The First Toy To Integrate with Amazon Alexa

Soon, toddlers can ask Alexa for help cooking in their very own toy kitchen. The Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market, from toymaker KidKraft, weaves in the Amazon voice assistant into an interactive pretend kitchen and grocery store.

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Making its debut at this weekend’s New York Toy Fair, the $300 deluxe wooden play set is expected to go on sale at Amazon.com later this year, and includes 100 play pieces that prompt various reactions from Alexa. Not included: Alexa itself, which would come from their parents’ Echo smart speaker, designed to sit at the center of the play set.

KidKraft created a program that works in the Amazon Alexa world that helps kids learn about cooking meals and shopping as they play, without having to say “Alexa” to get the assistant to react. Once the parent or child asks Alexa to start the KidKraft program, the smart speaker reacts to everyday words and phrases kids may say during play. So, if Alexa picks up on a kid saying “spaghetti,” “market” or “let’s play,” Alexa will chime in with prompts for a recipe, a shopping list of ingredients, or start up a game.

But Alexa is not just responding to kids’ voices — it can also tell which items kids are playing with and react accordingly. The accessories in the play set, which include fake food and cookware, are fitted with RFID chips, and sensors can tell which items are at the register or on the stovetop. The play set then relays that info to the smart speaker via Bluetooth. That means when a child places the pot on the stove, Alexa may say, “Now that the water is boiling, can you open up the fridge and grab some vegetables?”

The play set is also programmed with several games Alexa can play. For example, the “Secret Ingredient Game” challenges kids to guess which food Alexa is thinking of based on clues. Then kids have to scan the right item at the check-out counter.

To address any concerns over kids interacting with voice assistants, Amazon requires Alexa programs for kids — including this one made by KidKraft — to follow stricter content guidelines. Programs for kids can’t include any advertising, sell anything, collect any personal information or include content that is not suitable for all ages.

Why It’s Hot

As toy companies determine the balance of technology and analog, tactile ways to play, this kitchen set seems like a great first step into how to upgrade a classic toy without the use of screens or interfering with imaginative free play.

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Activate This ‘Bracelet of Silence,’ and Alexa Can’t Eavesdrop

Last year, Ben Zhao decided to buy an Alexa-enabled Echo speaker for his Chicago home. Mr. Zhao just wanted a digital assistant to play music, but his wife, Heather Zheng, was not enthused. “She freaked out,” he said.

Ms. Zheng characterized her reaction differently. First she objected to having the device in their house, she said. Then, when Mr. Zhao put the Echo in a work space they shared, she made her position perfectly clear:“I said, ‘I don’t want that in the office. Please unplug it. I know the microphone is constantly on.’”

Mr. Zhao and Ms. Zheng are computer science professors at the University of Chicago, and they decided to channel their disagreement into something productive. With the help of an assistant professor, Pedro Lopes, they designed a piece of digital armor: a “bracelet of silence” that will jam the Echo or any other microphones in the vicinity from listening in on the wearer’s conversations.

The bracelet is like an anti-smartwatch, both in its cyberpunk aesthetic and in its purpose of defeating technology. A large, somewhat ungainly white cuff with spiky transducers, the bracelet has 24 speakers that emit ultrasonic signals when the wearer turns it on. The sound is imperceptible to most ears, with the possible exception of young people and dogs, but nearby microphones will detect the high-frequency sound instead of other noises.

“It’s so easy to record these days,” Mr. Lopes said. “This is a useful defense. When you have something private to say, you can activate it in real time. When they play back the recording, the sound is going to be gone.”

During a phone interview, Mr. Lopes turned on the bracelet, resulting in static-like white noise for the listener on the other end.

As American homes are steadily outfitted with recording equipment, the surveillance state has taken on an air of domesticity. Google and Amazon have sold millions of Nest and Ring security cameras, while an estimated one in five American adults now owns a smart speaker. Knocking on someone’s door or chatting in someone’s kitchen now involves the distinct possibility of being recorded.

It all presents new questions of etiquette about whether and how to warn guests that their faces and words could end up on a tech company’s servers, or even in the hands of strangers.

By design, smart speakers have microphones that are always on, listening for so-called wake words like “Alexa,” “Hey, Siri,” or “O.K., Google.” Only after hearing that cue are they supposed to start recording. But contractors hired by device makers to review recordings for quality reasons report hearing clips that were most likely captured unintentionally, including drug deals and sex.

Two Northeastern University researchers, David Choffnes and Daniel Dubois, recently played 120 hours of television for an audience of smart speakers to see what activates the devices. They found that the machines woke up dozens of times and started recording after hearing phrases similar to their wake words.

“People fear that these devices are constantly listening and recording you. They’re not,” Mr. Choffnes said. “But they do wake up and record you at times when they shouldn’t.”

Rick Osterloh, Google’s head of hardware, recently said homeowners should disclose the presence of smart speakers to their guests. “I would, and do, when someone enters into my home, and it’s probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate,” he told the BBC last year.

The “bracelet of silence” is not the first device invented by researchers to stuff up digital assistants’ ears. In 2018, two designers created Project Alias, an appendage that can be placed over a smart speaker to deafen it. But Ms. Zheng argues that a jammer should be portable to protect people as they move through different environments, given that you don’t always know where a microphone is lurking.

At this point, the bracelet is just a prototype. The researchers say that they could manufacture it for as little as $20, and that a handful of investors have asked them about commercializing it.

Source: NY Times

Why It’s Hot

Voice tech spawns voice protection tech. We can assume innovation to protect us from innovation is a trend worth following.

Your Google Home / Alexa could spy on you

By now, the privacy threats posed by Amazon Alexa and Google Home are common knowledge. Workers for both companies routinely listen to audio of users—recordings of which can be kept forever—and the sounds the devices capture can be used in criminal trials.

Now, there’s a new concern: malicious apps developed by third parties and hosted by Amazon or Google. The threat isn’t just theoretical. Whitehat hackers at Germany’s Security Research Labs developed eight apps—four Alexa “skills” and four Google Home “actions”—that all passed Amazon or Google security-vetting processes. The skills or actions posed as simple apps for checking horoscopes, with the exception of one, which masqueraded as a random-number generator. Behind the scenes, these “smart spies,” as the researchers call them, surreptitiously eavesdropped on users and phished for their passwords.

The malicious apps had different names and slightly different ways of working, but they all followed similar flows. A user would say a phrase such as: “Hey Alexa, ask My Lucky Horoscope to give me the horoscope for Taurus” or “OK Google, ask My Lucky Horoscope to give me the horoscope for Taurus.” The eavesdropping apps responded with the requested information while the phishing apps gave a fake error message. Then the apps gave the impression they were no longer running when they, in fact, silently waited for the next phase of the attack.

SRLabs eventually took down all four apps demoed. As with most skills and actions, users didn’t need to download anything. Simply saying the proper phrases into a device was enough for the apps to run.

There’s little or no evidence third-party apps are actively threatening Alexa and Google Home users now, but the SRLabs research suggests that possibility is by no means far-fetched.

 Why it’s Hot:
This is potentially very, very scary. With all of the backlash around Facebook, it seems inevitable that voice devices will soon face similar scrutiny. What safety measures will they take to ensure this never happens in real life?

big g hacks alexa…


Voice shopping is increasingly becoming mainstream – by next year, it will eclipse $40 billion. And when shopping using Alexa, 85% of people go with its recommendation for products. So, Honey Nut Cheerios used Amazon Prime day to become the #1 cereal brand on Amazon, and the “cereal” default for millions of customers (80% of whom were new to the brand). They offered free Honey Nut Cheerios to anyone who spent over $40 on Amazon Pantry (as well as a $10 discount on their cart), automatically making Honey Nut Cheerios part of peoples’ order history, thus making them the default for those people who might say “order cereal” in the future.

Why it’s hot:

1) It’s hot: Honey Nut Cheerios is getting in on the ground floor. Before voice shopping truly becomes commonplace behavior, they’re powerfully establishing themselves as the default choice and #1 grocery item on Amazon Pantry.

2) It’s not: It feels a bit too aggressive. People choosing Honey Nut Cheerios when they were offered for free (with a $10 cart discount to boot) doesn’t mean they want them in the future. Should brands be placing themselves not just in the consideration set (as a recommendation), but solidifying themselves as the default for transacting?

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“Alexa, am I having a heart attack?”

Almost 500,000 Americans die each year from cardiac arrest, but now an unlikely new tool may help cut that number. Researchers at the University of Washington have figured out how to turn a smart speaker into a cardiac monitoring system. That’s right, in the not-too-distant future you may be able to ask Siri if you’re having a heart attack—even if you’re not touching the device.

Because smart speakers are always passively listening, anticipating being called into action with a “Hey Google” or “Alexa!” they are the perfect device for listening for changes in breathing. So if someone starts gasping and making so-called “agonal breathing” (add that to your Scrabble repertoire) the smart speaker can call for help. Agonal breathing is described by co-author Dr. Jacob Sunshine as “a sort of a guttural gasping noise” that is so unique to cardiac arrest that it makes “a good audio biomarker.” According to a press release, about 50% of people who experience cardiac arrest have agonal breathing and since Alexa and Google are always listening, they can be taught to monitor for its distinctive sound.

On average, the proof-of-concept tool detected agonal breathing events 97% of the time from up to 20 feet (or 6 meters) away. The findings were published today in npj Digital Medicine. Why is it so good at detecting agonal breathing? Because the team created it using a dataset of agonal breathing captured from real 911 calls.

“A lot of people have smart speakers in their homes, and these devices have amazing capabilities that we can take advantage of,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota. “We envision a contactless system that works by continuously and passively monitoring the bedroom for an agonal breathing event, and alerts anyone nearby to come provide CPR. And then if there’s no response, the device can automatically call 911.”

Why It’s Hot

Despite the rather creepy notion that Amazon is always listening, this innovation is rather cool. What other kinds of health issues could this predict? As a parent, having a speaker able to predict whether a cough is run-of-the-mill or of the scary croup variety would be invaluable. For health events that need an aural translation, this is one application in the right direction.

Source:Fast Company

ny times has the [alexa] skills…

The inimitable New York Times has created not one, but five new Alexa skills.

Now, people can use their smart speaker to access:

> A daily flash briefing read by journalist Michael Barbaro
> Hear about the travels of Sebastian Modak with “52 places to go”
> Get a weekly music roundup from music editor Caryn Ganz
> Get book recommendations from Times book critics
> Play a weekly “New York Times Quiz” testing their knowledge of recent news

Why it’s hot:

It may not feel a massive innovation, but it’s a savvy move for the Times in a world where people are increasingly eschewing websites. No longer is it enough to build destinations, we have to think about how our brands can be present where people need them, when they need them.

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defend your home with two guys talking about ketchup…

The “modern home insurance” brand Hippo recently created “Away Mode”, an Alexa skill that activates one of seven “awkward” conversations when enabled, ostensibly to trick would-be burglars ala Kevin McAllister.

But while it is a real skill, it’s actually designed as advertising to generate awareness for the three-year-old brand.

According to Hippo, “Hippo was looking for a way to engage a broad audience in a conversation about home security and home insurance. We figured it was easier to drive awareness and education through humour.

Why It’s Hot:

First, it’s another example of  “innovation” as advertising. And while stunts are nothing new in advertising, this is the first time a brand has used Alexa as the chosen platform on which to execute one.

But more importantly, it’s a beautiful way to emphasize its point of differentiation. Hippo bills itself generally as an insurance company with a different outlook, as a “tech company” that “leverages Smart Home technology to prevent disasters instead of simply responding to them”, and its insurance “protects smart home appliances and electronics”.

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Amazon Alexa, At Your (Room) Service

Hotel service is getting a major upgrade. With Alexa for Hospitality, Amazon will help hotels manage and customize how their Echo speakers can work harder for their guests.

With an Echo speaker in each room, guests will feel right at home with the commands they use every day like turning the lights on and off, setting alarms, playing music and making phone calls. But even more importantly, Alexa will supplement hotel staff by taking on the functions of ordering room service, requesting room cleanings, providing information like pool hours, and helping guests check out. Amazon is also providing a digital platform to help hotels manage hundreds of Echo devices in one centralized view.

Along with the announcement, Amazon notes they are already working on enhancements. In the near future, guests will be able to temporarily connect their own Amazon account to the device in their hotel room, meaning preferences like favorite music and personalized details like contacts will be accessible. Upon checkout, the speaker will reset for the next guest.

Why It’s Hot: 

Alexa for Hospitality can help hotels truly deliver the level of comfort and convenience their guests expect. As it continues to evolve, hotels should see significant operational efficiencies while guests enjoy all the benefits of a virtual concierge.

Source: https://venturebeat.com/2018/06/19/amazon-launches-alexa-for-hospitality-to-bring-voice-enabled-services-to-hotel-guests/ 

Undetectable Commands for Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa Raise Serious Security Risks

Researchers in the U.S. and China have discovered ways to send hidden commands to digital assistants—including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant—that could have massive security implications.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doorswire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

“My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,” said Nicholas Carlini, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in computer security at U.C. Berkeley and one of the paper’s authors.

Last year, researchers at Princeton University and China’s Zhejiang University also found voice-activated devices could be issued orders using inaudible frequencies. Chinese researchers called the technique DolphinAttack.

 

Amazon told The New York Times it has taken steps to ensure its speaker is secure. Google said its platform has features that mitigate such commands. And Apple noted an iPhone or iPad must be unlocked before Siri will open an app.

Still, there are several examples of companies taking advantage of weaknesses in the devices, from Burger King’s Google Home commercial to South Park‘s stunt with Alexa.

And the number of devices in consumers’ homes is on the rise. Digital assistants have been among the hottest gifts of the past two holiday seasons. And Amazon, alone, is expected to sell $10 billion worth of the devices by 2020.

Source: NY Times and Fortune

Why It’s Hot

It seems like every week we are posting something else about Voice (Alexa, Google Home) and emerging capabilities or how brands are using them. As with any tech, there are concerns about how it will be used. I do wonder though if there’s something positive here, versus scary?

it’s just an ad…BUT WHY IS IT JUST AN AD?!?!

Amazon revealed its Alexa Super Bowl spot this week, and as you can see above, the premise is – imagine what it would be like if you were speaking to various celebrities instead of what at this point is a borderline monotone, virtually personality-less Alexa. There’s the anthemic 90-second version above, plus 30-second editions focused on specific personalities like you see below.

Why It’s Hot:

In a world where we’ll inevitably rely on speaking to digital assistants, why wouldn’t Amazon, Google, or any others give you the ability to choose your assistant’s voice and personality? And, why didn’t Amazon do it as part of this campaign? We’ve seen it in concept videos, but is this more than just an ad? Having GPS directions read to you by Arnold Schwarzenegger is one thing, but a true assistant you can interact with is a much different scenario. When can we expect this eminently possible future?

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Amazon’s Alexa may eventually serve up ads…maybe, maybe not?

It was only a matter of time, folks.

According to a report from CNBC, Amazon is in talks with brands and advertisers to include ads on the Echo through via Alexa. The report says that Amazon is discussing these opportunities with Procter & Gamble and Clorox.

Just as ads found their way to the newspaper, the radio, the television, the internet, and even to our inbox and inside our apps, it only makes sense for advertisers to follow us to the next frontier of voice-powered AI.

There are two obvious paths to potentially advertising on Alexa.

The first is to let brands pay for placement when users are shopping through Alexa. For example, Proctor & Gamble could pay for Bounty to be the first brand recommended when a user asks for Alexa to purchase paper towels. Of course, these ads could be ultra-smart given the data Amazon already has about each individual user’s buying history.

The second channel for advertising could come via Alexa Skills. For example, a skill that tells users movie showtimes could suggest buying tickets through Fandango.

Paid search ads via voice could be much more effective than the paid search ads you see on the web, as with Google. On the web, many have grown numb to ad search results and can easily scroll past them to real search results. On a voice platform, it takes far more work to ‘scroll past’ the first result presented. Plus, depending on how Amazon presents paid results, it may be more difficult to decipher paid results from actual results.

Amazon, however, responded to CNBC saying that “the company has no plans to add advertisements to Alexa.” Obviously, this is just a rumor at the moment but it would be far from shocking if ads hit the Alexa platform. An Amazon spokesperson responded to request for comment with the same quote they gave CNBC: “There are no plan to add advertising to Alexa.”

Source: TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Regardless of whether this is real news now or not, it’s still interesting to consider and potentially inevitable. Brands are bound to want in on this expanding space — can the Amazons and Google’s of the world hold them back? Should they?

Alexa gets its first celeb voice with Oprah

Welcome to the World of Voice Shopping

Amazon has partnered with “O, the Oprah Magazine,” on a holiday promotion that gives voice-assistant Alexa the voice of Oprah Winfrey when users shop among the iconic celebrity’s “Favorite Things.” Oprah’s voice will recommend a product and share background on why it made her list.

Read more here.

Why It’s Hot

  • Yes, it’s gimmicky – but, It’s an interesting ex anploration and build off existing platform (O, The Oprah Magazine and Amazon have worked together over the past couple of years to co-promote Oprah’s Favorite Things online and on mobile through a dedicated Amazon storefront), and therefore – a great way to test and learn.
  • The UX is not there yet – this won’t be a very efficient way to shop. Not only does it force you to listen to items one-by-one, it’s also difficult to encourage people to shop based on product suggestions and descriptions alone. Most people want to see photos – and sometimes even videos – before making an online purchase.

Amazon is rolling out a Dash Wand with Alexa to make you buy everything

ake Amazon wants its Prime subscribers ordering from its online store all the time, so it just cooked up a new device to help them do exactly that — and it’s essentially giving it away for free.

The company just launched a new instant-ordering gadget, the Dash Wand, that lets you fill up your Amazon shopping cart by using voice commands or scanning barcodes on the packages you have sitting in your kitchen cupboards.

The Dash Wand is essentially an updated version of the OG Amazon Dash wand that debuted in 2015, but this newer version crucially adds Amazon’s artificially intelligent assistant, Alexa, to help out. The digital assistant can sync your shopping list across Amazon devices, convert units of measurement, and search for recipes.

This is a huge upgrade for Amazon’s instant-ordering devices. The original Dash was significantly bigger, cost more than twice as much as this new one, and only worked with AmazonFresh orders.

Amazon’s really pushing the Wand, offering a similar deal to previous promotions for its instant ordering Dash buttons. If you buy a Dash Wand for $20,  you’ll qualify immediately for $20 credit for your next purchase after registering the device. It literally pays for itself — and you can opt-in for a free 90-day AmazonFresh trial, which typically costs $15 per month. It’s actually a pretty great deal for anyone with a Prime subscription.

The Wand is also magnetic, so it can live on your fridge close to all of your most frequently ordered foods, and its Alexa access makes it more useful than the Dash buttons, which are restricted to one item instant ordering.

You don’t get the full Alexa experience here, though. The Wand can’t play music, and its press-button functionality means it won’t automatically respond to the genial “Hey, Alexa” wake command.

It might sound ridiculous that the company is essentially giving the Wands away with all the discounts and incentives, but it’s a savvy business move. Making the shopping experience easier and offering a new Alexa toy to play with will only drive up orders, as if Amazon needs any help to keep its business afloat.

Source: Mashable

Why It’s Hot

Connected AI experiences make the virtual assistant craze more useful. Amazon is pushing forward on many different ways to connect Alexa with other platforms, and this is a great example of a type of utility that in a few years we will wonder how we lived without.

 

holograms, benjamin…

Some genius developer has boldly chosen to experiment with perhaps the world’s most forgotten voice assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and imagined what interacting with her could be like if you added another dimension to it.

In his words – “It’s basically what I imagined Microsoft’s version of Alexa or Google Home would be like if they were to use the holographic AI sidekick from the Halo franchise.”

As seen in the video above, in his prototype, it’s as if you’re speaking to an actual artificial person, making the experience feel more human.

Why it’s hot:
Amazon recently released the Echo Show, which allows skillmakers to add a “face” to their interactions, but this makes that look like a kids toy. This shows how what started not long ago as primitive voice technology on a phone, could quickly turn into actual virtual assistants that look and act like humans, powered by the underlying technology. Plus, apparently 145 million people may not ignore they have access to Cortana in the future.

Alexa, tell Seamless I’m hungry

You can now reorder Seamless with Alexa.

From Amazon.com: Reorder meals for delivery or takeout in seconds from all your favorite Seamless restaurants.

This is a hands-free time saver for Seamless customers — and getting started is easy! Just enable the skill, link your Seamless account, and say “Alexa, open Seamless,” or “Alexa, tell Seamless I’m hungry.”

If you’re a first-time user, Alexa will ask for your preferred delivery address and payment type. Just select your preferences to complete setup. You’ll be able to enjoy the convenience of re-ordering your favorite dishes and meals with Alexa anytime.

The skill’s easiest to use — and the most beneficial for you — if you’ve ordered more than three meals with your Seamless.com account and have one or more current credit/debit cards linked to your account. As long as you have an order history, you can use the skill. Of course, it may be more fun for you if you have many past orders.

Source: Seamless.com

Why It’s Hot

We’re on the lookout for real utility this smart home and voice assistant technology. This is pretty lazy — but pretty cool.

The Juicero of salt is here. Hooray?

Some mis-guided soul has created a bluetooth-enabled “smart salt shaker” that does a whole bunch of things:

  • It can play music
  • It has a color-changing mood light (!)
  • It can dispensed salt via Alexa (though you still presumably have to hold the thing over your food with your hand; no getting around that one)

Story on Lifehacker

You’ll have to wait for this quality item, though, because it is not up on Indiegogo yet.

From Smalt’s About Us page:

Herb & Body is a California-based lifestyle company committed to using smart technology to enhance our lives….Our first innovation, “SMALT”, is the first of it’s kind to market and will transform an ordinary kitchen tools that people have been using for centuries into an experience for the senses.

Why It’s Hot

Well, just look at it.

repeat after me…

A Canadian company called Lyrebird has created a way to replicate anyone’s voice using AI. After capturing 60 seconds of anyone talking, the machine can reproduce an individual’s way of speaking. They say they’ve already received thousands of ideas on how people could use this new capability:

Some companies, for example, are interested in letting their users choose to have audio books read in the voice of either famous people or family members. The same is true of medical companies, which could allow people with voice disabilities to train their synthetic voices to sound like themselves, if recorded samples of their speaking voices exist. Another interesting idea is for video game companies to offer the ability for in-game characters to speak with the voice of the human player.

 

But even bigger, they say their technology will allow people to create a unique voice of their own, with the ability to fully control even the emotion with which it speaks.

Why it’s hot

Besides the fact that it’s another example of life imitating art, we already live in a world where we have quite a bit of control over how we portray ourselves to the world. In the future, could we choose our own voice? Could we have different voices for every situation? How might we ever really be sure we know who we’re speaking to? Does the way someone has chosen to sound change the way we get to know them? And, what if the voices of our friends and family can now be preserved in perpetuity?

 

Bet You Didn’t Know Starbucks Is Teaming Up With Ford and Amazon…

Starbucks announced that it has created a third-party skill for Amazon Alexa, which allows their customers to reorder their favorite drinks and food through the voice recognition technology when you state, “Alexa, order my Starbucks”.

This Alexa skill works through the Starbucks Mobile Order and Pay feature and give customers the benefits of placing an order on the go and pick it up at a nearby location without the hassle of waiting in line.

This summer, Ford will add Alexa to vehicles with its SYNC 3 in-car technology. Ultimately, this will allow drivers/passengers to press a button to ask for directions, sports scores, weather updates and everything else Alexa would normally do or answer. This also means that Ford drivers will be able to place Starbucks orders while they are in their car in a hands free way!

Learn More: http://www.geekwire.com/2017/starbucks-partners-ford-amazon-allow-car-orders-via-alexa/

Why Its Hotstar

Brands are finding new ways for consumers to purchase products, making it more accessible for them. Considering Starbucks doesn’t deliver and customers must drive to their locations to purchase products, this partnership with Ford is such a great opportunity for the brand to capture more sales and mitigate time for costumers waiting in line to place an order.

Alexa voice technology is becoming increasingly popular so it is interesting to learn about how brands will create “skills” within their tool to connect themselves and the consumer through voice.

Merck aims to put Amazon’s Alexa to work on voice-enabled diabetes tools

Link

Alexa? Help pharma find patient solutions.

That’s what Merck & Co. is aiming for in its new partnership with Amazon Web Services to develop digital voice-enabled solutions for people living with chronic diseases.

Using the tech behind the Amazon Echo, Merck plans to initially work on diabetes. Its first initiative will be a call to entrepreneurs, techies and industry types for an innovation challenge expected to begin within the next month.

The yet-to-be-named challenge will be run by strategy and innovation consultancy Luminary Labs. While specifics haven’t been released, the call to action will “be open to solutions broadly enough that innovators of all stripes can come up with really novel ideas but being narrow enough to provide guidance and carefully evaluate submissions,” said Sara Holoubek, founder and CEO of Luminary Labs.

An independent jury will evaluate the submissions based on their use of voice-enabled technology that addresses Type 2 diabetes patient issues.

Merck’s long-term plan is to create tools for other chronic diseases using the same Amazon Lex platform and the voice-enabled Alexa home system.

Analysts estimate Amazon will sell more than 110 million Amazon Echo devices over the next four years, and many are already pointing to healthcare as an important item on Alexa’s eventual to-do list.

“Users will soon go far beyond turning on lights or calling an Uber, and will venture deeper into healthcare, helping people better manage treatments and communicate with caregivers,” Luminary notes on its website. “From reminding people of their nutrition plans to scheduling their insulin dosages, the Merck-sponsored Alexa challenge will call on developers to push the boundaries of voice technology for people with diabetes.”

Why It’s Hot

Through recent discussions about how we’ll use Alexa or any voice-enabled assistants, this is extremely smart.  Leveraging technology to assist those that have a lot to manage with their health can potentially keep people more compliant, and therefore keeping themselves healthier.  Taking annoying tasks to remember off people’s plates so they can enjoy more of their life is a great direction to take this technology.  Expect to see more of this in the near future.

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