More good news for Alexa users in the UK

There is a huge discrepancy between the huge list of Alexa “skills” available in the US, and those available to us using Alexa on the other side of the pond. In encouraging news this week, Amazon looks set to automatically create UK instances of existing US only skills.

Amazon have emailed developers (yes, I registered as a US developer early on) to say that the migration will begin on Feb 16th. Developers can opt out, but unless their skill only makes sense in the US, I don’t see why they would.

As you’d expect, Amazon have a comprehensive FAQ on all this.

 

Alexa and Harmony

I’m not sure when this Alexa skill appeared in the U.K., but it is now possible to directly control a Logitech Harmony Hub from Alexa.

This means (since I have the computer wake word enabled) I can say:

Computer, tell Harmony to turn on Plex.

So now we can turn on the living room lights and choose the media while walking into the room. It also allows voice control of pausing – something I’ve already used once tonight when getting up to answer the front door.

Computer, tell Harmony to pause.

And, at the end of the evening:

Computer, tell Harmony to turn off.

I would prefer a more elegant – or just shorter – construction for these commands, but this is a good start.

One downside: all the Dots end up controlling just one Harmony Hub, so I can’t differentiate between devices in the living room and the cinema room. I hope this is on Logitech’s roadmap.

They do still need to fix the recognition of “computer” for Lindsay though!

Exciting Alexa news

As of the latest update you can use a new wake word to get Alexa’s attention:

Computer, turn on the living room.

Finally!

One step closer to having the Enterprise D’s ship computer. Someone get Bezos to licence Majel Barret-Roddenberry’s voice asap!

Update after a few hours with this enabled: Rather hilariously – to me anyway – Alexa responds perfectly to me when I say “computer” but only works for Lindsay if she drops a couple of octaves and does her best Picard impression. Is this a more general problem with higher register voices?

Stylish Patent Diagram Prints

These prints look genuinely great. Carefully chosen and laid out prints of notable patent diagrams. I’ve ordered an Atari one since the 2600 console and related devices are largely responsible for my fascination with technology. A fascination that started in the early 80s, and hasn’t quit yet.

Poor Customer Service from iRobot UK (Roomba)

iRobot Roomba 560

Update 18th July 2008: I called Domotec today and the difference in response was like night and day.  New component on it’s way to us now.  Horrah!
If you’d spoken to me or Lindsay recently you might have thought we were on comission from iRobot, the manufacturers of the Roomba vacuum cleaner. We’ve been raving about how easy it is to keep the carpet clean when it can automatically trundle around the floor every day. Indeed in the past couple of weeks we’ve convinced two other households that the Roomba sounds like a good idea.

It’s a shame then, that we’ve discovered this weekend that the 500 series (we have the 560 UK model) has a glaring design flaw and is backed up by simply terrible customer service. Continue reading