Engadget looked at AIs for a week and it was great

There is no doubt about it: AI and digital assistants are a big trend right now (and possibly, the wave of the future). In any given week, look on any tech-related site and you are almost guaranteed to find at least one article on Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Home or the next upcoming new digital assistant for your phone.

This week, Engadet decided to take an in-depth look at five of the best-known assistants: Cortana, Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Bixby. Each reporter was asked to live with the assistant for one week and write about their experiences. Here are the results:

The accounts of the experiences are humorous and engaging. They are also extremely familiar to anyone who has gone through the frustrating getting-to-know-you period with a new AI system. I have used four out of the five (Bixby will have to wait until Samsung decides to roll it out to S7 Edge owners like me). Depending on whether you are team PC or team Mac or iPhone or Android, your experience with each will probably vary, a fact noted in several of the articles.

If you are a music fan, what music streaming service you subscribe to will also make a huge difference. The Google Home provided a totally different experience during my YouTube Red trial than when I went back to my free Google Music account. The same was true for the Amazon Echo with and without Prime Music or an Amazon Music subscription.

All in all, this series was one of my favorite reads this week. What do you think?

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Great prices on Echo family, Kindles and Fire Tablet devices

This week, Amazon is having some supper sales on devices in the Echo, Kindle and Fire families. The following items are currently on sale through August 26, 2017:

Alexa/Echo Devices:

Amazon Echo – $100 (Normally $179.99) Available in Black and White. Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $20 each!

Echo Dot – $45 (Normally $49.99) Available in Black and White. Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $9 each!

Amazon Tap – $100 (Normally $129.99)  This is the Alexa-Enabled Portable Bluetooth Speaker that can also be used hands free.  Available in Black only.  Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $20 each!

(Note: the Echo devices are actually on sale through September 4, 2017.)

Kindles:

Kindle – $60 (Regularly $79.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $12 each.

Kindle Paperwhite – $100 (Regularly $119.99)  Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $20 each.

Kindle Voyage – $180  (Regularly $199.99)  Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $36 each.

Kindle Essentials Bundle – $95 (Regularly $129.97) Includes Kindle, cover and power adapter.

Kindle for Kids Bundle – $80 (Regularly $124.98) Includes Kindle, cover and 2-year guarantee.

Kindle Paperwhite Essentials Bundle – $135 (Regularly $179.97) Includes Kindle Paperwhite, leather cover and power adapter.

Kindle Paperwhite Travel Bundle – $180 (Regularly $269.97) Includes Kindle Paperwhite, leather cover, power adapter and travel case.

Kindle Voyage Essentials Bundle – $235 (Regularly $279.97) Includes Kindle Voyage, leather cover, and power adapter.

Kindle Voyage Travel Bundle – $285 (Regularly $374.96) Includes Kindle Voyage, leather cover, power adapter and travel case.

Note: Prices are for devices with special offers. Most bundles offer a choice of cover color. There is also an option to add a three month membership to Kindle Unlimited for only $1.99. (Restrictions apply.)

Fire Tablets:

All-New Fire 7 Tablet with Alexa, 7″ Display, 8GB – $40 (Regularly $49.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $8 each.

All-New Fire HD 8 Tablet with Alexa, 8″ HD Display, 16 GB – $60 (Regularly $79.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $12 each.

All-New Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet, 7″ Display, 16 GB – $80 (Regularly $99.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $16 each.

All-New Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet, 8″ HD Display, 32 GB – $99 (Regularly $129.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $20 each.

All-New Fire 7 Essentials Bundle – $63 (Regularly $87.97) Includes tablet, cover and screen protector.

All-New Fire HD 8 Essentials Bundle with Fire HD 8 Tablet (16 GB, Black) – $88 Includes tablet, cover and screen protector.

These prices, especially for the Amazon Echo, are really tempting. I would like an Echo for the basement – I am thinking that Alexa will get me more motivated to do laundry, LOL!

What about you? Do these prices or the options of a low monthly payment plan tempt you?

Sunday Daily Deals: More device sales and ebooks for up to 80% off

2100_asanasDeals of the Day for Sunday, December 11, 2016:

Amazon’s selection of Kindle Daily Deals includes a selection of biographies, sports and fitness books at up to 80% off. Includes yoga books 2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses by Daniel Lacerda and Essential Yoga: An Illustrated Guide to over 100 Yoga Poses and Meditation by Olivia H. Miller, Nicole Kaufman for $2.99 each.

More device sales before the holidays! The Kindle Paperwhite is on sale for $20 off. There are also deals on Fire tablets: The Fire 7″ for $40, the Fire tablet variety pack (3 tablets) for $180, the Fire HD 10 for $200 and the Fire Kids Edition for $90.

Alexa devices: You can also get the Amazon Echo for $140 ($40 off), the Amazon Tap for $90 ($40 off) and the Echo Dot for $40 ($10 off.)

In Today’s Deals, save on Snow Joe Snow throwers and accessories. It is snowing here in Northwest Indiana today, so….

The Barnes and Noble Nook Daily Find is The Christmas Cookie Killer (Fresh-Baked Mystery Series #3) by Livia J. Washburn.  The Romance Daily Find is Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham.

Barnes and Noble also has a selection of NOOK Books Under $2.99.

The new NOOK Tablet is available and is only $49.99.

Kobo’s Daily Deal is Cold Granite (Logan McRae, Book 1) by Stuart MacBride. The Extra Daily Deal is A Stolen Childhood: A Dark Past, a Terrible Secret, a Girl Without a Future by Casey Watson.

There is also a selection of Great Reads Under $5 and Bargain Reads in Fiction, in Mystery and other genres. The Kobo Aura One (and the Aura Edition 2 e-readers are now available for order at the Kobo store. (The Aura One is still out of stock until early 2017.)

iTunes’ iTunes’ Great Books, Amazing Deals under $3.99 includes Invasion by Robin Cook.

Google Books has a Treat Yo’Self Sale. Through December 22nd, you can also rent various Harper Teen books for 24 hours for 99 cents.

(A note on Daily Deals: All prices current at the time of posting and subject to change. Most items marked Daily Deals are good for only the day posted.

Many large promotions have discount pricing that is set by the publisher. This usually means that titles can be found at a discount price across most platforms (with iTunes sometimes being the exception). If you have a favorite retailer you like to patronize, check the title on that website. There is a good chance that they will be matching the sale price.)


Daily Links are interesting links I discover as I go about my online day. The frequency and number of links posted depend upon the daily news. I also post other, different links of interest on Twitter, Facebook, and on the Google Plus eBook Evangelist Page.

Saturday Daily Deals: A Desperate Fortune

desparate_fortuneDeals of the Day for Saturday, August 27, 2016: 

Amazon’s selection of Kindle Daily Deals includes A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley.

In Today’s Deals, a Kwikset 99130-002 SmartCode 913 UL Electronic Deadbolt lock. Also, you can also still get $15 off the regular price of the Amazon Tap and the Certified Refurbished Amazon Echo for $150.

The Barnes and Noble Nook Daily Find is Half a King by Joe Abercrombie. The Romance Daily Find is Girls’ Poker Night: A Novel of High Stakes by Jill A. Davis.

Kobo’s Daily Deal is The Firm A Novel by John Grisham. The Extra Daily Deal is 300 Days of Sun A Novel by Deborah Lawrenson.

Also, until August 29, 2016, there’s a Back to School Sale: books $4.99 or less. There is also a  selection of Great Reads Under $5 and Bargain Reads in Fiction, in Mystery and other genres.

iTunes’ Weekly Bestsellers Under $4 includes The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene.

Google Books has a selection of Science Fiction & Fantasy reads.

(A note on Daily Deals: All prices current at the time of posting and subject to change. Most items marked Daily Deals are good for only the day posted.

Many large promotions have discount pricing that is set by the publisher. This usually means that titles can be found at a discount price across most platforms (with iTunes sometimes being the exception). If you have a favorite retailer you like to patronize, check the title on that website. There is a good chance that they will be matching the sale price.)


Daily Links are interesting links I discover as I go about my online day. The frequency and number of links posted depend upon the daily news. I also post other, different links of interest on Twitter, Facebook, and on the Google Plus eBook Evangelist Page.

Sunday Daily Deals: A Certified Refurbished Echo

echoIf you missed buying an Amazon Echo on Prime Day, Amazon is offering certified refubs at  $40 savings off the new Echo price. FYI: Certified refurbished Echos also carry a one year guarantee.

Deals of the Day for July 17, 2016:

Amazon’s selection of Kindle Daily Deals includes a Certified Refurbished Amazon Echo for $139.99.

In Today’s Deals, get Mountain Man by Diana Palmer for 99 cents. Also available is  For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business by Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter for 99 cents.

The Barnes and Noble Nook Daily Find is Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things by Sara Hagerty for $1.99. The Romance Daily Find is Lady Susan Plays the Game by Janet Todd for $1.99.

Kobo’s Daily Deal is Partner in Crime by J. A. Jance for $1.99. The Extra Daily Deal is Mudbound by Hillary Jordan for $1.99.

iTunes’ Weekly Bestsellers Under $4 includes Entombed by Linda Fairstein for $1.99.

Google has a Hot Book Deals promotion with books starting at 99 cents.

(A note on Daily Deals: All prices current at the time of posting and subject to change. Most items marked Daily Deals are good for only the day posted.

Many large promotions have discount pricing that is set by the publisher. This usually means that titles can be found at a discount price across most platforms (with iTunes sometimes being the exception). If you have a favorite retailer you like to patronize, check the title on that website. There is a good chance that they will be matching the sale price.)


Daily Links are interesting links I discover as I go about my online day. The frequency and number of links posted depend upon the daily news. I also post other, different links of interest on Twitter, Facebook, and on the Google Plus eBook Evangelist Page.

Friday Echo: Jeff Bezos talks Alexa

alexa_webNews:

At Recode’s Code Conference 2016, Jeff Bezos has been talking about the AI, the Echo and Alexa:  Bezos acknowledged that the Echo team is comprised of over a thousand people and has been working on the project for over four years. Here’s

He goes on to say that:

“I think there are going to be a bunch of artificially intelligent agents in the world,” Bezos said. “There are going to be specialties, and you may not ask the same AI for everything. I bet the average household will use a number of these, but to me that’s a very exciting seed that we’ve planted. I love working on stuff like that, and the team is brilliant.” (Quoted in Venture Beat)

The idea of of multiple AI interfaces in a home is interesting. I use Google and Siri along with the Amazon Echo and the Tap – I just use them for different things. That may be the true wave of the future. For more, here is the video of Walt Moss berg’s interview with the Amazon CEO:

The phone versus the Echo – or is it: While Jeff Bezos noted at Code Conference 2016 that “voice interfaces won’t replace phones altogether” he did note that AI  as a field of interest is growing. However, in her annual Internet trends report, venture capitalist Mary Meeker points out that the Amazon Echo sales are growing just as iPhone sales are starting to fall. While our phone are always with us, as more and more Alexa enabled devices become integrated into more devices like the Triby and the new Pebble Core, part of the functions of our phones may be incorporated into other AI-enabled devices. Jefff Bezos thinks that Alexa has the potential to become the fourth pillar of Amazon, although some people think it needs to get better at search first.

More Home versus Echo: There has still been a lot of interest in the idea that Google Home will be competing with Alexa and the Amazon Echo. While we will have to wait and see on that front as the Home doesn’t actually exist as a finished product as yet, we are learning  more about the Home. Not surprisingly, the Home seems to be based on the existing Chromecast and not on Android. That probably means a cloud-based solution much like Google search. Given the price of the current Coogle Chromecast and Google audio what, that probably means that the Home will come in much cheaper than the Amazon Echo, depending on speaker quality.

Echo on the Web: Yes and No – This week, there was a big deal made out of the fact that there was an Echo Sim site up on the web at https://echosim.io/. The truth is, that is a test site for developing Alexa skills. It is not intended as a “try-before-you-buy” site to see how the Echo works. Trust me, if they  worked as slow and as badly as that site does, I would have sent both the Echo and the Tap back in a heartbeat. Fortunately, the real devices are a lot better!

However, did you know that you can actually control your Amazon Echo or Amazon Tap from your web browser instead of your app? After you have your device set up and connected, log in to your Amazon account. Then go to http://alexa.amazon.com/ in your browser. There, you will see the Alexa App info on your computer monitor. You can access also your info there, including your shopping and todo lists. Trust me, it is a lot easier to search through skills on the computer with a keyboard and mouse than it is trying to pinch and tap on the tiny screen,m especially now that Alexa has over 1,000 skills. (Found via How-to Geek)

Need more help with Alexa on your Echo or your Tap? Here’s the help page.

The Friday Echo: Alexa Can Now Track Your Amazon Packages!

echoI recently bought both the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Tap. We’ve actually been having a lot of fun with them around here. 🙂 I will be writing reviews on the products over the next few weeks (I’ve had the Tap longer and wanted to be able to fairly compare it with the Echo before I reviewed.)

One of the things I have discovered is that there is a bit of a learning curve to using Alexa. Not for her, but for the humans trying to learn to use her. Alexa is all about phraseology and keywords, I have found. (It is a bit different than Siri or OK, Google (Google Now) because Alexa does different things.) So, I am currently working on learning how to work with both the Echo and the Tap. As I learn what the two can do, I will be sharing news articles, tips and so on in a new column, The Friday Echo. Bet you can’t guess what day it will be posted on! 🙂

Alexa Can Now Track Your Amazon Packages! (Love My Echo) This is an incredibly nifty new feature for Alexa. She can now tell you when your next Amazon package will arrive. She only seems to be able to handle one package at a time, so I wouldn’t be giving here order numbers just yet, but this is a promising integration with Amazon’s system that personally, I would like to see more of.

This battery makes the Amazon Echo portable (The Verge) Okay. So a company made a battery stand for the Echo so that you can then move it around the house. That’s like basically turning it into an Amazon Tap without the button right? Well, not exactly. The Echo can only connect your home network. The Tap is designed to connect to other networks and hotspots.  While I can see the allure of moving Alexa around the house (sometimes I want her in the kitchen), this is a unusual solution, especially as Amazon already solved the problem with the Tap. Note that the Verge’s article employs humor and a hint of sarcasm.

Report: Google has an Amazon Echo competitor coming named ‘Chirp’ (The Next Web) The Echo has proved to be pretty popular and Amazon has sold out of them several times. Now Google wants one, too. It’s not clear if that desire to create a home device comes from is the number of Echo and Tap units sold or the data that is being collected from the device’s use. But seriously, “Chirp”? It needs a better name than that to compete with the likes of Alexa, Siri and Cortana. Okay, Google?

One year after Alexa: Amazon’s Echo has found a small but smart niche (Ars Technica) This article is an interesting case study in what it is like to like to use the Amazon Echo and Alexa. I found the pros and cons pretty much consistent with my experience of using the Echo and the Tap. And check out the video! It gives you a nice real world run through of the Echo’s features, although it doesn’t give you Alexa’s “I wasn’t able to understand the question I heard” response.

Echo Guides: There are quite a few guides written for the Amazon Echo. Not surprisingly, many of the guides written for the devices are available in Kindle Unlimited. I have started reading through them so I can make some recommendations for good basic beginner’s guides. Stay tuned.

Just for Fun: Ask Alexa what zodiac sign she is.