November 15, 2017 7:00 am
Updated: November 15, 2017 1:05 pm

Amazon announces Alexa will be available in Canada in December

In this May 17, 2017 file photo, an Amazon Alexa device is switched on for a demonstration of its use in a ballpark suite before a Seattle Mariners baseball game in Seattle.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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Amazon announced Wednesday that Canadians will be able to buy Alexa, the company’s voice-activated digital assistant, on Dec. 5.

And Global News, along with all of Corus Entertainment’s radio stations, will be among the first news “skills” to launch with Alexa.

“Now more than ever, people are hungry for real news and facts,” said Troy Reeb, senior vice-president of Global News and Corus Radio.

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“We’re pleased that Amazon Alexa is partnering with Global News, a brand you can trust and rely on at all times of the day from the comfort of your own home,” Reeb said.

Alexa is a voice-activated digital assistant developed by Amazon, similar to Siri on Apple’s iOS devices.

Amazon’s line of products that offer Alexa include; the Amazon Echo, the Echo Dot, the Echo Plus, the Echo Spot, the Echo Show and the Echo Look.

In addition, there are dozens of products developed by other smart-services companies that offer Alexa as well, including Sonos, ecobee, and several major smartphone developers.

Canadian consumer technology expert and writer Simon Cohen told Global News that bringing Alexa north will be a boon to Canadian consumers.

“It gives Canadians much needed choice in the voice assistant space,” Cohen said.

“Until now, Google Home was the only officially supported service, and while it is really good when it comes to answering the kinds of questions you might google online, it lacks Alexa’s extensive support for the internet of things and home automation products,” Cohen added.

Users can call on Alexa to answer many a question and complete several tasks, simply by using her name.

For example, by asking “Alexa, what’s the weather in Toronto today?” the voice assistant gives you the forecast.

Alexa has over 15,000 “skills,” which work similarly to apps on a smartphone.

And one of them is Global News.

To enable the Global News “skill,” simply say “Alexa, enable Global News.”

And after that, if you say “Alexa, ask Global News for the latest news,” Alexa will begin reading the latest headlines. You can also ask it to read the full story by saying “Alexa, read full story.”

Corus will also offer livestream skills from 30 FM stations. And Corus’ eight News Talk stations offer both live streams and flash briefings.

CTV and CBC will also be available via Alexa.

Alexa skills can assist with financial services, hobbies, interests and access to a number of services.

Several companies, including Starbucks and Pizza Hut, have developed skills for the assistant to help users of Alexa-enabled products to access their services.

Over the past few months, Canadians have wondered whether the company has been dropping hints that an official Alexa launch was on the horizon.

In addition to Amazon posting hundreds of Canada-based jobs over the past year, many Canadian early adopters have reported that the Amazon Echo app accepted their Canadian email address back in August.

Cohen said that the launch of Alexa in Canada shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“I don’t think anyone will be surprised by this announcement. With Google Home already here and with Apple’s HomePod speaker on its way in early 2018, Amazon had to make this move,” said Cohen.

In addition, Cohen explained that the launch “should mean a lot more opportunity” for homegrown Canadian tech firms.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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