As of this writing, Amazon has thousands of sources for flash briefings. The sources they include can be hyper-local like your local news station. Amazon also has specific topics like tech or business, or general info. Many of these sources, like NPR, are podcasts provided by Tune-In. These briefings are audio files Alexa plays for you. Other sources like the AP news stories are read in Alexa’s voice. I wish Amazon told you which ones were audio files because her voice drones on after a while. I hope I get to change her voice like I can with Siri. Right now, you can just change the language to the English (UK) or German.
Until recently, Siri’s only been available on an iOS device, Mac, or (in limited form) through your Apple TV. However, in June, Apple debuted its true Amazon Echo home competitor: the HomePod. Unfortunately, if you want one now you’ll have to wait—it’s not shipping until December. Still, we can make some comparisons about the two lines of products, as well as how Alexa and Siri compare as disembodied virtual assistants.
In September 2016, a university student competition called the Alexa Prize was announced for November of that year. The prize is equipped with a total of $2.5 million and teams and their universities can win cash and research grants. The process started with team selection in 2016. The 2017 inaugural competition focuses on the challenge of building a socialbot. The University of Washington student team was awarded first place for the 2017 prize. A second year of the competition has been announced.
By default, Echo devices use “Alexa” as their wake word. While the device is constantly listening, it only starts tracking and analyzing what you say next after it hears “Alexa.” It then pulls up the relevant results. However, if, say, someone in your house is already named Alexa, you can change the wake word to something else: Amazon, Echo, or Computer.
Alexa is the name of Amazon’s voice-based smart home assistant. While some folks will use the names interchangeably, Alexa is actually the name of just the AI—not the product. You can use Alexa in Amazon’s Echo products. These now include the original Amazon Echo, the smaller Echo Dot, the Amazon Tap, the Echo Look, and the newest addition to the lineup, the Echo Show.
Once you’ve filled out the page, it’s time to make a listing or profile page for your flash briefing. This process is the same as with any Alexa skill: give your briefing a short description, a long one and a profile image to use. After that, submit your skill and begin recording your content! When you upload new content to your audio host, it will automatically push to your flash briefing via RSS.
Audio quality may be in the ear of the beholder. The Wirecutter thought the Amazon Echo just edged out Google Home; PCMag, however, preferred the tones of Google’s smart home speaker. Basically: Both are comparable in terms of quality. However, if you stream music on Apple Music, Soundcloud, or Google Play, you’ll want to go with a Google Home over an Echo.
With Echo, you can talk to almost anyone hands-free—no tapping or searching required. Use Drop In to instantly connect to another compatible Echo at home or send an announcement across Echo devices, like calling the family for dinner or reminding the kids to go to bed. Plus, now with Skype calling stay in touch with friends and family in over 150 countries.