How to Get Better Weather Forecasts on Amazon Echo

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While the Amazon Echo has a ton of awesome skills, some of its simplest and most useful come packaged in. You probably ask Alexa about the weather almost every day, but do you ever wish it was a little better? By default, Alexa’s weather reading only gives information about your general area by ZIP code. If you’d like to hear weather for your exact location on an hour-by-hour basis, there’s an Echo skill that will help. How to Get Better Weather Forecasts on Amazon Echo For a better weather experience, you need to use the BigSky skill. It’s powered by…

Read the full article: How to Get Better Weather Forecasts on Amazon Echo

amazon-echo-podcasts

While the Amazon Echo has a ton of awesome skills, some of its simplest and most useful come packaged in. You probably ask Alexa about the weather almost every day, but do you ever wish it was a little better?

By default, Alexa’s weather reading only gives information about your general area by ZIP code. If you’d like to hear weather for your exact location on an hour-by-hour basis, there’s an Echo skill that will help.

How to Get Better Weather Forecasts on Amazon Echo

For a better weather experience, you need to use the BigSky skill. It’s powered by Dark Sky, a popular weather service on mobile. This will help you get forecasts for your address instead of an entire city.

To install it, either click Enable Skill on its desktop page, or say Alexa, enable Big Sky. Once you do so, you’ll need to link your account before it works properly.

Open the Alexa app and look for the Big Sky—Account Setup card. Tap Link Account and enter your complete address. Below this, you can choose a few options like level of detail and temperature/wind speed units. Scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Submit to complete this.

Now, you can ask Alexa to get a forecast from the skill. Try the following commands:

“Alexa, ask Big Sky…”

  • “…what’s the temperature?”
  • “…will it rain today?”
  • “…what was the weather on January 1st, 1970?”
  • “…what’s the low temperature in the next seven days?”
  • “…give me a weather fact.”

Big Sky does a lot by default, but the developer also offers a Premium version for $3 a year. This allows you to add multiple addresses and label them, so you can ask “What’s the weather at dad’s house?” Premium also lets you get forecasts for anywhere, so the skill will answer “How hot will it get in Miami today?”

If this new skill inspired you, check out how to use Alexa to be more productive.

Read the full article: How to Get Better Weather Forecasts on Amazon Echo

Smart speaker sales on pace to increase 50 percent by 2019

It seems Amazon didn’t know what it had on its hands when it released the first Echo in late-2014. The AI-powered speaker formed the foundation of the next been moment in consumer electronics. Those devices have helped mainstreaming consumer AI and open the door to wide scale adoption of connected home products.  New numbers from […]

It seems Amazon didn’t know what it had on its hands when it released the first Echo in late-2014. The AI-powered speaker formed the foundation of the next been moment in consumer electronics. Those devices have helped mainstreaming consumer AI and open the door to wide scale adoption of connected home products. 

New numbers from NPD, naturally, don’t show any sign of flagging for the category. According to the firm, the devices are set for a 50-percent dollar growth from between 2016-2017 to 2018-2019. The category is projected to add $1.6 billion through next year.

The Echo line has grown rapidly over the past four years, with Amazon adding the best-selling Dot and screen enabled products like the Spot and Show. Google, meanwhile, has been breathing down the company’s next with its own Home offerings. The company also recently added a trio of “smart displays” designed by LG, Lenovo and JBL.

A new premium category has also arisen, led by Apple’s first entry into the space, the HomePod. Google has similarly offered up the Home Max, and Samsung is set to follow suit with the upcoming Galaxy Home (which more or less looks like a HomePod on a tripod).

As all of the above players were no doubt hoping, smart speaker sales also appear to be driving sales of smart home products, with 19 percent of U.S. consumers planning to purchase one within the next year, according to the firm.

Security researchers found a way to hack into the Amazon Echo

Hackers at DefCon have exposed new security concerns around smart speakers. Tencent’s Wu HuiYu and Qian Wenxiang spoke at the security conference with a presentation called Breaking Smart Speakers: We are Listening to You, explaining how they hacked into an Amazon Echo speaker and turned it into a spy bug. The hack involved a modified […]

Hackers at DefCon have exposed new security concerns around smart speakers. Tencent’s Wu HuiYu and Qian Wenxiang spoke at the security conference with a presentation called Breaking Smart Speakers: We are Listening to You, explaining how they hacked into an Amazon Echo speaker and turned it into a spy bug.

The hack involved a modified Amazon Echo, which had had parts swapped out, including some that had been soldered on. The modified Echo was then used to hack into other, non-modified Echos by connecting both the hackers’ Echo and a regular Echo to the same LAN.

This allowed the hackers to turn their own, modified Echo into a listening bug, relaying audio from the other Echo speakers without those speakers indicating that they were transmitting.

This method was very difficult to execute, but represents an early step in exploiting Amazon’s increasingly popular smart speaker.

The researchers notified Amazon of the exploit before the presentation, and Amazon has already pushed a patch, according to Wired.

Still, the presentation demonstrates how one Echo, with malicious firmware, could potentially alter a group of speakers when connected to the same network, posing concerns with the idea of Echos in hotels.

Wired explained how the networking feature of the Echo allowed for the hack:

If they can then get that doctored Echo onto the same Wi-Fi network as a target device, the hackers can take advantage of a software component of Amazon’s speakers, known as Whole Home Audio Daemon, that the devices use to communicate with other Echoes in the same network. That daemon contained a vulnerability that the hackers found they could exploit via their hacked Echo to gain full control over the target speaker, including the ability to make the Echo play any sound they chose, or more worryingly, silently record and transmit audio to a faraway spy.

An Amazon spokesperson told Wired that “customers do not need to take any action as their devices have been automatically updated with security fixes,” adding that “this issue would have required a malicious actor to have physical access to a device and the ability to modify the device hardware.”

To be clear, the actor would only need physical access to their own Echo to execute the hack.

While Amazon has dismissed concerns that its voice activated devices are monitoring you, hackers at this year’s DefCon proved that they can.

Alexa Cast Will Allow Users To Throw Audio To Alexa-Enabled Devices Like AirPlay And Google Cast

Amazon Alexa Cast will soon allow users to throw audio to Alexa-enabled devices like Apple AirPlay and Google Cast. Here are the details. [ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

Amazon Alexa Cast will soon allow users to throw audio to Alexa-enabled devices like Apple AirPlay and Google Cast. Here are the details.


[ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

Your Amazon Echo Now Has an Audio Equalizer

You can now change the audio equalizer settings on your Amazon Echo or other Alexa-enabled devices, and all using your voice. This means you can crank up the bass while playing dance music, or boost the treble when listening to podcasts in the morning. The range of Amazon Echo devices is growing bigger with each passing month. So much so you may need help choosing which Echo device to buy. However, what they all have in common is the capacity to play audio content. Which is why the new EQ is a Godsend. Amazon Adds New EQ Settings to the…

Read the full article: Your Amazon Echo Now Has an Audio Equalizer

You can now change the audio equalizer settings on your Amazon Echo or other Alexa-enabled devices, and all using your voice. This means you can crank up the bass while playing dance music, or boost the treble when listening to podcasts in the morning.

The range of Amazon Echo devices is growing bigger with each passing month. So much so you may need help choosing which Echo device to buy. However, what they all have in common is the capacity to play audio content. Which is why the new EQ is a Godsend.

Amazon Adds New EQ Settings to the Echo

According to a post on the Amazon Developer blog, customers can “personalize the tone of the audio playing on their speakers, AV receivers, and sound bars by simply saying, ‘Alexa, crank up the bass,’ ‘Alexa, turn up treble,’ or ‘Alexa, set TV mode.'”

The EQ covers three bands, called Bass, Midrange, and Treble. All of which can be adjusted manually, with a range of plus or minus 6dBs. The new sound mode controls support Movie, Music, Night, Sport, and TV, which should cover most eventualities.

The devices include the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show, and Echo Spot, as well as Alexa-enabled devices such as the Sonos Beam and Polk Command Bar. Amazon is opening up its API to other developers, meaning more devices will be added over time.

From Streaming Music to Awesome Podcasts

The equalizer and sound mode controls are currently only available to customers in the U.S. However, Amazon is promising to bring them to other English-speaking countries sometime in the future. As for everyone else, it’s anyone’s guess.

It’s actually rather surprising it has taken Amazon this long to add an equalizer to its Echo devices. After all, most people use their Echo to listen to something, whether that be streaming music using Alexa or listening to the best podcasts currently available.

Image Credit: Runran/Flickr

Read the full article: Your Amazon Echo Now Has an Audio Equalizer

Now Alexa can adjust your Echo’s EQ

Alexa is finally getting an equalizer feature, letting users adjust EQ settings with commands like “Alexa, decrease the treble.” It’s nice feature that I’m honestly a bit surprised the company didn’t introduce a while back. After it rolls out over the next couple of days, you’ll be able to satisfyingly tell your Echo, “Alexa, turn […]

Alexa is finally getting an equalizer feature, letting users adjust EQ settings with commands like “Alexa, decrease the treble.” It’s nice feature that I’m honestly a bit surprised the company didn’t introduce a while back. After it rolls out over the next couple of days, you’ll be able to satisfyingly tell your Echo, “Alexa, turn up the bass.”

The full features are only coming to the U.S. for the time being, making it possible to adjust different bands between -6 db and 6 db on the standard Echo, the Dot, Plus, Show and Echo Spot.

The company is also offering up the feature for developers and has provided it to third-party speaker manufacturers, for use on products like the Polk Command Bar and Sonos Beam. That, at least, is part of the company’s push to get Alexa on as many non-Echo devices as possible, as it looks to compete with premium smart speakers like Apple’s HomePod and the Google Home Max.

Last year, Amazon was rumored to be working on a HomePod competitor of its own. That eventually semi-materialized with the release of the second-gen Echo. The device offered a more premium design and improved audio, but wasn’t the high-end speaker some were anticipating. At the very least, this new feature offers a bit more customization —  and, perhaps, lays the groundwork for a truly premium Echo offering.

Tap to Alexa brings more accessibility features to the Echo Show

Amazon announced some new features this morning aimed at bringing more accessibility to the Echo line. At the top of the list is Tap to Alexa (not to be confused with the Amazon Tap, mind), which circumvents the need to use voice to interact with the Echo Show. The new feature essentially turns the device […]

Amazon announced some new features this morning aimed at bringing more accessibility to the Echo line. At the top of the list is Tap to Alexa (not to be confused with the Amazon Tap, mind), which circumvents the need to use voice to interact with the Echo Show.

The new feature essentially turns the device into a touchscreen tablet, by clicking the feature on in settings. Once enabled, users can choose from a number of shortcuts to add to the home screen. The list includes news and weather, along with customizable functions, like the ability to turn specific smart home devices on and off, using text inputs.

It’s a simple solution, but it should offer a way into the Alexa ecosystem for users unable to audio cues to interact with the system. It’s the kind of thing that Amazon could really only add once it introduced displays into the mix.

Same goes for Alexa Captioning. The feature was introduced for U.S. customers a few months back, and now it’s being rolled out to those in the U.K., Germany, Japan, India, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The addition will offer an on-screen text-based Alexa responses on both the Echo Show and Spot.

Taken together, the two features should help Amazon appeal to a whole new group of users.