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”]

Earning money in the mobile app era:how apps can help you to save more

Earning  money in the mobile app era:how apps can help you to save more

Tech in the digital age is ubiquitous. Everywhere you look, you will find someone holding a smartphone, watching a movie on their tablets, or listening to music via their mobile devices.

The mobile industry is huge and it can entice people to spend a lot more money than they usually would have. However, that does not have to be the case. In fact, people can now earn money on their spare time with simple tasks, and save money when buying anything.

Earning money on your free time

Most people seem to think that every service that promises to make its users money from home is a scam. While it is true that there are many apps that are entirely fake and attempt to simply trick people with fake promises, there are many legitimate ones too.

In fact, there are countless lists of mobile apps that help you earn money online. These apps all share common features, such as allowing their users to complete as many or as few tasks as they want and earn equivalent cash in the process.

While such apps rarely pay enough for a full-time income, their purpose is not to completely replace your actual job. Instead, they can be used whenever you have some free time and would like to earn some extra cash.

For instance, plenty of people have a long commute every day to work. Many will spend that time listening to music, reading the newspaper, or catching up with the latest updates in social media.

Instead of doing that, they could potentially take some time to work through mobile apps like Swagbucks which will allow them to make some extra money, perhaps enough to pay for the commute or an extra cup of coffee.

Apps that earn you money are entirely flexible

The best thing about these apps is that they never force their users to complete more tasks than they would like. In fact, users can simply close the app whenever they get bored and continue later in the day or even later in the week.

The way most of these services work is that they allow users to accumulate points whenever certain tasks are completed. Completing tasks gives users points which can then be exchanged for actual money.

That kind of flexibility is hard to come by and is one of the most appealing aspects of doing some extra work from a smartphone or tablet. As long as you are content with spending a limited amount of your time for limited rewards then such apps are the right choice for you.

The mobile industry can also help you save money

Earning money via mobile apps is an absolutely fine way to spend a couple of hours every day but it is not for everyone. Some people have a satisfying day job with a high salary and they do not wish to continue working when they get home or during their long commutes.

Instead, they may wish to scout the web for deals, discounts, and interesting products that they can add to their collection. This is precisely the reason why so many apps concerned with online shopping keep popping up in each app store.

Wish and Shpock are just two of the many examples of apps dedicated to saving people money, albeit through different avenues. The first allows people to connect with overseas shops which can ship items are highly reduced costs whereas the second one lets users sell their items to anyone in their vicinity, a modern version of the classified ads.

Apps and the sharing economy

The sharing economy has come under a lot of fire recently. For example, Airbnb is believed to worsen the renting problems that many major cities face because it allows people to rent their rooms in the short-term only, leading to increase shortages in housing.

However, the sharing economy is a concept which has been readily embraced by everyday users. Today, many people would prefer to bring up Uber on their phones and order a ride than calling a taxi company and booking a ride from them.

The sharing economy concept seems to have found a solid home in the mobile industry as more and more apps embrace it in ways that disrupt the market. In China alone, the shared economy industry is estimated at $502 billion, a number that doubled in a single year.

Soon, major cities in the West will also catch up and ride the sharing wave even further. In the next few years, it will not be uncommon to use apps in order to rent a bike, visit a shop and pay with a mobile coupon, and request a ride via an app on the way back.

Such concepts seem strange for the uninitiated but users across the world seem ready to adopt them whenever they actually hit the market. With apps available to earn, save, and share money, it is not difficult to believe that the mobile industry will play a vital role in the economy for years to come.

[“Source-thenextweb”]

Uber Can Be Banned by EU States, Notes Top EU Lawyer

Uber Can Be Banned by EU States, Notes Top EU Lawyer

HIGHLIGHTS
EU member states can ban Uber without informing the European Commission
Uber insists it is a service and not a transport provider
Critics and competitors say this allows it to dodge costly regulation
EU member states can ban ride-hailing pioneer Uber without informing the European Commission because at heart it is an ordinary transport company under their jurisdiction, a top EU lawyer said Tuesday.

San Francisco-based Uber insists it is a service, not a transport provider, connecting riders with freelance drivers directly and much more cheaply than traditional cab companies.

But critics and competitors say this allows it to dodge costly regulation and several countries, led by France, have banned its low-cost UberPOP service as a result.

Uber France challenged the ban, saying it amounted to regulation of an information company which Paris should have first lodged with the Commission, the European Union’s administrative arm.

However, Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general with the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, said Uber was in fact an ordinary transport company and so member states could go ahead and regulate its activities without notifying the Commission in advance.

He recalled that in a May 11 opinion on a related case concerning Uber Spain, he had concluded that UberPOP “does not constitute an information society service.”

Szpunar also argued that even if the ECJ, the EU’s highest court, should at some stage determine UberPOP was indeed an information service provider, a ban in response to “the illegal exercise of a transport activity does not constitute a technical regulation within the meaning of the directive.”
“Notification of the draft law to the Commission would not be necessary in that situation either,” he said.

He argued that member states only had a duty to notify the Commission if they took a specific, targeted action against information service providers.

“Rules which affect those services only in an implicit or incidental manner are excluded from the notification obligation,” he said.

The ECJ’s advocate generals – its top lawyers – are regularly called on to provide initial guidance to the court which in most instances follows their advice in its final rulings.

The French authorities banned Uber after violent protests by traditional taxi drivers.

Uber in turn filed complaint with the EU against France and other states, arguing that national policies hostile to its operations violate European law.

[“Source-gadgets”]