Life Bot’s new Alexa app can text you reminders, help with daily activities

A new voice app from a Y Combinator-backed startup called Life Bot wants to make it easier to use Amazon Alexa as a digital assistant, by aiding with your daily routines and learning your personal preferences. At launch, Life Bot’s Alexa app has a handful of tricks up its sleeve. It can find your misplaced phone, for example, by giving it a ring. Or it can text you reminders at a scheduled time. It can even help you meditate or do yoga at your desk.

But Life Bot’s longer-term ambition is to learn from its users, then be able to kick-off personalized workflows with a single voice command.

A future version of the app could respond to a command like “good morning” by launching a series of updates that would differ from user to user.

For instance, one person might first hear their morning briefing, then launch into a meditation session. Another might have Alexa dictate their schedule for the day, then receive a list of reminders that are in need of scheduling. (To be clear, Life Bot would be running content in its own app, not launching other skills.)

The idea for this jack-of-all-trades voice bot comes from co-founders Jess Williams and Oscar Merry, who previously founded London-based voice design agency Opearlo. The agency did client work for a number of companies, including Unilever, that wanted to make their products and services accessible through voice.

“We kept identifying the problems that brands were facing, and we thought there was a huge opportunity to create the first voice app that people love — and one that people actually use every day,” explains Williams.

The founders sold Opearlo and joined Y Combinator’s summer class.

What’s clever about the implementation of this voice app is that it’s working around several challenges facing voice app adoption today — including discovery, people’s confusion over how to use the voice apps themselves and voice apps’ limited inability to reach users outside the home.

“People love Alexa, but we haven’t yet gotten into the habit of thinking ‘I bet there’s a skill for that,’ like we do with mobile apps,” says Williams. In part, that’s because Alexa is a new technology, she notes. “But also, there aren’t any external triggers to remind you to use Alexa. If you don’t form the habit yourself, it’s very difficult to remember to use her,” Williams continues.

Worse still is trying to remember how to invoke the skills using the right syntax and commands.

To make it easier to get started, Life Bot combines voice app functionality with text messaging.

When you first set up the skill, Life Bot asks for your phone number. The app then texts a welcome message to your phone and asks for your name. After you reply, it will return with suggestions of things to try. Having your hand held like this through the onboarding process makes it a lot easier to get started with Life Bot, compared with other voice apps.

Plus, now that Life Bot has your phone number, the app can connect with you when you’re away from Alexa, too. While Alexa itself has reminders and to-dos, her reach is more limited. You can check on your reminders via the Alexa app, but when they go live, they’re sent to one of your Alexa-powered devices, like your Echo or Echo Dot.

Life Bot, however, can just text your phone instead.

 

In time, the plan is to introduce new features in Life Bot, starting with to-dos. In that case, Life Bot will just text your whole to-do list to you at a date and time you specify. In a few more months, the team hopes to have the personalization aspects working, too.

And eventually, you’ll be able to use Life Bot on other voice platforms, like Google Home, Cortana and more.

The startup has no immediate plans for monetization, but may partner with others to bring their content into its voice app later on.

Currently bootstrapped, save for Y Combinator’s funding, Life Bot’s team of three aims to raise a seed round when the YC summer program completes.

You can try Life Bot yourself by enabling the Alexa skill here.

[“Source-techcrunch”]

Amazon Alexa Already Winning Virtual Assistant Showdown

Amazon’s Alexa, the personal in-home assistant, has been ranked as the best digital virtual assistant of 2016 by both industry experts and sales.

Amazon’s Alexa, the personal in-home assistant launched with the Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Echo, completely obliterated its competition in the smart home market last year, and is poised to make an even bigger impact in 2017.

Alexa Ranked Best Digital Virtual Assistant of 2016

Sitting atop CNET’s list for the best smart home devices for 2016 was Amazon’s Echo, edging out competitors like Nest, Phillips, and other top producers. Alexa even took home the top-spot at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, leading major tech website Wired to run the headline: “Alexa Just Conquered CES. The World Is Next.” Alexa’s praise isn’t solely relegated to techies and those within the industry, companies like Ford and LG unveiled new products with Alexa integration last year.

While the market for smart home devices are still comparatively smaller than the one for smartphones, Amazon has quickly asserted itself as the dominant player. Google, Microsoft, and Apple are coming out with their own voice-activated speaker technologies, but Amazon remains the company to beat.

Experts say that Amazon was able to maneuver itself into the top spot by not overselling its Alexa, as Apple repeatedly did with Siri, Business Insider reports. Instead of selling the Echo as a device that was more than just a speaker, Amazon marketed the Echo as a speaker with a few smart voice commands built in. Overtime, as Siri let consumers down and positive press spread about Amazon’s alternative, the online retailer carefully added new sets of capabilities to Alexa. Today, Alexa boasts thousands of commands that allow it to: order its owner an Uber, order products from Amazon.com, or even read the day’s news.

Amazon’s Echo is the now the central device in the market for smart home technology. It has the capacity to interact with nearly every aspect of a user’s home, including: lights, thermostats, and door locks.

The central part of Echo that helps to make Amazon more successful is that it is built to make it easier for the consumer to give more of their money to Amazon. From playing music to making a purchase, the device defaults to Amazon.com. Essentially, the interface always insures that the user is connecting with Amazon, especially when spending money.

Looking at Amazon’s holiday sales of its smart home devices, it is easy to see that consumers are jiving with Amazon’s Alexa.

The company had its best holiday sales season this past Christmas. The firm said it outpaced sales goals for its flagship Amazon Echo family this December, with sales up over nine times what they were compared to last year’s holiday season.  The online vendor sold millions of Alexa devices worldwide. Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire tablet were also top-sellers this year.

Echo and Echo Dot were the best-selling products across Amazon this year, and we’re thrilled that millions of new customers will be introduced to Alexa as a result,” CEO Worldwide Consumer, Amazon, Jeff Wilke said in a Tuesday press release. “We couldn’t have made this holiday season possible for customers without the dedication and hard work of our customer service, transportation, and fulfillment associates along with our carrier partners.”

The online vendor was so successful in selling its Amazon Echo this holiday season, that it had to halt shipping of the product because it ran out of inventory.

As sales of Alexa devices are on the rise, the clock is ticking for Amazon’s competitors to find a viable option to compete.

Amazon Alexa Photo via Shutterstock

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[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Logitech’s ZeroTouch Brings Amazon Alexa to Any Car

Logitech's ZeroTouch Brings Amazon Alexa to Any Car

Logitech’s ZeroTouch Brings Amazon Alexa to Any Car
HIGHLIGHTS
ZeroTouch available for Android only
It is priced at a starting price of $60
Logitech also unveiled Brio 4K Pro Webcam
Amazon’s virtual digital assistant Alexa is no longer limited to living rooms as the company integrated the assistant in LG’s smart appliances showcased at the CES 2017. The company also expanded Alexa into automobiles with a partnership with Ford, Hyundai, and Volkswagen, and other automakers that allowed it to be integrated into cars. Now, Logitech’s new ZeroTouch is bringing a cheaper solution for Android users to use Amazon’s Alexa without upgrading to a new car. Additionally, Logitech has also launched its new Brio 4K Pro Webcam which it claims to be the top-of-the-line webcam targeted for business and home-office users.

The device is a smartphone mount for your car, and also comes with a companion app that enables you to use Alexa via smartphone. Potential uses include switching the lights on before you get home or listening to a book on Kindle via Alexa on the smartphone mounted in the car. It’s automatically activated on your phone when it’s placed on the magnetic mount. The new Logitech ZeroTouch can enable you to make calls on smartphones without touching the phone, and also reply to incoming messages on WhatsApp, and other apps via voice commands while you are on road.

Logitech’s ZeroTouch is a car mount with voice control currently for Android only. It is available for a starting price of $60 (roughly Rs. 4,000) for basic version while $80 (roughly Rs. 5,500) model offers windshield or dash mount option. Users will have to download a companion app from Google Play.
Separately, Logitech’s new Brio 4K Pro Webcam will be going on sale in Europe priced at EUR 239 (roughly Rs. 17,000) and in the US priced at $199 (roughly Rs. 13,500). Users can grab the new webcam from Amazon and Logitech’s online store.

logitech brio webcam logitech

Logitech’s Brio 4K Pro Webcam works with all popular business apps like Skype for Business, and others. The company is targeting YouTubers and vloggers with its latest webcam. The Brio packs RightLight 3 with support for HDR, 4K ultra HD video quality, and 5X zoom. It also supports apps like Windows Hello and other secure infrared-based facial recognition applications.

Tags: Logitech, Logitech ZeroTouch, Amazon, Logitech Brio 4K Pro Webcam Price, Logitech ZeroTouch Price, Alexa, Amazon Alexa

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Alexa and AWS Star as Amazon Reports Jump in Quarterly Profit

Alexa and AWS Star as Amazon Reports Jump in Quarterly Profit
Amazon reported on Thursday that profit leapt during the year-end holiday shopping season, but the tech giant saw shares sink as revenue fell shy of high expectations.

While revenue rose to $43.7 billion (roughly Rs. 2,94,481 crores) from $35.7 billion (roughly Rs. 2,40,572 crores) in a similar year-over-year comparison, Wall Street had expected Amazon to take in more cash during the key holiday shopping season.

“Amazon is usually a retailer that operates at full volume, the noise of its sales growth a clarion call in an often muted retail sector,” said GlobalData Retail analyst Anthony Riva.

“However, this quarter that volume seems to have been turned down a couple of notches.”

Amazon shares were down more than four percent to $805.40 in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings report.

Net income for the quarter was $749 million (roughly Rs. 5,047 crores), compared with $482 in the same period a year earlier, according to earnings figures.

While Amazon is known for its huge online retail operations, it is also a major provider of cloud computing, and is a rival to Netflix in streaming video. It has been ramping up efforts in artificial intelligence with its Alexa-powered speakers and partnerships with makers of connected devices.

Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said the company is looking for growth via its “Prime” subscription service, which gives customers access to video, music and other services and free two-day shipping.

Bezos said in a statement that Prime Video was now available in some 200 countries and territories.

Its retail operations took in $26 billion in North America and $14 billion in the rest of the world.
‘Super Cloud’
Amazon Web Services and rival Microsoft Azure will be the “only two super clouds” where businesses rent storage or computing power for online operations, but that value is already built into the share price, Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry said in a note to investors.

The earnings report said the cloud unit known as Amazon Web Services saw revenue jump 47 percent in the quarter to $3.5 billion.

Echo resounding
Devices infused with Alexa artificial intelligence were top selling products at Amazon.com during the holiday season, according to the company.

Sales of Echo home virtual assistant devices, which are built with internal machine smarts, jumped nine times higher than during the same quarter a year earlier, Amazon said.

Alexa was one of the big winners at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, cropping up in TVs, cars, fridges – you name it – in what appeared to be a breakthrough moment for the smart technology.

Out to deliver
Amazon continues to invest in its core retail network. This week Amazon announced plans to strengthen its distribution muscle by building its first air freight hub – an investment of nearly $1.5 billion.

A hub for the company’s growing fleet of Prime Air cargo planes will be built at an airport in northern Kentucky, adding more than 2,000 US workers to the approximately 10,000 people it already employs at fulfillment centers in that state.

Low cost and fast delivery are a fundamental part of Amazon’s appeal to consumers, but are also its “Achilles’ heel” because speedy shipping can be most costly, said analyst Riva.

“As much as this quarter has been more subdued, Amazon remains firmly on the front foot in terms of innovation,” Riva said.

“This alone will continue to make it a retail out-performer, at least in sales terms, over the next year and beyond.”

Tags: Amazon, US, Jeff Bezos, Amazon Echo, Alexa, Prime Air, Amazon Prime, Internet, Apps

[“Source-Gadgets”]