Alexa/Echo Round up #3: sports update, Alexa enabled phone calls on first 3rd party Alexa-enabled device

Alexa/Echo Round up #3: sports update, Alexa enabled phone calls on first 3rd party Alexa-enabled device

The Measure Circle’s Amazon Echo/Alexa Round ups are short pieces about the Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service which may or may not be expanded later. For more information on the Echo and Alexa, seeThe Measured Circle’s Echo Central.

“Alexa, call my Mom.”

Right from the beginning, people have wanted the

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to make phone calls.

One reason is the sound quality…it seems to hear us very well, even from across the room (it should, with seven specially designed microphones), and it sounds good when speaking or playing back music.

Another reason, though, is just the convenience.

It would be nice to just ask the Echo to call somebody and to have it happen.

Well, we still don’t have that, yet, but Amazon PR (Public Relations) sent me an interesting heads-up.

There’s a difference between the Echo, which is the hardware (a Bluetooth speaker, among other things) and the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) , which is the software that provides the Echo with what I call its “parse-onality”.

We’ve known that Amazon planned to license AVS to other devices…as they’ve indicated, anything with a microphone and a speaker is a possibility (undoubtedly, this will include some cars…I would think by the 2017 model year).

The first 3rd-party (not Amazon made) device to “…integrate Alexa with far-field voice capabilities” will be Invoxia’s

Triby – Connected speaker for the kitchen (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

This $199 device (pre-ordering now for October 30th delivery in the USA) is a Bluetooth speaker, Spotify player, “phone” (but only Triby to Triby) with a connected “doodle screen” (I’m calling it that).

I’ll be surprised if it’s a big hit…I think the price is high for this, and while free internet calling is great, the fact that it’s limited to Tribys and SmartPhones with the Triby app within the same Triby group a creates a big hurdle to initial adoption. Also, needing to be charged after ten hours of use seems burdensome…that’s not that different from a SmartPhone, of course, but for something that looks like an appliance, I think people won’t anticipate that.

As soon as the Echo can make calls (and I expect that may be coming before the end of the year…and you can Bluetooth your phone to it now, that will make this feature of the Triby a lot less attractive. People are already paying for phone calls…they won’t mind paying for them through the Echo in addition to through their phones.

I really appreciate Amazon sending me the information and a link to the Alexa

blogpost by David Isbitski

I think there are three really significant elements to this development:

  • Invoxia is a new recipient of Amazon’s $100 million dollar Alexa Fund, which basically makes grants to get the Alexa Voice Service into more places…if you are a product manager who wants to apply, click the blogpost link above
  • This is the first (of what I think will be many) non Amazon devices to have AVS. It joins the Echo, but also the Amazon Fire TV 2nd generation ((at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)) and the Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote ((at AmazonSmile*))…and it’s worth noting that you don’t need the voice remote, you can use the free Alexa app on your iOS (Apple) device (iPhone, for example) or Android device.
  • Amazon did not do a press release on this, and it does not appear on the Triby product page. They told me 🙂 and they blogged about it on a developer blog…but this shows you how much more is happening with AVS than the general public knows

I think we will both see capabilities for the Echo improving (including texting and voice calls), and places where we can access AVS.

Um, Amazon…you don’t have to say “Alexa” with the Fire TV

As the Alexa Voice Service moves to more devices, Amazon will need to be careful about its messaging about how to use it.

This popped up on my Fire TV Gen 2:


Alexa on Fire TV

Notice how it says to preface your request with the “wake word”, “Alexa”?

That’s not necessary…when you use a voice remote (with the Fire TV, the Fire TV Stick, or the Echo, or use the Alexa app), you can just ask the question.

Oh, it’s okay to say the name first, and that’s a good thing for branding for Amazon. The issue, though, is that if you have an Echo in the same room (we do), it also wants to respond to the request. 🙂

I just don’t use the name with the remote, and I think that’s simpler.

A new feature: sport update

I divide what Alexa can do into two things: features and Skills. The Skills are generally made by people besides Amazon, and I keep a page of them here:

Alexa Skills

You can think of the as being like apps for your SmartPhone.

Features, on the other hand, are made by Amazon, and you can think of them as part of Alexa.

I will make a separate page for those, but they do keep growing. 🙂

The latest one is a Sports Update.

It works on the Echo, but not currently, on the Fire TV family.

You can set your teams in

Home – Menu (three horizontal lines) – Settings – Account – Sports Update

I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area (you can set your ZIP** code in Settings – Alexa Devices…different devices can have different ZIP codes), and it defaulted to these:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Oakland Athletics
  • San Diego Padres
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Sacramento Kings
  • Oakland Raiders
  • San Diego Chargers
  • San Francisco 49ers

I mostly pay attention to the Giants, although I used to follow the 49ers back in the Joe Montana/Steve Young days.

I get why they show you teams which are likely to be your team’s rivals…know your enemies. 🙂 For me, though, I’m going to set it to just the Giants and the 49ers by tapping the “X”s for the others. You can search for other teams, of course.

I tried it: be aware of spoilers. 🙂 It gave me the real time score in a game, and how much time was left.

Seems like a nice feature.

New Skills

  • Bitcoin Rate
  • Edgar Facts gives you a random fact about Edgar the dog. Edgar belongs to PewDiePie, who is basically the most subscribed to person on YouTube
  • Event Guide
  • FreeBusy Scheduling Buddy

ILMK post featuring Alexa Voice Services

You might enjoy this post from my blog, I Love My Kindle, which is one of the most popular blogs of any kind in the USA Kindle store:

NASA: Mars mission astronauts to have Prime Music, Alexa

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.




3 Responses to “Alexa/Echo Round up #3: sports update, Alexa enabled phone calls on first 3rd party Alexa-enabled device”

  1. Round up #310: | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Alexa/Echo Round up #3: sports update, Alexa enabled phone calls on first 3rd party Alexa-enabled d… […]

  2. Tom Semple Says:

    I tried the Sports Update feature after updating the Settings using the Alexa app. However, it continued to use the list of teams that had been previously defined (every NFL/NBA/MLB team in CA, presumably as determined by our ZIP code), even after some passage of time. Hopefully they’ll fix this. I don’t really follow sports very much, but just wanted to try it out.

    I notice the Alexa app also lists my Fire TV Stick and Fire TV as ‘Alexa devices’. The only thing it lets me do is to change the name of the devices, but it would be cool if they’d update last year’s Fire TV devices with new Alexa capabilities (beyond just ‘voice search’).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      You need to edit the list yourself. 🙂 Tap the “X”s on the ones you want to remove and search to find additional teams.

      Yes, those have been listed for a bit. Amazon has said that the update is coming…we just don’t know when yet. I’m guessing it will be pretty soon.

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