Despite not being widely available yet, Amazon has begun shipping its Echo Auto device to those who pre-ordered the device in 2018. The device is said to have been pre-ordered by over 1 million customers which may help explain why it has taken Amazon so long to begin fulfilling orders.
The Echo Auto device comes with a dashboard mount. This mount adheres with a sticky pad. Most car owners try to avoid adhering anything to their car, but Amazon now has a separate add-on that can be used to mount the Echo Auto device in the car’s vent.
Available for $15 from Amazon: Echo Auto Air Vent Mount
The Air Vent Mount is actually in stock. Until Amazon kicks manufacturing into a higher gear, you can display the air vent mount as a token of hope.
Announced in September, Amazon has a neat, new feature for Alexa’s listening capability. Putting Alexa into “Guard” mode when away, the Echo speaker devices can listen for noises that might indicate a security breach or a home warning scenario. For example, Alexa can listen for breaking glass or a smoke detector going off. And, when Alexa detects these occurrences, she can alert you through the Alexa mobile app on your smartphone and also notify your home security provider if you use one. Currently, Alexa supports Ring and ADT.
Additionally, when in Guard mode, Alexa can turn lights on and off randomly if they are connected to the Echo smart home hub.
The feature is rolling out now, but only certain customers will get it. Amazon seems to have learned from the past when new features were announced and customers became annoyed because they didn’t get them right away. Like any provider, Amazon has to roll these out in a uniform and logical way to avoid congestion.
If you don’t have the feature right away (you can check by going into Settings – Guard), you can still tell Amazon to notify you when available.
To do it…
Go into Settings – Guard and ask to be notified when the feature is available for you.
Atom Tickets, the social movie ticketing platform, has added Amazon Pay to its Alexa skill.
Not only does the Atom Tickets skill make it easy to get showtimes and reserve seating, but customers can now also just use the same information they use for shopping on Amazon to purchase tickets.
After saying “Alexa, ask Atom for movie tickets” or “Alexa, ask Atom what’s playing near me,” the skill enables consumers to:
- Select Movie Format: Select movie tickets for standard or premium formats like 3D, Dolby, or IMAX movies.
- Reserve Seats: The Atom Tickets skill for Amazon Alexa is the only movie ticket skill that lets you buy tickets at theaters with reserved seating.
- Use Amazon Pay: Easily check out with your voice using Amazon Pay without reaching for a credit card. It’s simple and secure.
- Scan Digital Tickets: Atom sends the tickets directly to email. That email can be scanned at the theater straight from a phone.
Atom has ticketing integrations with other leading tech and social platforms, including Amazon, IMDb, Google, Facebook, and Instagram.
Get the skill: Atom Tickets
Amazon and Apple have recently delivered Apple Music for owners of Alexa-enabled devices. Amazon has added Apple Music as another option in its list of Music services. Setting it up is as easy as choosing it, enabling it, linking it, and using it. We’ve seen some websites suggest that you have to enable a special Apple skill to get this to work, but that’s not the case. Amazon has done a good job integrating Apple Music into its normal music service line up.
To set it up:
 In the Alexa mobile app (not available from the web version of Alexa), go to Settings and then locate Music under Alexa Preferences.
 Once in the Music area, choose the option to Link New Service.
 Select Apple Music on the Link Service page.
 Once you select the Apple Music option, the Alexa app will walk you through connecting and linking your Apple Music account to Alexa.
Now, when you want to listen to music from Apple Music, just end your request with “…on Apple Music”
“Alexa, play music by Queen on Apple Music”
“Alexa, play Beats 1 radio on Apple Music“
UPDATE: After we posted about the release of the Echo Wall Clock, the device sold like gangbusters. You can still order it but it will now not arrive until after Christmas.
Announced in September, Amazon’s Echo Wall Clock is now available for purchase.
On Amazon.com for $29.99: Echo Wall Clock
The device is not a full-fledged Alexa-enabled device as it needs an Echo device paired to work. The Wall Clock is simply a way to see when timers expire that you create using a compatible Echo device.
Compatible Echo devices include Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Plus, Echo Spot, or Echo Input.
Additionally, the Wall Clock uses the Echo device pairing to automatically set the time.
Pairing is accomplished using Bluetooth Core Specification version 4.2 including Basic Rate (BR). Works best within 30 feet (9.1 meters) of the connected device.
At its basic level, the Big Sky Alexa skill is heads-above what Alexa herself can provide for weather services. But, now the Big Sky folks have added a Premium service.
BigSky Premium is just 99 cents a month, and only 80 cents a month for Amazon Prime members. If you sign-up for Premium, there’s a one-week free trial.
Here’s what it adds beyond the basics:
- Additional forecast locations and location labels. Set a label like, “Mom’s house” or “the campground” and you can then you can ask Big Sky things like, “What’s the weather at mom’s house?” or, “Will it rain at the campground tomorrow at 5 p.m?”
- Premium Users can also get the same great Big Sky forecasts for cities and locations around the world. “What’s the weather at Disneyland tomorrow”. “What’s the weather in Houston on Wednesday?”
- Get Radar images for your area, or anywhere in the world. Three levels of zoom. This is a great option for those with an Echo Show or Echo Spot. “Alexa, ask BigSky to show me the radar.“
- Schedule alerts for any hour of the day, and BigSky will notify you if the day’s weather matches any of the following alerts:
— Hot Weather (above 90)
— Cold Weather (freezing)
— Windy Weather (sustained winds above 15mph)
— Rainy Weather (greater than 70% chance of rain)
— Sunny Weather (UV index reaching 9 or higher)
How to start your free trial: “Alexa, tell Big Sky I want to purchase premium.”
Whenever you want to cancel: “Alexa, tell Big Sky I want to cancel premium.”
Alexa now has the ability to read your emails to you. Prior to Amazon adding this capability you’d need to install and use a special skill.
To get it to work, you first have to set it up.
 In the Alexa mobile app (this doesn’t work on the Alexa web version of the app yet), go to “Settings.”
 Locate “Email & Calendar” and tap the “+” button to add an account. You can choose a Google or Microsoft account.
 Log in with your username and password.
At this point, you should also consider setting a special voice pin code for your email or anyone can have access to your emails.
Once you have this setup you can now say…
“Alexa, check my email” or “Alexa, read my email“
Alexa will start with your unread email messages and relay the send and title of the email. Alexa will then ask if you’d like read the full email, reply to it, archive it or delete it.
One thing to keep in mind is that, by connecting your email account to Alexa, some of your contacts and email messages are stored in the cloud to provide the service. Amazon promises that the data is encrypted and stored security – but we all know the reality of that based on headlines. Amazon says it also won’t read your email – except in specific cases, which I assume means if law enforcement makes a request.
If you played adlibs as a kid, you know how fun these are and how most times the story result is ridiculous and hilarious. Essentially, you’re given a story with a lot of word blanks to fill in that range from Pronouns, nouns, actions, adjectives, etc. and once the blanks are filled in the story is read. Each story can be revamped time and again and get a different result.
Amazon has put together a new Holiday Story blueprint skill that puts this concept into practice for Echo devices. Build the story, insert blanks, and let your family fill in their own hilarity.
Try it: Holiday Story
And, if have time off for the holiday and you’re hankering for more fun, try these other Alexa blueprints:
Hallmark Holiday Greeting – sponsored by Hallmark
Santa’s Letter – Write and send a letter to Santa. Then check back every day to track its progress to the North Pole.
At its big announcement party a couple months back, Amazon introduced its own foray into delivering Alexa service to any car – even though some really good options (like the Roav Viva by Anker) already exist. Originally, the company suggested that the device would begin delivering in early December (December 5th) and posted an invitation request on the product page.
Maybe the company has had second thoughts or its possible development of this gadget is taking longer than expected, but the product page has changed in that it no longer gives a proposed date of delivery. Instead, the product page simply sits with the introductory price at half retail and the button for requesting an invitation be one of the first to test the gadget. The initial request for invitations started in September, yet no one has received invites.
See: Introducing Echo Auto – The first Echo for your car
Amazon has yet to miss timelines on an Echo product it has promised.
Fire TV Cube owners today can expect an update for their device that adds yet another already existing capability for Alexa.
Amazon added Announcements capability to all its devices in April of this year, but up until now, the Fire TV Cube hasn’t supported it.
Announcements allows you to use just a simple voice command to “announce” a message across every installed Echo device at once.
Just say… “Alexa, announce…“ or “Alexa, broadcast…“ or “Alexa, tell everyone…“
…and, everything after the word “announce” or “broadcast” or “tell everyone” will be broadcast to every installed Echo device.
This feature was also just recently rolled out to the company’s Fire HD tablet devices. So, now calling the kids for dinner will be a lot easier.
The Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s attempt to combine its Echo speaker capability with its entertainment devices.
As an Amazon Echo customer, how often do you hear Alexa say…
“Hmmm…I don’t know that“
Amazon is determined to make that statement a thing of the past, as it opens up access to its Alexa Answers technology. Alexa Answers has been in testing internally at Amazon for some time and now the company is ready to begin a slow public rollout by sending out email invites to certain customers.
Beginning today, via invitation-only, customers can add answers and information to Alexa through a new feature we call Alexa Answers. Those who receive an invite via email can start contributing answers to Alexa today. We’re excited to get Alexa customers involved. In the last month, through our internal Alexa Answers beta program, we’ve added more than 100,000 responses which have been given to customers millions of times.
This invite-only program should expand next year after Amazon determines how best to manage the technology. But, as we’ve experienced in the past, these types of crowd-fueled AI structures can have the wrong effect. Remember Microsoft’s AI on Twitter. Based on user gaming, it turned racist in less than 24 hours. Still, AI has to get better – eventually. Either that, or we’ll all be taken down by our robotic overlords. What people tend to forget, though, is that AI is created by an imperfect being and so it can never be anything but tainted.
Amazon is beginning to deliver an update to its latest Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets that bring them into the full communication fold for Alexa-enabled devices.
The update being circulated now brings Drop-in and Announcement capability to the tablets. Prior to the update, Fire tablet owners could only initiate calls – which is still pretty cool in its own right.
As usual, Amazon stages the update rollout, so if you don’t see it right away just wait longer.