Welcome to our bi-weekly roundup of the best smart home and home automation news you might have missed over the weekend! Amazon upgraded Alexa devices to be ready to handle all your Winter Olympics questions. The company also added in support for curating your own playlist with your voice on an Alexa powered smart home speaker. The Echo Look got a serious upgrade, while Google has launched a sale to counter Amazon’s massive Valentine’s Day sale.
If you’re someone to likes to keep up with the Olympics from the comfort of your television, you’ve probably downloaded an app or two to tell you when the next event is about to begin. But if you have an Echo device at home, you can get rid of any of those additional reminders right away. Amazon has updated their Echo Devices with brand new skills for the Winter Olympics.
What does this mean for the average consumer? For starters, you can ask Alexa how many medals each country has won, or which athlete won those medals. If you want to make sure you are home or somewhere you can stream individual events, Alexa can help you plan your schedule in advance.For example, if you want to see a field event, you can ask Alexa when it begins. You will receive a response with the timing of your event in local time. You can then ask Alexa to set a reminder for you an hour or two in advance – depending on how long it takes you to get home.
But you may not always be able to watch each event, thanks to work or other commitments at home. But if you use the Echo Show or the Echo Spot, you can now add ESPN or TODAY to your flash briefing. If you have a Fire TV all you need to do is install NBC’s official app for sports. You can stream entire events or just watch the highlights later on.
In addition to flash briefings, you can also request a simple “What happened at the Olympics today?” to get a simplified, general overview of the highlights of each day. This works on the Amazon Echo, the Echo Dot, the Echo Spot, the Echo Plus and the Echo Show. The Winter Olympics will end on February 25, so take full advantage of Alexa on your Echo devices during this time!
Most smart speakers allow you to stream music from your phone’s music player, while some allow you to stream music directly through your subscription service. The latter is always preferable, though, as your phone does not have to be connected in order to play music. Additionally, you can use your phone for other things like taking calls while your music playback is independent and uninterrupted.
Amazon’s Echo devices are an example of the latter, with support for services like Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, TuneIn, and SiriusXM that work out of the box. On any of these services, you can ask for a particular song or album to be played, or a particular playlist that you’ve made in the past.The company has now announced a new capability that allows users who own an Echo device and a subscription to Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited can now create playlists with their voice. This means that instead of skipping or settings songs in a playlist to play on repeat, you can actually pick songs you want to play at random and add them to a playlist.
This new functionality does not require any user interaction to be activated, with any Alexa powered device supporting the feature. To be fair, if you really care about your music, you would be better off using a speaker from Sonos, like the Sonos One or the Sonos Play:1 instead. Another device that we recommend is the Echo Plus. Sure, you could listen in on your Echo Dot or Echo Show, but the audio quality of the devices mentioned above is a lot better and well worth the investment.
We’ve previously covered the Echo Look, Amazon’s exclusive, invite-only smart home fashion assistant. The device is designed to be your personal style expert, with suggestions powered by artificial intelligence designed to help you decide what to wear. The device is great for quick yes or no opinions when you just can’t pick your clothes.
Amazon built the device to the specifications needed to snap a full-body image of you and then process it on your phone via a dedicated app. That is where most of the magic happens and the suggestions are generated, powered by machine learning. These make up the Look Book section of the app on your phone. The Echo Look is already a capable device with no competitor, but Amazon isn’t resting on its laurels. The invite-only device has already received an update that adds more functionality to the device. The company has said the feature will begin to work on February 19.
Navigating to the new Collections section on your phone (while in the Echo Look app) will now allow you to organize everything in your closet. It allows for classification based on what you might use a particular piece of clothing for, where you prefer to wear a dress, or what color you prefer for your regular outfits. According to Amazon, the device can also make an automatic collection based on your favorite looks, pictures taken on your phone, videos you may have recorded with the Echo Look – even the weather and various seasons of the year!
In addition to the organizing functionality added into the Echo Look with this update, the device can also now recognize your voice based on who you are. Basically using the same Speaker ID that other Echo devices like the Amazon Echo and the Echo Dot, the device can now identify who is asking the Echo Look to take a picture and assign the image to the right profile.
This in incredibly useful if you share an Echo Look with another person. Separate Look Books and separate Collections should have been a feature from the very beginning and after using them for a while, it’s actually a little surprising how Amazon is only adding this functionality now. The company wants to dominate the smart fashion assistant space and the constant updates to the Echo Look are proof that they have no intentions of stopping!
The Amazon Echo Dot has been one of the company’s best selling products to this date. With over 93000 reviews at the time of writing this article and tens of millions in sales during the holiday season, there is little doubt that the smart speaker is one of the most wanted in the market right now.
The Amazon Echo Spot, the Fire TV Stick and the second generation Amazon Echo are all $15 off their list price, while the Echo Dot is $10 off. The Cloud Cam is $20 off, while the Amazon Key In-home Kit and the Echo Show are $39.99 and $50 off respectively, which make for incredible savings, if you’re looking for a gift that will be useful for years to come.Google has begun to feel the pressure already, with Amazon’s exceedingly popular devices getting even more affordable as a crucial gifting season approaches. Accordingly, the company has reduced the prices of their Home devices in order to compete with Amazon’s attractive pricing.
Accordingly, the Google Home Mini has received a price cut of $10, while the Google Home price has been reduced by $30. We would consider the Google Home a good deal at $99, but the $39 price tag of the Google Home Mini brings it directly into Amazon’s Echo Dot territory – a definite must buy if you ask us!
On the other hand, Amazon has discounted several Alexa compatible products on their website, with the Echo devices being the most value for money. The company is offering savings on The Amazon Key Kit, the Cloud Cam, the Echo Dot, the Echo Spot, the Echo Show and the second generation Amazon Echo. Kindle devices, Fire HD tablets and Fire TV sticks are also discounted, making them excellent gift choices for your significant other. These discounts are only good till the 14th of February, though, so if you haven’t taken advantage of them, hurry!
This weekend was all about Amazon and how the company has constantly moved towards keeping their products up to date. By adding useful functionality to their devices over time, they have amassed a loyal user base that Google will have a very hard time trying to win over. With the Echo Look gaining even more features in a space that it is virtually unchallenged in and the Echo devices receiving new capabilities for the Winter Olympics, it looks like Amazon is virtually unstoppable in their quest to stay at the number one spot. Will Google’s last minute discounts be enough to compete with Amazon’s massive Valentine’s Day sale?
Stay tuned for the next smart home news round-up on Thursday, and if you spot any other smart home or connected home technology news we might have missed – let us know on Twitter @homesmartlife or on Facebook!