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[Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

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[Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Kasey Chang » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:15 pm

standing speaker / microphone array that picks up your voice commands... from several feet away, even when playing music.

And natural language processing much like asking Google Now or Siri.

http://www.amazon.com/oc/echo/ref_=ods_dp_ae
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Scoop20906 » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:28 am

I'm pretty interested in this. Not because of what it does now but what it could do in the future. I've always wanted a internet connect box that I can issue commands to and ask questions. If Amazon allows this to be paired with ITTT and other wireless peripherals then this could be a really useful appliance.

You could turn on and off lights or the TV with a command. Maybe even create a script that starts your computer and turns on the monitor. Pair it with a phone and you can make calls.

I realize its not that simple but I'd like it to be.

I have prime to I requested to get it for $99. I'll probably buy it just for the fun factor.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by LawBeefaroni » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:46 am

Interesting but I fear it will be severly limited by being tied to the Amazon universe a la Kindle Fire and Fire phone.

For example:
Music: Listen to your Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.
So no other music services? What about local mp3s?
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Scoop20906 » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:57 am

LawBeefaroni wrote:Interesting but I fear it will be severly limited by being tied to the Amazon universe a la Kindle Fire and Fire phone.

For example:
Music: Listen to your Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.
So no other music services? What about local mp3s?
It is supposed to have desktop application so I am pretty sure you can upload your mp3s to that and then stream from the PC. That is pretty standard these days. I could be wrong tho.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Isgrimnur » Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:00 am

I hate having to fragment my MP3 library. I tried uploading MP3s over the network to the PS3 so I could play them, and it was a time consuming hassle. I'm not going to devote time to curating my ~80 GB of MP3s to move a subset onto another device that's not going to be updated when I make new purchases.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Fri Nov 07, 2014 11:41 am

I must possess one of those. Oh my.

Edit: I possibly must possess one of those, on the condition that it actually does something that Google Voice or Siri don't already do. MUST. CONTROL. IMPULSES....

I get that Siri has to be plugged in for you to be able to activate "her", so really, does not look too different (from a plugged in iPhone) with the exception of the voice pickup mics.

I actually use the Amazon music app for all my music as opposed to itunes, so even though I can tell Siri to OPEN Amazon music player, I can't do more than that. I would love to be able to say "Siri, play my "Sexy Time!" playlist in Amazon Music player. The fact that she will even OPEN a non Apple app is nice I guess, but ultimately useless unless taken a step further.

We are VERY close to Bill Gates' dream of the automated, "living" home - for the mainstream. You can actually do all (most?) of the automation he was looking forward to today, but it takes a lot of setup time, and working with multiple systems (lights, alarm, A/C, doors, TV, etc).

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Fri Nov 07, 2014 3:04 pm

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[Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Fri Nov 28, 2014 11:48 pm

One is now sitting in a box on my front porch. Hopefully. (delivered today but we are out of town). I guess I should wait and use this as a 'family' Christmas present.

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by hentzau » Fri Dec 19, 2014 3:50 pm

A friend of mine just got an invite to buy one. Still waiting for my invite.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with

Post by LawBeefaroni » Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:42 pm

Carpet_pissr wrote:One is now sitting in a box on my front porch. Hopefully. (delivered today but we are out of town). I guess I should wait and use this as a 'family' Christmas present.
Set it up and hide it. In a few weeks, check the history to see what they're saying about you. :wink:



I'm still on the fence. It sounds cool and all but it's still basically an eavesdropping device for data marketers and whoever else.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Sat Dec 20, 2014 4:44 pm

I bought one for $99, and within a week, they were SELLING (completed) on eBay for $500...soooo tempted, but I know it's something we will use a lot, since:
1. We are always in the kitchen
2. We always listen to music in said kitchen
3. We use Amazon music for our music platform
4. Kids are ALWAYS asking questions (and asking SIRI mostly).
5. I am constantly stopping cooking or whatever to manually put stuff on my to buy list for groceries, etc (on my phone).

Couldn't be a better fit IMO. I probably would not pay full price for it (yet) though. With some tweaks and add-ons where you control lights, locks and/or other house functions via voice, it will be damn cool. Software is still basically beta, and apparently it's much more capable than SIRI at understanding what you are asking.

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Wed Jan 28, 2015 12:04 pm

Update on the Echo after a month or so of use.

"Meh"

We use it daily, so I should qualify that meh, but it is certainly no Siri when it comes to answering random questions.

Hell, Apple should come out with something like Echo, and it would be awesome, just because the Siri AI seems to be much better.

For instance, I can ask Siri: what was the name of the starting kicker for the Denver Broncos last year? or "how tall is Jadeveon Clowney" or some random, tiny trivia, and if she won't answer verbally (and sometimes, she DOES, which is mind blowing), she will at least say something like "Here is a list of the starting kickers for Denver" and show them. Echo is not NEARLY that advanced, and frankly, the mics themselves are not as impressive as I was expecting and let to believe.

Sound clarity is VERY good, esp. considering the size of the device, but the actual software is still extremely rough. Just very basic commands. So you can tell Alexa to add something to your shopping list, but you can't tell her to remove something.

I hope they don't abandon the project though, as there is a ton of potential here, but the software does need a lot of work still.

As for now, it's primarily a music/news/weather player, plus a timer and shopping list that I don't have to fiddle with on my phone or tablet. That part is nice, but it could be so much more capable.

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by EvilHomer3k » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:50 pm

I like it. I haven't used it too much but what I have I like. They have already added some commands for Pandora (and another music service). I don't think Amazon is going to abandon it as they want you to use their services. I'm pretty invested in Amazon (kindle fire, prime, amazon tv stick, echo) so this is a natural fit for me. I don't use amazon music much but the integration with other music services is helpful. The main disadvantage for me is the lack of a Windows Phone app. It would be nice if they had a windows app.

The speaker is pretty good. Voice commands are useful. I like the addition to my shopping list. The magnetic remote is both simple and genius at the same time (it seems built for the kitchen). I think it is well worth the $99 I payed and will only get better. Not sure I'd fork over $200 but I really like it at $99.

I'd also like to see them work with phones to read/send email, make phone calls, and even access the phone's voice controls.

Overall, my biggest complaint is the lack of a WP app. I think they'll keep improving it but I'm happy with it as is. It's a fun device.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Mon Feb 02, 2015 5:41 pm

I went a little overboard with the new "Simon Says" feature they just released, which allows you to use the mic remotely, say "Simon Says "X" and Alexa will repeat "X"

So my 7 year old talks to Siri QUITE a bit using my phone. She will actually have like 10 minutes conversations, asking her how her day was, does she have a boyfriend, etc.

So she is doing this the other night, and I got it into my sick, twisted, Grinch like brain that I would have some evil fun. I closed myself into the pantry with the mic, and turned the Echo volume to 10.

"Sofia, come here!"
"Sofia, please stop talking to Siri, I really don't like her"
"Sofia, what did you tell Siri about me?"

And so on...

I thought I would emerge from the pantry with the sounds of laughter, but alas, only big tear drops, and a pitiful sounding "Alexa is JEALOUS of Siri or something, and frankly is CREEPING ME OUT!!" WAHHHHHH!! :D and :(

BAD Dad, BAD! :twisted: :oops:

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by EvilHomer3k » Mon Feb 02, 2015 6:18 pm

Funny but too bad it upset your 7 yo. It's easy to forget sometimes how empathetic and literal they are.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Freezer-TPF- » Sat Feb 07, 2015 11:42 am

Carpet_pissr wrote:BAD Dad, BAD! :twisted: :oops:
Yes, bad in that you did not capture it on video. You missed your chance to be a Youtube phenom for a few days.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Thu Apr 16, 2015 11:22 pm

Added some new functionality:

You can now use Echo to switch on the lamp before getting out of bed, turn on the fan or heater while reading in your favorite chair, or dim the lights from the couch to watch a movie—all without lifting a finger...or even raising your voice.

To get started, connect your WeMo and Hue devices to your home Wi-Fi and name them in their respective app. Then say, "Alexa, discover my appliances." After Echo's confirmation, you can control your devices by voice.

Things to try:

"Alexa, turn on the hallway light"
"Alexa, turn on the coffee maker"
"Alexa, dim the living room lights to 20%"
"Alexa, turn on the electric blanket"
"Alexa, turn on the outdoor decorations"

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by The Meal » Thu Apr 16, 2015 11:52 pm

As a Hue owner, that's pretty appealing.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Sat May 02, 2015 10:59 pm

Wow, development really seems to be happening at a quicker pace now - just added IFTTT support. Basic, but they say they will be adding more ways to implement it in future.

"Someone forget the shopping list?
If you ask "Alexa, what's on my Shopping List", then your Shopping List will be emailed to them.

Using Todoist, Evernote, or OneNote to stay organized?
If you ask "Alexa, add [an item] to my To-do List", then it will also be added to the selected app."

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Scoop20906 » Tue May 05, 2015 6:24 am

Back to interested
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by tiny ogre » Fri Jun 05, 2015 3:51 pm

Finally got ours yesterday, after pre-ordering at the Prime price months ago. So far I'm pretty impressed. The voice recognition is way better than I thought, especially at distance, and we haven't gone through the voice training even. I can be sitting in my office, without a line of sight (but almost) to the piece of the living room where we put it for now, 25-ish feet away, and it can still hear me just fine wihtout talking any louder than I would to a person sitting over there.

I blew lnorigb's mind when she was in the kitchen and said "We need olive oil."

Me: "Alexa, buy olive oil".
Alexa: "I don't see any in your order history, but I found (brand whatever olive oil) at $(price), shall I order that?"
Lnorigb: "Yes"
Alexa: "Ok, I ordered it"

And that transaction makes it painfully obvious why they're making this thing :). But I am very afraid of what's going to be showing up on our doorstep when our baby learns Alexa's name. Guess I'll have to find the parental controls once she's talking!

For playing music, it works, but playing specific songs hasn't worked very well so far. There's not much in our actual library, and the prime selection is either not very large or else the search just doesn't work very well yet.

Amazon has a pretty good history of continuing to improve things. I have confidence it's going to keep getting better, and at $100 it seems like a decent toy. I will look into WeMo and Hue, and all the various ToDo integrations. I do really want them to integrate it with the fire stick so I can tell it to play stuff on TV. They already have voice search for those things via the phone app, even just hooking up that much would be nice, but I'd like play/pause and other stuff too.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Fri Jun 05, 2015 4:02 pm

Even after all these months of additions, there are basically 4 things I use it for:
1. playing music (but I also use the Amazon music service, so ALL the CD's and music I have bought over the years, is available, i.e. hunormous library)
2. Getting a weather and news briefing every morning before work
3. Putting stuff on my shopping list
4. General jackassery - messing with the kids from afar, getting "her" to say stupid stuff, or just asking her how to pronounce "Sacagawea" :P

One thing I would add is that I would definitely not recommend this to someone with a largish family unless your kids are much older. With three under 10, SOMEone is making enough noise somewhere in the house (even if it's the nearby kitchen faucet turning on) that my commands/questions are either not heard, or heard incorrectly often enough to annoy the piss out of me.

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Isgrimnur » Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:38 am

Open season ...on ..on
The Web giant on Tuesday announced that the Echo is now available for everyone, no invite needed. Even better — it's also getting a price drop. Originally priced at $199 (Prime members got a temporary $99 price), you can now order it on Amazon's website for $179.99. It's slated to start shipping on July 14.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Matrix » Wed Jun 24, 2015 9:38 am

Sounds interesting, but closer to 99 interesting then 199 or 179

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by LawBeefaroni » Sat Feb 27, 2016 1:13 pm

Got one on the cheap at Home Depot of all places. Kind of underwhelmed.

However, I needed a bluetooth speaker for the kitchen and it does that well.
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[Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Scoop20906 » Sat Feb 27, 2016 1:15 pm

I just got one recently too as a gift. I use it to turn on and off my lifx bulbs with voice commands as well as give me news briefs as I leave for work. Another little convenience but nothing earth shattering yet.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Isgrimnur » Thu Mar 03, 2016 12:48 pm

New version
The e-commerce giant expanded its line of connected home devices on Thursday including a smaller version of its voice-controlled Echo that comes with a virtual assistant that can answer questions, turn on lights, and order items like diapers. The company also debuted a wireless speaker that allows you to play music from your phone and more.

Similar to the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot is a Wi-Fi-connected, voice-activated personal assistant. The biggest difference with the new model is its small size—it’s about as big as a hockey puck versus a 9.25-inch tall cylinder for the Echo—and that it comes with only a tiny speaker. Instead, users who want high quality sound must connect the device wirelessly to third-party speakers through Bluetooth or through a cord. The device also costs considerably less than the Echo, at $89.99 compared to its older sibling, which costs $179.99.

Using the Echo Dot requires downloading an app. To get the device to respond to commands, users merely need to say the word “Alexa,” the name of its virtual assistant.
...
Echo Dot’s built-in speaker is puny and akin to that of a mobile phone. Amazon recommends that users connect it to a high quality speaker if they want to play music.
...
Amazon is now entering the already crowded wireless Bluetooth speaker market that is filled with established competitors. In fact, many of these competitors sell their speakers on Amazon’s e-commerce site.

Amazon Tap costs $129.99, and can be connected to Wi-Fi through the Amazon Alexa mobile app. The device also connects through Bluetooth so you can stream music from your phone or tablet.

The device itself is a six inch cylinder that provides nine hours of audio when fully charged. Tap can be recharged through a charger and cable that comes with it, as well as through a dock. Similar to other Bluetooth enabled speakers, users can stream music from Spotify, Pandora, and a number of other music apps from a phone or tablet.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Jag » Tue Apr 19, 2016 9:25 am


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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Isgrimnur » Fri Jun 03, 2016 2:01 pm

TechCrunch
Amazon’s Echo speaker, and its descendents, Dot and Tap, are growing in popularity as consumers’ preferred “smart” speakers and the voice computing platform for the home. But they’re also encouraging a wave of developer interest, in the form of add-ons dubbed “skills” which allow you to teach Amazon’s personal assistant Alexa new tricks, like calling you an Uber…or ordering you a pizza. Today, Amazon announced that its Alexa app store, so to speak – the “skills” section – has grown to over 1,000 skills. That’s a notable milestone, given that ordering the Echo was only available by invite up until last June.

The company has also brought Alexa’s power to other connected devices, including Fire TV and even those made by third-party hardware makers, thanks to its open platform.

To give you an idea of how quickly this third-party “app” ecosystem has grown, in January of this year, Alexa’s skills section had reached over 130 apps.

In an announcement, the company highlighted several of the more notable additions to Alexa’s selection of skills, including those from Capital One, Domino’s, Fitbit, KAYAK, SmartThings, Uber, and others. Rob Pulciani, Director, Amazon Alexa, also gave an idea of the third-party developer community’s size – which is now in the “tens of thousands.” That implies significant interest in at least toying around with Alexa, even if not all developers are actually launching apps.
...
For example, in March, Amazon improved Alexa Voice Services, which lets developers add Alexa’s voice control to their own devices. And just this week, Amazon announced four new Alexa Skills Kit built-in intents that help users of third-party apps more easily navigate the skills, including being able to navigate to the next item in a list, pause an action in-progress, go back to a previous item, or resume an action.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Sun Jun 05, 2016 10:15 am

I love most things Amazon. Huge fan (FireOS excepted), but objectively, Echo's voice recognition, and just the ability to answer common questions well is wayyyy behind Siri.

Hopefully this new AI guru they hired recently will fix that, but I'm a little surprised at the uptake/interest in Echo after all this time, just due to the maddening lack of 'understanding' compared to Siri.

I guess opening your API counts for more than that.

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by tjg_marantz » Sun Jun 05, 2016 3:03 pm

You are the first person I've ever heard say that about the echo vs siri.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Sun Jun 05, 2016 4:20 pm

Well, all I have is anecdotal evidence, but it's pretty damning IMO. I have asked the same question to Siri that I have asked to Alexa, just to test myself, and the results favor Siri every time, or they tie (they both "don't know").

In most cases where Siri beats out Alexa, it's in being able to respond to a question by voice (as opposed to saying "let me look that up for you" and then pull open a browser with search results), but she also "understands" a much broader range of topics. Much less "I don't know what you mean" than Alexa as well.

To be fair, Siri has been in development for far longer, so it's possible Alexa will catch up (especially with the new AI lead mentioned above).

I'm also shocked that Apple doesn't have an Echo version of Siri, considering the success of Echo, since so many more people use iTunes than Amazon Music. Maybe knowing that they would be pressured to open the API to 3rd party developers to keep up scares them from competing? No idea.

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Isgrimnur » Mon Jun 13, 2016 2:31 pm

Siri opens up:
Siri is being opened up to developers. Expansion of Siri comes at crucial time, as its current limited utility risks putting Apple below competitors in developing artificial intelligence and natural-language learning that can simulate human conversations.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Zitterbacke » Sun Jun 19, 2016 1:32 pm

24/7 open mike party? I pass!
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by ImLawBoy » Mon Jun 20, 2016 12:32 pm

Got an Echo for Father's Day yesterday, but haven't had the chance to set it up or do anything other than take it out of the box yet.
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Tue Jun 21, 2016 2:53 pm

You might want to go through a couple of voice training sessions to save you from pulling hair out later.

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by ImLawBoy » Tue Jun 21, 2016 4:48 pm

So far it's easy enough, but I haven't really stressed it much. I told it to play "School's Out" by Alice Cooper as we waited for my son's bus (last day of school!), and it worked.

Is there a way to have it access my music if I have it all on Microsoft OneCloud?
We had subs. It was crazy

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by LawBeefaroni » Tue Jun 21, 2016 4:57 pm

"Alexa, tell me NHL scores."

"Here is your sports update. In the NBA the 76ers played the Knicks...."

"Alexa, stop. Tell me hockey scores."

"Here is your sports update. In the NBA the 76ers played the Knicks and..."

"Alexa stop. Alexa, play The Tossers."

"Playing The Tossers"



Mostly, my Echo is a glorified speaker. The kiddo loves asking it to tell her jokes though.
" Hey OP, listen to my advice alright." -Tha General
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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by coopasonic » Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:08 pm

ImLawBoy wrote:Is there a way to have it access my music if I have it all on Microsoft OneCloud?

That's funny.
-Coop

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Re: [Hmmm] Amazon goes after Google Now with "Echo"

Post by Carpet_pissr » Wed Jun 22, 2016 12:21 am

ImLawBoy wrote:Is there a way to have it access my music if I have it all on Microsoft OneCloud?
No, sorry, your music needs to live on Amazon. But you can use your Pandora account, TuneIn, Iheartradio, Spotify or Audible.

This is one thing that drives me crazy about the competing music platforms - they intentionally make transitioning from one to another difficult. I have some music only on iTunes (very little), some on Google Music, and most on Amazon.

I could see myself preferring a Siri version of the Echo speaker, but I abhor the iTunes platform.

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