While Amazon has integrated a ton of useful features into the Alexa experience, you can expand that even further by installing third-party skills. You can search and download these under the Skills submenu of the app, which you can access in that upper left-hand side menu button. Here, you can download some of those third-party capabilities we mentioned earlier: adding NPR to your Flash Briefing, downloading ambient rainforest sounds (apparently that’s a customer favorite), or add a game such as Jeopardy! or Word Reverse. There are a number of skills targeted at kids and families, such as Amazon Storytime and Animal Sounds, and there are even skills for helping you get more fit, like 30 Day Pushup Challenge and 7-Minute Workout.
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.
There are concerns about the access Amazon has to private conversations in the home and other non-verbal indications that can identify who is present in the home with non-stop audio pick-up from Alexa-enabled devices. Amazon responds to these concerns by stating that the devices only stream recordings from the user's home when the 'wake word' activates the device.
In November 2018, Amazon sent 1700 recordings of an American couple to an unrelated European man. The incident proves that Alexa records people without their knowledge. Although the man who received the recordings reported the anomaly to Amazon, the company did not notify the victim until German magazine c't also contacted them and published a story about the incident. The recipient of the recordings contacted the publication after weeks went by following his report with no response from Amazon (although the company did delete the recordings from its server). When Amazon did finally contact the man whose recordings had been sent to a stranger, they claimed to have discovered the error themselves and offered him a free Prime membership and new Alexa devices by way of apology.
Google Assistant doesn’t have flash briefings in the Alexa sense — instead, you’ll be publishing your audio content as a podcast. This is a little more technical than Alexa’s process. First, your briefing will need its own homepage. Second, you’ll need to edit the briefing’s RSS feed to include snippets of code that are required for Google Assistant to recognize it in its directory — check out all the requirements here. Google doesn’t require setting up an Assistant action. Once you’ve included the necessary code in your RSS feed, your podcast will show up automatically within search results.
^ Green, Penelope (11 July 2017). "'Alexa, Where Have You Been All My Life?'". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2017. When Toni Reid and her colleagues at Amazon set out to build the device that is now known as Alexa, they were inspired by the computer that drove the Enterprise on Star Trek (voiced by Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who played Nurse Chapel on the series and was married to the show's creator). Focusing on cadence and an accent that would suggest 'smart, humble, helpful,' the team tested voices that a diverse population would respond to. 'Our goal was to have Alexa be humanlike,' Ms. Reid said, but why end there?