Amazon is adding its voice-controlled assistant Alexa to the latest Fire Tablets through auto-updates this week, bringing it to a handheld device for the first time.
That means you can start making voice queries to your Fire Tablet, the same way you would with Amazon’s voice-controlled speaker device Echo (although the Fire Tablet doesn’t have far-field technology, so you activate Alexa by tapping on to it).
The announcement was made in September, but Amazon didn’t specify when exactly the updates would take place at the time. The free over-the-air updates will be rolled out over the next couple of weeks, starting on Wednesday, to both the new and old Fire HD 8s, the 7-inch Fire Tablets, and the Fire HD 10 devices, the company said.
With the update, Alexa, which also powers the Echo, gets its own screen. With the screen you can see additional information such as weather forecasts for the whole week or the full inning-by-inning scores of a baseball game. Some critics have argued not having its own screen limited Alexa’s capability on the Echo.
“Not only you can hear what Alexa’s saying, you can also see it now,” Kevin Keith, the general manager of Fire Tablets, told Business Insider.
Keith says the update is not intended to compete with the Echo. Instead, you can easily plug the Fire Tablets into the Echo and use it as a complementary screen. This idea is that Alexa will improve the user experience on Fire Tablets.
“It’s a natural extension for us. This allows us to bring Alexa to other places,” he said.
That raises the question of whether Alexa will ever be available on iOS or Android smartphones. Although Alexa has become a leader in voice technology without being on any smartphones, the mobile market is huge and could substantially expand its market opportunity. Keith declined to comment, but sounded like there might be something in the books.
“There are no plans we can talk about right now,” Keith said. “Stay tuned.”
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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