally while scrolling through a list of episodes. The Voice Remote can be purchased from Amazon for $29. I have the original Fire TV Stick, the new 5.0.5 software has made the device a little less responsive than it was, Amazon maybe stretching its capabilities to the max, you may instead decide to upgrade to the new version of the stick that comes with the voice remote or get the full featured Fire TV.

The fire TV Stick can’t do all features of Alexa. Home automations such as switching on lights, changing thermostat temperature aren’t available. You can’t train ALexa to understand your dialect better. For those functions you need the full Fire TV set top box device or one of the Echo products.

Alexa on your TV – not just a me too upgrade.

Alexa's response to my question about Mt Everest

Alexa’s response to my question about Mt Everest

Actually seeing your full shopping list visually, seeing the album art for that music adds to the experience of Alexa. If you do a search for Mt Everest it shows you a picture of the mountain on the TV as well as tell you the basic facts. That’s neat. This isn’t just a me too experience. Amazon are smart, they realize giving Alexa away for free will drive sales of Alexa compatible devices as you get to use the service more and more.

Some may not want to sink $180 into a fancy speaker system you can talk to and listen to music on. Alexa on a Fire TV ($100) or Fire TV Stick ($50) is much cheaper and does much more as a true set top box device with video and the ability to run applications such as YouTube and NetFlix. Alexa on your TV It isn’t always listening, so may allay privacy fears from people who are concerned with Amazon listening in.

 





Best Buy’s 30 day price guarantee is the real deal.

22 07 2012

My New TV

Recently I purchased an LED TV at Best Buy for $999.99. The price was competitive with Amazon.com so I went ahead with the purchase and was told that there is a 30 day price guarantee anyway. If I see it cheaper somewhere else within 30 days I’ll get the difference back.

6 days after buying the TV I see it at Sam’s club for $968.00!! I took a snap of the price on the shelf with my droid 3 and ran on down to Best Buy.

The customer service rep was quick to point out that Sam’s club model number was slightly different to the Best Buy model number and I thought , here we go I’m getting nothing. I purchased Read the rest of this entry »





Netflix Streaming – First Impressions

4 12 2010

Netflix are offering 31 day ‘free trials’ to their Movie and TV Show offerings via real-time internet streaming versus their traditional model of getting movies in the mail.

31 Day ‘Free’ Trial:

I say ‘free trial’ carefully, you have to provide some form payment such as credit card or paypal account to get this free trial. Really what they are offering is the first month for free if you sign-up and  join.

For me Movies are just OK and I’ve often considered a Netflix account, but always shied away, Recently however they have added TV shows to their offerings as well as the real-time streaming. This time I bit and signed up.

Quality of Streaming Content:

Don’t know what streaming is/means? If you seen a YouTube video that’s streaming, but there the comparison ends. NetFlix have done well.

I think the quality is great! Not quite as clear as the 1080i TV broadcasts I’m accustomed to, but definitely 720p quality! Considering my modest setup I am quite frankly amazed at the Read the rest of this entry »