Piper's home security and automation unit has been improving year over year. Since my initial review, it has overhauled its app and enhanced many of its features, but it also recently released an IFTTT channel that enabled Amazon Alexa integration and let you schedule and automate a couple of actions.
Now Piper is improving its IFTTT channel with more triggers and actions. You can now control your Piper-connected lights with Alexa, get a tweet when Piper detects smoke via a connected sensor, and set dimmer levels or lights when events are detected while you're away.
The best new recipe though, in my opinion, is the one to upload videos recorded by Piper to Dropbox or Google Drive.
Among those many voice commands are – naturally – options for buying stuff online through Amazon. If you’ve been holding off on voice ordering, now might be a good time to give it a go. You’ll get $10 off your first purchase over $20 (this deal will work on Prime Day, too), and that includes these items that already have an exclusive Alexa discount, also valid through July 12th:
And for today only (July 8th), you can get an Amazon Tap for $79, that’s a 39% discount - we haven’t seen it for much less than the usual retail price of $129.99, so this is an excellent time to buy if you’ve been on the fence.
Hey Alexa, what's the cheapest way to get an Amazon Echo? Oh, it's $179.99 on Amazon and you don't know of any other good deals... You're wrong Alexa, but I'll forgive you because it's not on sale on Amazon but Woot — woot!
This is a refurbished Amazon Echo Bluetooth and WiFi speaker that can play music from different streaming services or your own device. But its real knock-out feature is the voice assistant known as Alexa who lives inside it (I've been told she's a tiny bobble-head who just hides inside the speaker's tower) and can answer your weird questions, execute your queries and commands, and let you control more than just a speaker.
Amazon's Echo has become the de-facto standard of home voice control, at least until Google Home is released and we find out whatever Apple is planning. To emphasise Amazon's market-leading position, the company has published a press release saying Alexa has over 1,000 skills and integrations - we counted roughly 1,150 (115 pages with 10 items on each page). For such a young platform, this is mightily good news, and says wonders about the battleground that the home will be for technology companies in the future.
Left: the skills list, showing the filters and sorting options. Right: some other skills that are installable on the Echo.
Community projects are fantastic - just look at how strong Android's aftermarket community is, creating custom ROMs and launching entire operating systems and companies in the process. Now Amazon's getting in on the action, rebranding developer Sam Machin's Alexa in the Browser project as Echosim and bringing Alexa to everyone in the process.
Google I/O is just hours away, and we're expecting all sorts of wonderful things to be announced. For example, the rumored competitor to Amazon's Alexa known internally Project Chirp. The New York Times is now reporting that Chirp will be called Google Home when it is unveiled.
Voice control is all the rage these days, and Amazon is pushing its Alexa voice engine hard. The Fire TV already had Alexa built-in, but today it's getting some new features. You can control video playback, launch apps, and more.
Late last year, Amazon started to allow hobbyists and developers to integrate the Alexa virtual personal assistant into their own products through the developer preview of Amazon Voice Service. This effort has already borne fruit with Invoxia's Triby.
Looking a bit like an FM radio from yesteryear, the Triby immediately loses points in the looks department, especially when compared to the sleek, futuristic aesthetic of the Amazon Echo. It packs a magnetized back, allowing you to attach it directly to any metal surface, such as a refrigerator or knife rack, as well an E-Ink display for showing messages and notifications.
Not only can it be controlled through voice commands, but there's also an official companion application available for Android and iOS.
At this point asking people to support your crowd-funded concept device is kind of like asking them to support your "sure-fire multi-level marketing system." Sure, it could be legitimate, but it's better to just treat that money as if it's gone forever. That said, smartwatches might be the one exception. Pebble, arguably the legitimate dark horse in that small market and one of the first to successfully market itself, got started on Kickstarter. So maybe it wouldn't be fair to dismiss the CoWatch, a new smartwatch that features interoperability with Amazon's Alexa voice control system, out of hand.