Amazon’s Echo Device Chief on the Risk of Alexa’s Many Rewards

Imagine an always-on digital-assistant who is friendly, will turn off your lights, order from your shopping list, can chat about anything from the World Cup to Japanese anime, and who will also know to cheer you up when you’re feeling blue. This is part of the array of delights that Toni Reid, Amazon’s vice president of Alexa experience and Echo devices, thinks about when she considers the future of the smart speaker she’s overseen from its earliest inception.

It starts with the human element. “What surprised us was how many times people were asking questions that didn’t need an answer,” Reid told the crowd at Fortune’s Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo on Monday. People so often share things like expressions of loneliness and frustration, or a romantic longing for “Alexa” herself, that their editorial team spends a lot of time thinking about how the service can continually respond in ways that are relevant. “We work hard to build in these ‘delighters’ for the customer experience…. And we’ve taken that approach globally,” said Reid.

But these Alexa’s delights are not without risk.

Reid addressed a recent incident in which an Alexa device recorded an Oregon woman’s private conversation and shared it with a random person in her contact list. Privacy has always been top of mind, said Reid, ticking through a list of design elements: The device has a mute button; it lights up to show users it’s listening; and owners can review and delete whatever Alexa has recorded them asking or saying. Heck, people can unplug it if they want to. “We built in multiple safeguards and it still failed,” Reid said.

She understands how that incident makes consumers who are already concerned about data privacy even more nervous. According to Reid, the data Alexa collects is only used to improve the speech technology itself, to better understand the intent of the consumer. “Nothing else.”

Reid just celebrated her twentieth anniversary at the company, a milestone which comes with a gray badge. “To match the gray in my hair,” she joked. “We were just a bookstore,” she said when she first became of only 600 Amazon employees.

Even though Amazon boasts more than a half million employees now, she says the company operates more like a collection of start-ups. “We can try new things, fail fast, and take an interactive approach,” she said. “Alexa was a bold bet we thought we could make.”

Fortune

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The Amazon Echo Look picked a dress for me to wear to a friend’s wedding and it did not disappoint

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The Amazon Echo Look is like your mini personal stylist. It takes photos of your outfits and the app will tell you which outfit looks better and offer suggestions for other items to pair with your outfits. Read more…

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ENTERTAINMENT DEAL UPDATE:

You’re running out of time to get the Echo Dot for cars at its best price ever

Amazon Echo For Car

Of all the deals we’ve covered this week, one in particular has really managed to stir up some buzz. It’s Amazon’s current sale on the Roav VIVA by Anker, a tiny gadget that looks like a regular old car charger adapter. It’s so much more, however; it’s basically an Echo Dot for your car. This nifty device links to your smartphone for connectivity and puts all of Alexa’s power at your fingertips while you drive. Ask Alexa questions, order stuff on Amazon or add things to your wish list, or stream some music while you drive. It’s an awesome device, and it’s currently on sale at its lowest price ever — but only for a couple more days, so grab one while you can.

Here’s what you need to know from the product page:

  • Alexa Inside: Amazon’s voice service gives you complete voice control in your car. Just say the word to get directions, hear the latest news, shop online, play music, and more over Bluetooth, Carplay or Android Auto. What You Get: Roav VIVA, Manual, Quick Guide, Happy Card, Skills Cards, 12-month warranty and our friendly customer service.
  • Voice Isolation: 2 integrated microphones provide noise cancellation and accurate voice identification.
  • High-Speed Charging: Dual charging ports equipped with Anker’s exclusive PowerIQ technology deliver blazing charging speeds to both driver and passenger.
  • Tap To Mute: Just hit the button to effortlessly mute and unmute the microphones, so Alexa is only listening when you want her to be.
  • Note: Please check your car’s outlet before purchasing. If your VIVA cannot be plugged in or has connection issues with your car, return it for a full refund in 30 days. Please check the list of unsuitable car models below. If you have other issues, contact us via Live Chat in the app. May have compatibility issues playing media via Bluetooth with Doge Caravan. Try connecting your phone to your car via CarPlay or Android Auto.

Roav VIVA, by Anker, Alexa-Enabled 2-Port USB Car Charger for In-Car Navigation, Hands-Free Cal…: $ 39.99

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  1. Today’s best deals: Echo Dot for cars, Nest Thermostat, $ 20 Wi-Fi extender, $ 99 robot vacuum, more
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You’re running out of time to get the Echo Dot for cars at its best price ever originally appeared on BGR.com on Thu, 19 Apr 2018 at 12:01:56 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


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‘Destiny 2’ Is Adding An Interesting Perk for Amazon Echo Users

Voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa have always invited comparisons to robotic companions and artificially intelligent helpers from science fiction. Perhaps then it comes as no surprise that video game makers are seeing an opportunity in Alexa — specifically when it comes to Destiny 2.

Bungie and Activision are releasing a new Alexa skill Wednesday that makes it possible for players to speak with their Ghost companion verbally through an Echo device. In Destiny, the Ghost is an AI companion that assists a player’s character in part by providing useful information and helping them find items.

As such, the Ghost Skill is designed to help players with specific tasks, like figuring out what to do next in the game, managing inventory, learning more about the world, and connecting with friends. Players could, for example, say something like, “Alexa, ask Ghost to call for backup,” or “Alexa, ask Ghost to equip my most powerful weapon.” The Ghost Skill is voiced by Nolan North, the same actor behind the character in the game, and contains more than 1,000 lines of speech with millions of variations.

The skill updates in real time so that it matches a player’s status as he or she progresses through the game. Using Alexa to communicate with Ghost doesn’t necessarily give players any sort of competitive advantage. And the concept of using a companion app or service to help manage items or connect with other players isn’t new — Bungie has long offered a Destiny smartphone app.

But Activision’s Ian Trombetta says communicating via voice could be particularly helpful for saving time since it cuts out the need to scroll through weapon and armor choices. “We know a lot of our players use other platforms to manage their inventory,” says Trombetta, the company’s vice president of consumer marketing. “So this keeps the focus on the gameplay itself.” Players can also say, “Alexa, tell Ghost to equip my raid loadout” to switch to an entire set of gear rather than equipping each piece manually.

Other than using the Ghost Skill to change weapons and armor, players can use it to find out which friends are online, learn more about other characters, and tell a player about how his or her clan has been performing and what they can do to earn more rewards.

A limited edition Ghost speaker was also announced on Wednesday, which was made specifically for using the Alexa skill and will be available on Amazon starting Dec. 19. The $ 89.99 Wi-Fi speaker was made to look like the Ghost from the game and must be connected to an Alexa-enabled device in order to work.

Both Amazon and Destiny 2‘s creators have reason to hope that the Ghost Skill catches on with fans. If successful, it will undoubtedly be seen as another prime example of how the Echo and other similar smart speakers can be used to provide experiences you can’t get elsewhere. That’s particularly important considering many skills have struggled with retaining users thus far. There’s only about a six percent chance that a user will return to a skill a week after enabling it, according to analytics firm VoiceLabs. That’s an improvement from the three percent second-week retention rate VoiceLabs reported in January, but is still a relatively small figure.

Meanwhile, Destiny 2 critics have recently complained that there isn’t enough to do in the endgame, which is the portion that takes place after players have essentially completed the storyline and start repeating gameplay to find rare loot and weapons. The Ghost skill is likely an attempt to convince players they haven’t seen everything yet. “[There are] some fun Easter eggs around things that our players know quite a bit about some of the characters,” says Trombetta. “It allows you to dive deeper into the world of Destiny.”


Entertainment – TIME

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Amazon turns up the volume on rivals with Echo price cut

SEATTLE (AP) — Amazon will head into the holiday shopping season with a simple wish list: It wants voice-controlled devices featuring its digital assistant Alexa to become as ubiquitous in people’s homes as televisions.
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My new favorite Echo Dot accessory lets you mount the Dot on your wall like a Nest

Echo Dot Accessories

For a very long time, the VAUX Cordless Home Speaker + Portable Battery for Amazon Echo Dot was my favorite accessory out there for Amazon’s mini Echo speaker. Just drop in your Echo Dot and it instantly becomes a portable Alexa smart speaker with killer sound. I still like the VAUX accessory, but there’s a new accessory that has climbed to the top of my list. You’ve got to check out The Flush Mount by Mount Genie, which lets you install the Echo Dot in any wall like it’s a built-in speaker! Honestly, it might be the best $ 20 you ever spend.

Here’s what you need to know from the product page:

  • PLEASE NOTE: Power is still needed for the device. Requires minor installation which is easy for most and includes wiring. (10’ USB and AUX adapter)
  • Held in place with precise pressure fit and wire placement.
  • The mount comes in bright white like most switch plates but can be easily painted if desired.
  • Patent Pending “Sound Channel” provides un-muffled, crisp sound from built-in speaker.
  • Compatible with most round speakers up to 3.4” diameter, including the Echo Dot 2nd Generation, ZOEE Aluminum Round, Smileto Mini Round, MindKoo Smart Wireless, and XinDingLi X1 360.

The Flush Mount – Built-in Wall or Ceiling Mount for Round Dot Puck Speakers – Includes Wir…: $ 19.99

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Hackers can spy on you through Amazon Echo

Smart home speakers equipped with microphones programmed to listen for everything you say may be turned into devices that would spy on everything you say. Gadgets like Amazon Echo and Google Home are programmed to record your commands, but they’re also programmed to ignore everything you say unless you use a hot word to activate…
Tech | New York Post

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