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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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. ūüôā 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! ūüôā

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 ‚ÄėChirp‚Äô (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‚Äôs 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.

Daily Links and Deals: YouTube’s Content ID program finally provides for ad revenue during disputes

daily_links_1Today, a breakthrough in the YouTube Content ID advertising money issue, news on how platforms are affecting digital publishers, Google podcasts and more. In deals, there a $50 Blue smartphone and e-reader and tablet sales from both Kobo and Amazon for Mother’s Day.

Daily Links for Friday, April 29, 2016:

YouTube’s Content ID program finally provides for ad revenue during disputes (PC World) It;s not nearly enough, but it is a first step in fixing a flawed system.

Why We Should Be Worried About Ancient Viruses Infecting Power Plants (Motherboard) A nuclear power plant infected by a virus sounds like something from a movie. Unfortunately, this really happened. Do we need to worry about more incidences like this?

The haves and have-nots: Small publishers are left adrift by shift to platforms (Digiday) Changes in the digital publishing landscape are making it harder for the small publisher.

This E Ink tablet is a cute way to manage meetings (The Verge) Way too expensive, but it is cute. ūüôā

Windows 10 will no longer let you Google search from Cortana (The Verge) Is it just me, or is Cortana getting a little pushy? Back off, girl!

History of the Library of Congress (LOC) Fascinating piece on this institution and its importance to our history and as a world resource.

Google Play Music’s podcasts are convenient but lack features (Engadget)¬†Don’t give up your favorite podcast app just yet.

Deals of the Day:

Amazon’s selection of Kindle Daily Deals includes Shame by the incredibly talented Alan Russell for $1.99.

In Today’s Deals, there’s a white¬†BLU Advance 4.0 Unlocked Dual SIM Cellphone, 4GB. for $50.

There’s still time for gifts for Mother’s Day! Amazon has some deals on both e-ink Kindles and Fire tablets. First, you can get $20 off the Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle for Kids bundle.  Amazon is also offering the Fire HD 10 for $50 off for a limited time.

Amazon is still offering savings on the Fire HD 6, and deals on pre-owned Fire tablets. I am also still seeing the option for 5 payments of $58 for the Kindle Oasis pre-order. Current delivery date is June 1, 2016.

You can also take advantage of a trade-in offer from Amazon on your old Fire tablet. The clock is ticking on this offer. Trade-in must be completed by May 9, 2016.

The Barnes and Noble Nook Daily Find is Beautiful, Dirty, Rich: A Novel by J. D. Mason for $2.99. The Romance Daily Find is Owning Violet: A Novel by Monica Murphy for $1.99.

Kobo’s Daily Deal¬†is¬†What She Knew¬†by Gilly Macmillan for $1.99.

And for Mother’s Day, you can get $20 off the¬†Kobo Glo HD. ¬†Free shipping is included.

iTunes’ Weekly Bestsellers Under $4 includes The Incarnations by Susan Barker for $1.99.

(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.