Tag: amazon

Amazon’s Alexa can now wake you up with music instead of alarms

One of the greatest perks of connected speakers is waking up to whatever music you like, not just a buzzer or the radio. However, that hasn't been an option for Alexa-equipped devices like the Echo -- until today, that is. Amazon has added a feature to Alexa that lets you wake up to the music of your choice from one of several streaming services, including its own options and Spotify.

To begin with, your criteria can be as broad or narrow as you like. You can name a song, playlist or genre, or ask to play any kind of music if you're not picky. Alexa can stream radio channels from the likes of TuneIn and iHeartRadio. Naturally, there are a few perks if you use one of Amazon's music services. You can ask Alexa to wake you based on a mood (like "relaxing"), or find a wake-up song by reciting the lyrics.

This sounds like a minor feature, but it's potentially very important. If Amazon is going to make the Echo Spot a viable alarm clock, it needs to give the device better functionality than that 20-year-old clock radio sitting on your nightstand. This also makes all Echo models more directly competitive with rivals that have had music wake features for years, such as Sonos. And let's face it: even if you're just using Alexa on your phone, Amazon would rather be the one to start your day.

Netflix leads the streaming pack with nine Golden Globe nominations

Nominations for next month's Golden Globes ceremony were announced this morning and streaming services had a pretty decent showing. Netflix led the pack with nine TV nominations while Amazon and Hulu each received three.

Netflix's The Crown took two nominations -- one for Best Drama Series and another for Best Performance by an Actress, which went to Claire Foy. Stranger Things also received two nominations -- another Best Drama Series nod and one for David Harbour, nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Master of None received two as well with the first going to the show itself for Best Comedy Series and the other going to Aziz Ansari for Best Performance by an Actor. Ozark, 13 Reasons Why and Glow each received one nomination each. All were for Best Performance by an Actor or Actress and they went to Jason Bateman, Katherine Langford and Alison Brie.

Two of Amazon's went to the brand new show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. One nomination was given to the show for Best Comedy Series and the other to the show's lead, Rachel Brosnahan. The third nomination was for Kevin Bacon's role in I Love Dick.

All three of Hulu's nominations were for The Handmaid's Tale. It received a Best Drama Series nomination and Elizabeth Moss and Ann Dowd received nominations for Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.

The Golden Globes ceremony will air on January 7th on NBC.

Via: Variety

Source: Golden Globes

BBC launches Alexa skill for live radio and podcasts

Every BBC radio station and podcast is now accessible through Amazon's Alexa assistant. So if you have an Echo or Echo dot in your home (or any Alexa-enabled speaker, for that matter), you can now launch Radio 1, 6 Music, or an episode of Desert Island Discs with your voice. The new Alexa "skill" offers granular control too, including "play," "pause" and "resume." You can also skip back to the "previous" episode of a podcast at any time.

It's not the first time the BBC has backed Alexa, however. The news organisation is one of many that support Amazon's "flash briefing," a quick rundown of the day's top stories. The broadcaster has also experimented with an interactive sci-fi drama called The Inspection Chamber, which lets you answer various questions and choices during its 20-minute run-time.

Source: BBC (Press Release)

OnePlus 5T needs an update to play Netflix in HD

The OnePlus 5T is defined by its cinematic 18:9 screen, but don't expect to get the full effect while you're watching your favorite streaming service... at least, not yet. Owners have learned that the 5T and its OnePlus 5 ancestor can't play Netflix or Amazon Prime Video in HD, since they both lack the Widevine rights management certification need to play at anything beyond standard definition. Yes, your $500 pride and joy currently plays video at a lower resolution than phones costing half as much. Thankfully, there's a solution in the works.

The company has explained to The Verge that an update is in the works to enable HD streaming on these devices. There's no indication as to when this update is coming or why more advanced Widevine support wasn't included from the start, but a solution is in sight.

However quickly the update comes, the situation doesn't help OnePlus' current situation. It has already had to fix some glaring software mistakes, and this is one that you'll definitely notice if you're streaming Stranger Things or American Gods. It also illustrates one of the concerns about digital copy protection: your ability to watch video at the best possible quality is dependent on software factors outside of your control.

Source: OnePlus, The Verge

All the cool gifts are made for spying on you

It's the gift-giving season, and high-tech gadgets are more exciting than ever. Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and even "Okay Google" are ready to come over for holiday ham, ready to help you turn on a light or play you some Spotify. Those always-on microphones, cameras, and WI-FI connected devices are cheaper, cooler, and more convenient than ever.

Yet, you still feel a little weird about their, you know, baser functions. Google and Amazon only record what they need to. Plus, you've read 1984, watched Big Brother (and thought the contestants were nuts for being watched 24-7), and you think spying on people's everyday lives is generally bad.

And yet, look at us. We're marinating in surveillance tech. We carry an always-on combination tracker and eavesdropping device everywhere we go (a smartphone). We agonize over picking out the best smart home microphone-speaker combination. We snarf up the latest in connected appliances. We say "yes" to all the apps, and surf the web looking for deals like it's the pre-condom era of porn.

We know the connected devices, no matter how big the company they come from, are all bug-infested, insecure, preyed upon, and riddled with shady backroom data deals. And yet.


And yet.

The trend toward in-home surveillance devices is only continuing, with this year's gift-giving aspirations. Here at Engadget, we're modeling the trend: decrying privacy invasions, yet playing with privacy fire, indulging our lust for convenience and futurism with all the sexy gadgets on our 2017 best-of gift list.

We want the Echo, the Google Home, a Sonos One, and all the privacy-devouring spy tech we can cram into our voice-activated games console. I'm with you! Yet I know better than to let companies spy on me! Give me a new MacBook, a Chomebook, an iPad or a Surface, damn the easily-hackable onboard cameras and microphones, full speed ahead. I'd push grandpa into a mall fountain and jam his walker into Best Buy's revolving doors to get my hands on the hottest new tracking devices, the iPhone, a Pixel, a Galaxy.

And that's the thing: We all know the risks these days. It's not like ten years ago when some of us were trying to raise the alarm about webcam hacking and data dealing, and everyone thought we were fringey conspiracy weirdos in tinfoil bras doing Flickr updates from our freaky internet-connected phones.

If anything, security and surveillance are even bigger concerns. Just in October, a woman's new webcam was taken over practically the minute she plugged it in. In a Facebook post, she described the incident, going on to film the camera's complete hijacking while in progress. But here's the thing: The story didn't surprise anyone, and didn't compete with any headlines. We're all like, yeah, that's a thing that happens now, while in our heads we silently practice what we'll do when it happens to us.

young male technician...

I know what you were thinking when your eyes traveled the wishlist above, with the Echos and the Homes, and the highly desirable appliances that make Inspector Gadget's kit look like unimaginative stupidity. You're thinking, "but Amazon will protect me from unlawful requests" and "Google Home wouldn't do that on purpose, it would harm consumer trust."

And in the instances we know of, you'd be right. When a man was murdered in November 2015, Amazon initially refused to hand over its Alexa data from the scene of the crime when prosecutors demanded the records. The company said that Alexa's questions and answers are protected by the first amendment and Amazon "seeks to protect the privacy rights of its customers." Amazon later relented and shared the data when the defendant, the Echo's owner, gave permission. That a hacker had fun turning the Echo into a wiretap did not endeavor to reassure.

And that whole thing where Google Home was recording everything just this last October, well that was a "bug." Never mind that "bug" is Facebook's perennial catch-all term/excuse for getting caught doing something people don't like (and that's not a good look for anyone). Google said its little smart home speaker was having an "issue" that caused it "to behave incorrectly." That probably wasn't reassuring for journalist Artem Russokovskii, who discovered he was being recorded 24-7.

What can we do, but take Google and Amazon at their word? No one trusts these companies or their interests in serving us better ads or suggestions. They say they'll protect us, they're big companies and can afford to properly test everything, and they fix their mistakes when we find them.

Haven't we learned anything from dystopian books and films? How is this now aspirational? Or is it just that we're so miserable from politics that a little convenience-at-a-cost is our only salve to soothe our tortured souls?

Don't feel bad. Everyone's doing it, the gleeful self-surveillance. Even hackers, who know better than anyone, and I can tell you that they're shopping for the same things and going home to strip down and roll in piles of connected crap like they hate privacy, too. We're all going to privacy hell together.

I'm sure it'll be fine. As long as we remember that it pays to be paranoid because we're all so depressed and angry at the state of the state that we deserve a little fluff, a little fun, a little convenience.

Facebook may be insidious, Apple might've conditioned us, and everyone with a stake in the surveillance pie has tried to soothe us. But we still need to cover our webcams, turn off geotagging, drill into settings to fight the data creeping, and stay awake and alert to the ways that companies make us targets.

Take my advice for the holidays: Shop like no one's watching, but never forget that someone might be listening.

Images: Brendan McDermid/Reuters (Amazon Echo); Shutterstock (Security camera).

Amazon Echo speakers and Music Unlimited head to 28 more countries

It took Amazon a while to get its streaming music strategy truly off the ground -- its Music Unlimited service, with competes with Spotify, Apple Music and the like, only launched last fall. But today, both Music Unlimited and the Echo smart speaker lineup are expanding in a big way: Amazon has announced that both are available in 28 new countries, most of which are found across Europe and South America.

Pricing for Music Unlimited will vary by area, but Amazon says it'll offer the same three plans it currently does -- including an Echo-only plan, the standard individual plan for smartphones, computers and other devices and a family plan for multiple users. Amazon's also not discussing pricing for Echo hardware, as that also will vary from country to country. But launching both the hardware and service at the same time is a smart move, as the company says its music service is designed with voice control in mind. Of course, Spotify and the like work just as well, but having both the Echo and Music Unlimited available at the same time will ensure new customers can use their new speakers to their fullest extent.

Source: Amazon

SiriusXM now streams radio stations to your Apple TV

SiriusXM is now available on 4th generation Apple TVs and Apple TV 4K. Subscribers with streaming access can use the SiriusXM app to access its over 200 channels, which can be customized with MySXM. Users will also be able to access archived programming on demand and the app's user interface has been optimized for Apple TV.

The SiriusXM app has already been available on LG, Roku, Samsung and Sony smart TVs as well as Amazon Fire TV and Playstation. Apple TV owners also recently just got access to the Amazon Prime Video app.

To start listening to SiriusXM on your Apple TV, just go to App Store and search for SiriusXM. Then click "Get" to install, sign in with your SiriusXM username and password and you're good to go.

Source: SiriusXM

Walmart sells meal kits to challenge Amazon and Blue Apron

Walmart's never-ending quest to beat Amazon has it venturing into unfamiliar territory: meal kits. The big-box retailer has started selling just shy of 30 meal kits (such as a Thai crab curry) from multiple brands. How much you'll pay varies, but it's not uncommon to pay $35 for a meal for four. There are also bundles, such as a $60 Everyday Supper pack that serves three meals for two people. The brands themselves fulfill the orders. This isn't a subscription service like Blue Apron, but it's helpful if you'd like a fanciful meal without hunting down ingredients. And importantly, Walmart will soon compete more directly with Amazon's meal kits through an app tie-in.

The store chain just partnered with BuzzFeed's Tasty team to integrate purchases into the mobile app's recipes (shown above). At present, it's limited to buying the cookware you need to complete a recipe (such as measuring cups or a slow cooker), but an update in 2018 will include the groceries themselves and services like grocery pickup. If you're a kitchen rookie, you might have a one-stop shop for everything you need.

That's potentially an advantage over Amazon's Allrecipes pact, which can assemble the ingredients for a given meal but doesn't offer the equipment. Not that Walmart can remain cozy -- it wouldn't be at all shocking if Amazon eventually gives you the opportunity to buy absolutely everything.

Via: TheStreet, The Verge

Source: Walmart (1), (2)

Amazon’s ‘Transparent’ hasn’t cut ties with Jeffrey Tambor yet

Last month, following accusations of sexual assault, Transparent actor Jeffrey Tambor released a statement that made it seem like he would be leaving the show. "Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don't see how I can return to Transparent," Tambor said. And while he has stated that he regrets if anything he did in the past was misinterpreted as aggressive, he has denied any purposeful wrongdoing. "The idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue," Tambor said in a statement. However, the New York Times reports today that Tambor's departure is far from certain and the show is currently operating under a very unclear future.

Allan Mayer, Tambor's publicist, told the NYT, "What he said was that given the toxic atmosphere and the politicization on the set, it's very hard for him to see how he can possibly return. But no final decision for next year has been made, either by Jeffrey or by Amazon." And the show's creator, Jill Soloway, said that they take the accusations against Tambor very seriously, but because of Amazon's ongoing investigation into the matter, they couldn't discuss it further.

Those pointing to sexual misconduct on the part of Tambor include his former assistant Van Barnes, Transparent cast member Trace Lysette and makeup artist Tamara Delbridge.

Amazon's slow response to the accusations against Tambor stand in contrast to how Netflix reacted to those made against Kevin Spacey. The streaming site was fairly quick to suspend House of Cards production following the initial reports of Spacey's alleged misconduct and said that it wouldn't make the show with him involved after eight of the show's crew members told CNN that Spacey sexually harassed people on set. Netflix also canceled Louis C.K.'s second stand-up special after allegations were made against him, though the company was rather slow to cut ties with Danny Masterson who has now been accused of rape by four women.

While Transparent's future and Tambor's involvement are currently up in the air, many have said the show could do just fine without him and might even be better for it. In support of Lysette, Transparent writer Our Lady J said on Instagram, "We cannot let trans content be taken down by a single cis man."

Via: New York Times

EU lets luxury brands block goods from Amazon

Luxury brands in Europe have won the right to block sales of their products online if they feel it damages their image. An EU court ruled that Coty, the owner of brands like Calvin Klein, Covergirl and Chloe, can block its German distributor from using Amazon and other internet retailers. "Such a prohibition is appropriate and does not, in principle, go beyond what is necessary to preserve the luxury image of the goods," the European Court of Justice ruled.

Coty's German subsidiary and retailer, Parfumerie Akzente, had been selling Coty cosmetics on Amazon and other online sites, despite its parent asking it to stop. A German court, believing Coty was acting anti-competitively, sought a ruling from EU courts. "A supplier of luxury goods can prohibit its authorized distributors from selling those goods on a third-party internet platform such as Amazon," the ECJ decided.

A supplier of luxury goods can prohibit its authorized distributors from selling those goods on a third-party internet platform such as Amazon.

In both Europe and the US, brands have fought tooth and nail to avoid being associated with Amazon. "We believe the business of Amazon does not fit with LVMH, full stop, and it does not fit with our brands," said LVMH COO Jean-Jacques Guiony recently.

EU courts ruled in 2010 that brands with less than a 30 percent market share could block online retailers without physical stores from selling their wares. The move came after extensive lobbying from luxury goods companies like Gucci and LVMH, which now have their own online presence, 24 Sèvres.

In Germany, however, courts actually forced Adidas and Asics to allow sales on sites like Amazon, saying they've become crucial to consumers. Now, Germany may have to fall in line, as EU judgments apply to all member nations.

Via: Reuters

Source: European Court of Justice