Thursday, March 3, 2016

Amazon announced two more Alexa-enabled devices: Amazon Tap - a PORTABLE Echo with Dolby stereo -- and the new Echo Dot that can be connected to speakers with a cable or bluetooth

Amazon Tap

Echo Dot

A quick alert on two new Alexa-enabled Amazon Tap and Echo Dot
I read about these this morning, from a couple of email pieces, one that was probably sent to most of us.

For those who didn't see them, here are the salient points quoted plus a photo of the Comparison table's Amazon Tap speaker features-detail (that are compared with other speakers on the product page) that will give an idea of what it can do vs features on other popular speakers. Voice Search is one.

At the left: Amazon Tap features used in a comparison table

"Amazon Tap is an Alexa-enabled portable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speaker that gives you rich, full-range sound.

  Just tap the microphone button and ask for music, request the news, search for information, order a pizza, and more with the Alexa Voice Service.

  Amazon Tap has dual stereo speakers with Dolby processing that provides crisp vocals, extended bass response, and 360° omni-directional audio.

 Small and easy to travel with, you can enjoy great music and Alexa wherever you are. "

Echo Dot - Amazon's description:
' Echo Dot uses the same far-field voice recognition as Echo and is a convenient addition to any room of the house.

  Directly connect Echo Dot to speakers with an audio cable or via Bluetooth, and
add voice-control to your home stereo system.

  With its built-in speaker, you can place Dot in the bedroom and use it as a smart alarm clock that can also turn off your lights,

  or use Dot in the kitchen to easily set timers and add items to your shopping list using just your voice.

Echo Dot is available for $89.99 in limited quantities exclusively for Prime members through Alexa Voice Shopping. Limit 1 per order, 2 per customer.  To order your Echo Dot, existing Echo and Fire TV customers can just say “Alexa, order an Echo Dot.” '

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  1. I ordered an Echo Dot to play with, hoping to do a little development & hacking. It appears that it will pair with bluetooth speakers/headphones as well as having line out to connect to audio equipment. I think Echo must connect with wireless speakers/headphones as well, but I have not thought to try it. Fun.

    I am concerned that Echo Tap represents an existential threat to peace and quiet: the idea that in addition to annoying boom boxes people bring out to parks and beaches, now here is something far more portable that people will pack in to remote campsites and mountain lakes and virtually anywhere one might go to find P & Q except maybe libraries and churches. Okay, so portable Bluetooth speakers are already a thing, but this takes it to another level. Hope it doesn't go that way.

    I think the next step has to be to have Alexa enabled devices coordinate one another, so you can have the same music playing on them all, and if you are midway between two of them, only one of them will take action. And they need to expand to support other languages. Wonder why they don't buy Nuance.

    1. Tom, apologies for not being around and just getting to this! Yes, I mentioned in the article that Echo Dot does have bluetooth.

      "Directly connect Echo Dot to speakers with an audio cable or via Bluetooth, and add voice-control to your home stereo system."

      Plain Echo doesn't do that though.

      Some limitations noted on that page:
      "Phone calls, text messages, and other notifications from your mobile device can't be received or read by Amazon Echo.
      Audio from Amazon Echo can't be sent to Bluetooth speakers or headphones."

      Funny re Echo tap's possible existential threat :-)

      Amazon signed the agreement with Nuance in August 2013 to license their mobile and consumer technologies. That's when people started talking about Amazon developing a Siri-like product. I remember it being announced for some voice features. Cheaper than buying them, I suppose ... maybe it's like marriage but you want to keep your options open for a better model. :-)

      How it was reported

      That's a tall order to have multiple Alexa-enabled devices to phase in and out as you go between them ! You have visionary tendencies -- or is that auditory ? :-)

    2. Echo coordination/filtering could be done entirely in Cloud. Cloud knows at least the WAN IP for each device, and can assume if the WAN IP is the same, that devices may be co-located and might overlap in coverage. Cloud also can determine when 2 or more detected requests are synchronous and which has strongest volume/quality, and suppress response on the devices with lower scores. In case of tie, pick one at random. For synchronous playback, I think that's already a feature of some wireless speaker systems, so they should copy that.

      I think it would be nice if 'plain Echo' did whatever Echo Dot does in terms of pairing with headphones/speakers as a music source.

      Forgot about the Nuance agreement(s). They do of course own Ivona, which gives them the 'voice of Alexa'. But I don't think that company was advanced in STT/voice recognition, so perhaps that is where Nuance fits in.

      Keep wondering why they don't make all the current Ivona voices available for Android, if only via Amazon Appstore. I think they are all still 'beta', and it has been years now. But as far as I can tell they are still the best TTS voices for Android.

    3. Tom, interesting. Doable, but server load ? Also, the tablet overheat and effection on battery?

      I agree re plain Echo and people requested this all the time. I suppose Dot is the response. I'd think a future Echo might finally include it as competition heats up, but it's now getting rave reviews for what it does after all the feedback and added features, which are practically daily now.

      Alexa voice is so convincing, that I find myself saying "No, thanks" when she asks if there's something else I would like done.


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