Voicecast comes to Alexa
The Alexa app for my
recently updated to version 1.7.16.
This appears to have brought a new feature called “Voicecast”, and it was turned on by default.
Now, when I ask Alexa on our Echo (the Echo is the hardware; Alexa is the software) most things, they get sent to my Kindle Fire HDX tablet.
They appear on the device…for one thing, they appear on the Fire’s lockscreen, even if it is sleeping (replacing the ad I would normally see there with my ad-supported “Special Offers” device).
They also appear in Notifications (when I swipe down from the top).
The information on the lockscreen doesn’t persist: if I put the Fire to sleep and wake it up again, there is a different image on the screen (just as there would be with an ad).
Update: TIP: you can preserve the information on your tablet by taking a screenshot. While it is displayed on the lockscreen, hold down the power button and the volume down button at the same time for about a second. You’ll see an animation indicating the screenshot. When you unlock your Fire, you can go to Photos, and you should see it there.
The information in the notifications does persist for a while. I can tap there to go to the information in the Alexa app.
We do have two Fires in our household: the information only went to one. It went to the only one that had the Alexa app. If both Fires had the Alexa app, would it have gone to both? UatT (Unknown at this Time).
I tried this shuffling music or playing a playlist, and it was interesting. I was given control of the music on my Fire, but it played through my Echo. I could, for example, see the queue on the Fire.
.I’m going to see if it is still on my Fire when I get out of range of the Echo later today.
Note that you can control whether the information goes to your tablet at all, automatically, or only on your request.
On the tablet, go to the Alexa app. Then, Home-Settings-Voicecast. You’ll have two switches:
- Enable Voicecast
- Enable Automatic Voicecast
If you enable Voicecast, but don’t enable Automatic Voicecast, you can ask Alexa a question. After it has provided you the information, if you say, “Alexa, send that to my Fire”, then it appears on your Fire’s lockscreen.
Does this work with other tablets, besides Fires? I don’t think so.
Interestingly, it doesn’t appear on Fire Phone’s lockscreen, and the Fire Phone version of the app doesn’t have the Voicecast settings. Of course, they’ve stopped selling the Fire Phone (at least in this generation one version for now)…
UPDATE: Amazon has confirmed that it only works with Fire tablets, 4.5.1 or higher.
Is this a useful feature?
Yes, I think so. Having the weather appear on the Fire’s lockscreen is nice. I’m not sure what would happen if the Fire was outside of this wi-fi network, though. Could I use this to send information to my Significant Other’s tablet (if it had the app) when the tablet is in another city?
I’ll ask the Alexa team these four questions, and update with answers:
- Does Voicecast require that the app is on the device?
- If there is more than one Fire tablet on the account with the app, does it send to all of them?
- If music is sent to a Fire tablet via Alexa request, how do you get it to play through the tablet and not the Echo?
- Can music be sent to a Fire tablet when it is out of the wi-fi network which hosts the Echo?
UPDATE: Alexa Support, which tends to be super fast, sent this response:
This is *** from the Echo Support team. Thanks for contacting us and those are a lot of great questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.
Voicecast will be delivered to each Kindle Fire registered onto your account that does have the Alexa app installed. The Echo isn’t actually sending music to the Kindle Fire, it’s simply displaying the “card” of your request for that music.
If you wanted to play music on your Fire you simply go to the music section on the device and play music there and yes you can take it anywhere and play music. However if it’s not downloaded you would need a WiFi connection to stream from the cloud.
With Voicecast, you can ask Amazon Echo to send you more information about the content you just heard (such as Wikipedia entries, weather, or music) to compatible Fire tablets (running Fire OS 4.5.1 or above) registered to your Amazon account. You can also turn on Automatic Voicecast to see the requested information automatically on your tablet.
When you send information to your tablet, it appears on the lock screen or automatically opens the Alexa app. If you’re doing something else on your tablet at the time that you request content (such as browsing the web or playing a game), a notification appears on the screen. To use Voicecast, the Alexa app must be installed on your tablet.
Voicecast and Automatic Voicecast work will send information for the following categories:
— Questions & Answers
— Flash Briefing
— To-do and Shopping Lists
— Timer & Alarms
If you have any further questions, you can reach Amazon Echo Customer Support by phone directly and toll-free at 1-877-375-9365. We’re available from 3 a.m. to 10 p.m Pacific time, seven days a week.
Thanks and have a good weekend.
If you are able to answer any of the questions, or have other questions or comments, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.
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