New Amazon Alexa Internet-of-Things things: AI gone mad?

“Alexa, is Amazon trying to take over the world?”
“Sorry, Jeff. I can’t find the answer to the question...” Kindle Fire encryption
James Duncan Davidson (cc:by)

Amazon has two new Alexa goodies, for all your consumerism requirements. There’s a portable version of the Echo, named Amazon Tap, and a mini Echo, which Amazon calls Echo Dot.

Unsurprisingly, Jeff Bezos’s retail empire wants to finagle its way into every crevice of your sorry existence. Oh, and just wait until Ms. Alexa achieves self-awareness, ordering humans to serve her needs, instead. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers are revolting.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. [Developing story: Updated 2:14 pm PT with more comment]

What’s the craic? Sarah Buhr reports—Amazon adds the $130 Tap and the $90 Dot to the Echo family:

Amazon’s voice-operated command center Echo produces something close to modern-day magic. [It] was one of the best-selling items going for more than $100 over the holidays.

Amazon is now introducing two new members to the Echo family with slightly different uses. ... Amazon Tap is a portable version of the original Echo, and Echo Dot is a tiny, hockey-puck-sized version.

Tap works by, well, tapping the microphone button and asking. [It] enables Alexa fans to take the...service with them on the go so you can order an Uber, a pizza or play music. ... Amazon says [it] will ship later this month.

Dot is the kid sister version of Echo...but for half the price. ... You can place several of these around the house and they will act as voice-command centers for each room. ... You can tell it to dim your Phillips Hue lights or turn down your Nest thermostat, for instance. ... You can only order the Dot from an Echo or Fire TV. It also starts shipping later this month.

When I was a kid we had the Clapper. You clapped your hands to turn the lights on. [Alexa is] a seemingly magical system...that would boggle the mind of anyone living just five years in the past.

What’s the strategy? Larry Dignan reads Between the Lines—Amazon’s Echo Dot, Tap, Alexa equate to Amazon Everywhere strategy:

Amazon’s launch[es] highlight an ambitious smart home and Internet of things effort. ... The Echo was Amazon’s surprise hit last year. ... Echo [is] the platform Amazon will use to jump further into [IoT].

These developments equate to an Amazon everywhere strategy. ... Amazon [wants] a nice flywheel effect between its home endpoints...Prime Now...and Prime subscriptions, which are expected to hit 139 million by 2018.

But who’d want to use these things? Cheryl Eddy sounds pleasantly surprised—Amazon Echo’s Brain Is Finally in Gadgets I Actually Want to Use:

You’ll recall Echo, the tabletop speaker tube with a baked-in intelligence engine called late 2014. ... The product has been a qualified success.

The Echo Dot’s big selling point is that it allows consumers to plug into their own home speakers. ... My $100,000 speaker system thanks you, Amazon.

From the very beginning, Amazon Echo has been a surprisingly useful and interesting product [but] more “neat” than “necessary”. These...bode well for the future.

Does Amazon have this market to itself? Here’s ActualMichael:

What is Google doing?! Why have they not put out a competitor?!

A smart connected hub that has voice capabilities like this...would be perfect. I hope Google is just waiting to perfect [it] before it’s released and doesn’t miss a golden opportunity.

But do you want to lock yourself into an Amazon ecosystem? David Pierce the veil, with New Amazon ‘Tap’ and ‘Echo Dot’ Gadgets Unleash Alexa on the World:

In the quickening race between...voice assistants, Amazon’s is the one that’s leaping...into the real world. ... It can play Spotify, control your lights, read you the news, answer your questions...and so much more.

And as Amazon adds more wants developers to do so. ... Amazon wants to be the voice-controlled back-end for everything.

Update: Still wondering what all the fuss is all about? Samantha Murphy-Kelly's got your back—The best smart devices that work with the Amazon Echo and the new Tap:

Amazon Echo fans can be a fanatical bunch when it comes to the part-speaker, part-smart home device. [We] named it the best tech product of 2015 for good reason. ... Alexa is like Siri, but she makes things happen.

There's a lot to love about the Amazon Echo, and its best parts are solidified by the [ecosystem]. ... It becomes truly impactful when it simplifies your life...whether you're asking Alexa to dim your...lights or requesting an Uber ride.

If you want lights that work with Amazon Echo, here's what to choose from: The WeMo Light Switch. ... Philips Hue. ... LifX lightbulbs. ... Insteon Starter Kit.

Web-connected outlets aren't very sexy, but the can unleash some great conveniences. ... The Nest Learning Thermostat may be the darling of the smart home world, and [there's the] ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat. ... The AnyMote universal remote...lets you control Wi-Fi devices, TVs, cable boxes...and so on, via voice-command when paired with Amazon Echo.

Alexa will read your Kindle books or audiobooks from Audible aloud. [Plus] we've seen partnerships from Uber, Domino’s, StubHub and Fidelity, among others.

And Finally…

Mike Elgan orders an Echo Dot

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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