Today, with thanks to reddit user spacegeek7, I’m sharing one of those very cool Alexa features that’s been around in some form from the time Echo first launched, but which most Alexa-enabled device owners don’t seem to know about.
Voicecast: What’s All This, Then?
If you’ve got a Fire tablet (and since the 2015 7″ Fire is available for $50, why wouldn’t you?), it can be set up near your Echo, Dot or Tap to serve as a visual feedback screen in much the same way Alexa offers visual feedback when you use Alexa on a Fire TV device. This can be a godsend for the hearing impaired.
You know how Alexa often ends her responses by saying, “I’ve sent [more details of the thing I just told you] to the Alexa app,” or “Check the Alexa app for more information,” et cetera? With Voicecast you can have the same stuff sent to your Fire tablet.
From spacegeek7’s reddit post:
For anyone that doesn’t know, Echo has a somewhat hidden capability called Voicecast where it will publish information to a [Fire] tablet in real time that is relevant to what it is telling you. I happened to have a [Fire] tablet when I got my Dot, so I turned it on and it “just worked”.
It can do it automatically all the time, or only if you ask her afterwards – your choice. It acts like a full-screen notification, so it wakes the screen to do this, but the screen doesn’t stay on as if you’d touched it; only for 30 seconds. Also, you can tweak the Fire text size settings to optimize it for this particular use case and I’ve found that it works very well. We have ours set up on the same table as the Dot, propped up in a little picture stand and it looks quite nice.
So far, here is what I’ve found that it can do:
- When playing a new playlist/station, pushes album cover and song info
- Also pushes album cover and song info if asked about current song
- If asked for calendar, shows your next 4 events or more if asked
- If asked random questions like, “What time is it in Abu Dhabi”, or “how many tablespoons in a cup”, it will pull up a screen showing your original question, the text of your answer, and a relevant photo (for example, cityscape of Abu Dhabi or photo of a tablespoon)
- If asked “tell me about” or “Wikipedia” [insert anything here], it will show the text it reads you, maybe more, and a picture related to that topic
- Shows timers when started or when asked
- If asked for weather, shows nice 7-day forecast screen
- If asked for recent game score, pulls up screen showing team logos, final score of recent game, broken down by quarter and next game day/time/opponent
- If I add something to my shopping list or to-do list it will show me the list in question
- If I put in an address for a commute, it will display the same information it provides audibly (time, road names via text) but no map or other visual information
What it doesn’t do:
- If I ask her to shop for something on Amazon, she’ll list some options for products and price, ask if I want to order, but it does not pull up those products or photos on the Fire, nor does it give me a list of options to scroll through on the Fire
- Movie times
- Local businesses
- Show me my shopping/to-do list if I ask what’s on it (only if I add something)
- I have no idea about thermostats or lights or any other home automation, as I don’t have that.
- Per my understanding from grumblings online, can not Voicecast to Fire Stick
This type of set up will be a ‘set it and forget it’ solution if the Fire tablet is kept plugged in to an outlet at all times, and there’s a wide selection of Fire tablet covers that double as stands available so it isn’t hard to find something to match your decor.
Click here to view Amazon’s help page about Voicecast. Note that where the directions on that page say to go to Settings > Voicecast to enable Voicecast, they’re referring to Settings on the Fire tablet **CLARIFICATION/CORRECTION – in the Alexa app, running on the Fire tablet**.
Also note, if you own more than one Fire tablet you can change their names to make Voicecasting easier. Click here to read Amazon’s help topic on that.
Finally, to change the Fire tablet’s screen font size, on the Fire tablet go to Settings > Display & Sounds > Font Size and adjust to the size you prefer.
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The entry level Fire tablet is now available in four color choices, and with your choice of 8 or 16 GB on-board memory. The tablet also accepts memory cards, so even at 8GB capacity there’s no need to worry about running out of space. The 8GB version in your choice of colors is still (as of 4/29/16) priced at $49.99. Note that you’ll be prompted to select your preferred color after clicking the ‘Customize and add to cart’ button on the Fire’s product page.
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