Amazon allows device manufacturers to integrate Alexa voice capabilities into their own connected products by using the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), a cloud-based service that provides APIs to interface with Alexa. Products built using AVS have access to Alexa's growing list of capabilities including all of the Alexa Skills. AVS provides cloud-based automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU). There are no fees for companies looking to integrate Alexa into their products by using AVS.
Note: Your Flash Briefing settings apply to all Alexa devices registered to your Amazon account, and all users in your home get access to the same Flash Briefing content. However, if you or anyone in your home has a voice profile, Flash Briefing automatically skips stories and news items you've already heard. To learn more, go to About Alexa Voice Profiles.
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 addition to performing pre-set functions, Alexa can also perform additional functions through third-party skills that users can enable. Some of the most popular Alexa skills in 2018 included "Question of the Day" and "National Geographic Geo Quiz" for trivia; "TuneIn Live" to listen to live sporting events and news stations; "Big Sky" for hyper local weather updates; "Sleep and Relaxation Sounds" for listening to calming sounds; "Sesame Street" for children's entertainment; and "Fitbit" for Fitbit users who want to check in on their health stats.
One of my favorite features of Amazon’s voice controlled speakers, the Echo and Echo Dot, is the Alexa News Flash skill. Out of the box, it plays you a quick news briefing from standard news sources. What you probably didn’t know however was that you can customize your Alexa Flash Briefing with literally thousands of skills, tailored perfectly to the news you want. Here’s how it all works and how to set it up.
Now you’re ready to set up your flash briefing feed. First, type in a custom error message, which can be up to 100 characters. Alexa will say this text to the user if the skill fails to deliver the content. For instance, you might say something like, “[Skill name] is not available at the moment.” To hear a preview of Alexa saying your error message, click the Play button on the right.
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.
Now I am still learning about this product. Every new thing I try I am pleasantly surprised. I plan to get at least a smart home door lock and thermostat to use with it in the future, and several light switches. I am no great fan of the "RING DOORBELL" (due to frequently needed battery recharging) at this point, but I understand Amazon has purchased that company and will soon have an interface app available to use with the "Ring System" If you want to keep up with the march of technology, this device is probably your best doorway to that end, since Amazon is committed to pursuing it. Others may drop out along the way. (NEW) I made a hands free phone call to my son this moring as a test of the phone capabilities. Sound on my end was like he was in the room. The Alexa app and it's capabilities are evolving technologies. Features will be added. (Mine did an update download while playing music) Don't be disappointed. It is attractively packed, and very capable, but the "instructions" are not detailed and are sketchy. Lean about it online as I did before you purchase it. Read as many reviews as your eyes and attention span will allow, and take the plunge! An education awaits you!