Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant can now tell you about local businesses using Yelp

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amazon Echo Now Offers Information About local Businesses.

Alexa just got some street smarts. Specifically, the new feature will allow Amazon Echo users to ask for information on local businesses and restaurants and get details spoken back to them in the same way Echo delivers product and weather information.It’s such an obvious feature it’s hard to believe it wasn’t already there, but the latest update for Amazon’s Echo lets it pull up Yelp recommendations for restaurants and other local businesses.

Amazon Echo is a pretty unique product, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that it’s nothing more than a Bluetooth-enabled speaker, which it technically is but it does come with Alexa.If you’re not the sort of person creeped out by voice control permeating our everyday lives, then you’ll be pleased to hear that Amazon’s Echo assistant is now integrated with Yelp recommendations.

When I brought home review models of Amazon’s Echo speaker, a sort of smart, voice-controlled speaker, and two Dash buttons that reorder household products with a single touch, I wasn’t convinced I’d find them all that useful in my daily life. To enable the feature, Echo users must first enter their address in the Alexa app, so the system knows where your local restaurants and businesses are. Just ask about info on where to get Chinese food or pizza delivery, and it will send the Yelp-powered results to the Echo app on your phone or tablet.

Amazon’s virtual private assistant provides users with a whole lot of features which they can access through simple voice commands, for example Echo can be used to control connected smart home devices, or for streaming music just by giving the relevant command. For a device that offers no visual interface but wants to help you out with the tasks in your life, it felt like a bit of an oversight that Yelp’s massive pool of business data wasn’t included up until this point but Echo owners in the US can now tap into ‘Local Search’ results for any nearby businesses. An example of what is now possible includes asking general questions like “What businesses or restaurants are nearby?” You can then follow that question up by asking Alexa (the Echo device’s voice assistant app) for the address, phone number or hours of operation of the business.

So if you’re just about to hop in the car to head out to a new thai spot, you can quickly ask Alexa what time they close to make sure you’re not in for an unpleasant surprise. Alexa taps into Yelp’s massive database of recommendations to provide information about businesses located near you, Echo users can tap into Local Search results for nearby businesses and easily see what options are available closeby. Amazon has been gradually increasing the number of things that Alexa is able to do, the company says that it will continue to add more local search features in the next few weeks. A pairing with Yelp would not only sharpen Amazon’s local consumer focus, but it might also help the company solve that pesky problem of how to deal with fake reviews, an issue that Yelp seems to have handled with some success. The app keeps a handy record of everything you ask the device – which answers to “Alexa.” In many ways, Alexa is similar to Apple’s Siri and the Google Now voice assistants.

Although Echo doesn’t require a Prime membership, some of its functions — such as, naturally, reordering products from Amazon — won’t work without one. The product got off to a rocky start at first, but steady updates like this have added new functionality, like traffic reports, sports scores, and perhaps most interestingly, highly-adaptable IFTTT integration. In addition to the local search feature, the updated Echo can now also be customized to deliver updates on your favorite sports teams and offers a new sleep timer option, which allows the device to play you to sleep with your favorite podcast or audio book. Although Echo has an “always on” functionality, Amazon says it’s not really listening until you say “Alexa” – an assertion you have to take on faith.

As a Brooklyner with a small apartment, I didn’t find much need for the “connected home” side of the Echo, which can turn certain “smart” light bulbs on and off.

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