Round up #190: Dash away, an unexpected benefit of Echo Auto

Round up #190: Dash away, an unexpected benefit of Echo Auto

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Echo Auto solves a long term problem

We’ve now settled in with having the

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

in my Significant Other’s car.

I really want one for my car too, and we’ve put in a request, but that’s all you can do at this point.

The main thing my SO uses it for is music. I’ll use it for a lot more than that, but that’s the main purpose now.

It’s working very smoothly. I do turn off the Bluetooth on my phone when we are both going to be in the car…that car defaults to my phone. My SO, who isn’t very techie, did change the audio from Bluetooth to a local radio station, so I had to adjust that.

I pointed out (after testing it), that my SO could just say, “Play XYZ” and that local station plays on TuneIn. They did good programming on that: you don’t have to say, “Play XYZ on TuneIn”…it just works.

When we were driving home from the dog park yesterday, though, we got a really pleasant surprise.

Our now adult kid called…that’s a regular occurrence. They called just as usual, calling my SO’s phone number.

None of it felt different in answering it…but we realized pretty quickly that our kid could hear me very well when I was in the passenger seat! I drive out, my SO drives back.

In the past, using the built-in car audio system, the passenger couldn’t be heard very well: the phone pick-up was really only designed to work from the driver’s side.

However, with the Echo Auto’s far field microphones, we could both be heard just fine. No more having my SO repeat what I said. 🙂

That was really an improvement!

Dash away, dash away, dash away all!

I always thought the concept of Amazon’s physical Dash buttons was weird.

Here’s a company which is dominating by moving people away from the physical to the electronic. That doesn’t mean that they don’t sell a lot of physical products (“diapers and windshield wipers”, as I like to say): they do. It’s more about interactions and media (although they do sell a lot of physical media, too).

Sending you a plastic device which did exactly one thing (reorder a specific product when you pushed a button) just seemed like the opposite of that.

They just about gave them to you, usually crediting you with the cost of the device.

Well, they’ve been doing a lot of other things that seem to fit better to me. Subscribe & Save, which we use for many things, and ordering through Alexa.

So, you won’t find them to buy at Amazon now, and according to this

CNN story by Heather Kelly

and other sources, they’ll just stop working on August 31st…in a few weeks.

They’ll automatically give you

virtual dash buttons (at AmazonSmile*)

for any physical ones you have: that makes sense and will continue. You can just click/tap on a screen to order, or again, you can order using Alexa. If you use the

Echo Show 5 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

you can combine the two. You just say, “Alexa, show my Dash buttons”, and they’ll appear on your screen. Then, you just tap the white button of the one you want.

I’m kind of a big Daily Deal 😉


Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is one of their big ones they do from time to time: 72 titles.

I now generally use sales like that to either put books on the gift list my family uses for me, or buy them as gifts (since you can buy it at the discounted price and delay delivery for the appropriate gift-giving occasion, or print it out to give whenever you want). Check the price before you click/tap/eye gaze that Buy button: prices may not apply in your country or the book might not still be part of the deal when you see this.

Here are a few titles that caught my eye:

  • The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte | $2.99
  • The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas | $0.99
  • A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa | $1.99 (also available through Kindle Unlimited) | I’ve read this one, and found it fascinating
  • P.S from Paris by Marc Levy | $1.99 (also KU)
  • Instinct by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
  • Mycroft Holmes by Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse | $1.99
  • The Cthulhu Casebooks – Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows by James Lovegrove | $1.99
  • Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell | $2.99
  • Matt Helm – Death of a Citizen by Donald Hamilton | $1.99

“Alexa, send Driftwood to Bufo’s Kindle”

Alexa can now manage your content by voice.

You can start with, “Alexa, manage my content”. You can then tell Alexa to send a specific book you own to a particular device, or even to permanently delete a book from your library (there will be a confirmation message first).

To quote Manny Farber: “…context…”

Natural conversation is making great strides.

However, it still has a ways to go, especially in the area of context. When people say something, we have automatically connected it to a million other things in our heads. The statement doesn’t just stand alone.

That’s one of the issues with Alexa…responses can be very specific.

I saw that twice this week.

My Echo Show suggested I ask Alexa about what the digital assistant’s favorite book was.

The answer was good: I was told that Alexa really likes I, Robot, and was a big believer in the 3 laws of robotics.

Just to test, though, I said, “Alexa, who wrote that?”

Alexa couldn’t answer that one…some fan. 😉

The other one was using an Alexa “social bot”. Amazon does a university prize for the best chatbot. You can test them by saying, “Alexa, let’s chat”, and a random bot will start a conversation.

This one gave me a couple of choices for conversation: I chose Disney.

The chatbot told me a news story about Ice Cube and Caroly Rafaelian bidding to buy Sports Networks from The Mouse House. That was relevant, and made sense.

The chatbot then asked me if I wanted to know more…and proceeded to tell me about actual frozen water ice cubes! 🙂

No human being would have brought up the singer Ice Cube and then confused it like that.

I do believe they’ll catch up to us, but they aren’t there yet.

Have any thoughts or questions on these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.


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All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* 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 I Love My Kindle blog



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