Snap Taps Facebook, Google Alum Alexa Levine as U.S. Head of Entertainment Sales

Snap, parent company of Snapchat, has hired Alexa Levine as U.S. head of entertainment.

Levine comes to Snap from Facebook, where she worked for three years oversaw the company’s film, TV, streaming and live event ad clients as industry manager for entertainment. Prior to joining Facebook in 2017, she had a variety of roles at Google — including, most recently, senior account executive, media and entertainment — as well as Microsoft and ad agency Omnicom.

At Snap, Levine is responsible for leading the company’s entertainment sales team and working with U.S. entertainment clients advertising on the platform. Based in Los Angeles. Levine reports to Clayton Peters, U.S. head of verticals, who oversees Snap’s enterprise verticals.

Levine holds a bachelor’s degree in business and hotel management from Cornell University and an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Snap continues to bulk up its originals slate

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Every new Alexa feature announced at Amazon’s fall hardware event: Hunches, Guard Plus and more

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Amazon

Amazon’s annual hardware event has come and gone, with a slew of product announcements, from a brand new Echo speaker and Echo Show display, to a cloud-based gaming platform. But the star of Amazon’s smart home is, as always, Alexa. Amazon’s voice assistant continues to expand its reach, connecting with over 140,000 smart home devices, and boasting more than 100 million Alexa-compatible devices installed across its user base. But Alexa’s power isn’t just in its rapidly growing scale and ever-expanding reach.

When I spoke to Daniel Rausch, Amazon’s vice president of smart home and Alexa mobile, before the hardware event, he said Alexa is becoming more independent too. Alexa will soon be able to act on Hunches without asking, to listen for and react to sounds other than a wake word, and to protect your home more actively with an upgrade to Alexa Guard.


Now

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Amazon launches Alexa smartphone app features for car commuters

In a blog post this morning, Amazon unveiled two new car-focused features for its Alexa voice assistant. Auto Mode turns the Alexa smartphone app into a responsive, driver-friendly display, while Start My Commute provides on-demand weather, traffic updates, and a choice of entertainment. Auto Mode will be rolling out to iOS and Android customers in the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, India, Italy, Spain, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand in the coming weeks. Start My Commute will initially only be available in the U.S. when it launches in the same time frame.

The new capabilities come as used car sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic. As the New York Times reports, buyers are snatching up used vehicles as second or third cars so they can avoid trains, buses, taxis, and other potentially high-risk infection vectors. Others are purchasing used rather than new to save cash in an uncertain economy. In

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Luna, a Ring camera drone, new Alexa features: Everything Amazon announced this fall

Amazon surprised us at its Fall Devices and Services event with its new Luna cloud-gaming service, along with the expected updates to its line of Echo, Fire TV and Ring products. The event helps Amazon generate buzz as we roll into the holiday shopping season, and for the first time, Prime Day. (The annual sale is usually held in July, but this year it is slated to start on Oct. 13.) That means putting Alexa everywhere — inside homes and out — and addressing privacy concerns, which were big storylines in 2019 for both Ring and Alexa. In today’s life-at-home existence, with millions of us hunkered down for the long haul, the connected house concepts that Amazon has been developing for years have become more relevant than ever. 

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Amazon/Screenshot by Caitlin Petrakovitz/CNET

The company’s Echo and Fire TV products will be its first to earn sustainability badges, and

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Alexa for rent: Why Amazon needs to stop selling us new Echos

Last week, at Amazon’s yearly refresh of technology products, the company revealed Ring security devices (including an indoor video patrol drone), Eero mesh networking equipment, Fire TV streaming sticks, and, most importantly — new Echo smart speakers with Alexa.

However, many of the innovations demonstrated running on the freshly announced Echo devices were not product enhancements that required hardware upgrades. Because many of the new Alexa features and functionality are being rolled out to Amazon’s cloud service, many of the Alexa devices already in your homes will be getting a more natural voice and the conversation mode — assuming you don’t need that new AZ1 neural edge processing chip in order to take advantage of those enhancements. 

Also: Prime Day 2020: Amazon reveals when its annual sale takes place

These enhancements are not unlike when Apple rolls out an improved iOS or WatchOS. The older versions of the iPhone/iPad/Watch get

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What Is Alexa? The Best Alexa Speaker 2020

The 3rd generation Amazon Echo sitting on a wooden side table.
Photo: Amazon

Alexa (whose name is partly inspired by the legendary Library of Alexandria in Egypt) is the voice platform that powers Amazon’s Echo speakers, including the standard Echo (2019 version), the little Echo Dot, the video-enabled Echo Show and Echo Spot smart displays, and a bunch of compatible speakers (and other things), some from other manufacturers. Alexa speakers include built-in microphones, so they can listen to your commands and then send a recording of them to Amazon’s cloud services, where the recording is analyzed and the appropriate response is triggered. That process usually takes only a couple of seconds. Naturally, some people don’t like the idea of being listened to, and we address that issue in detail in this blog post.

Several Alexa speakers are good as music systems, but the real reason to get one—as opposed to a non-smart speaker or a Bluetooth speaker—is to access the Alexa

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Hunches, Alexa Guard Plus and more

Amazon’s annual hardware event has come and gone, and with it we’ve seen a slew of new Alexa features for your Echo speakers, displays and other voice-driven devices. Alexa continues to expand its reach, connecting with over 140,000 smart home devices, and boasting more than 100 million Alexa-compatible devices installed across its user base. But the voice assistant’s power isn’t just in its rapidly growing scale and ever expanding reach.



Amazon


© Provided by CNET
Amazon

When I spoke to Daniel Rausch, Amazon’s vice president of smart home and Alexa mobile, before the hardware event, he said Alexa is becoming more independent too. Alexa will soon be able to act on Hunches without asking, to listen for and react to sounds other than a wake word, and to protect your home more actively with an upgrade to Alexa Guard.

Amazon’s hardware chief talks Alexa, privacy and flying home security

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Amazon’s kid-savvy Alexa a welcome new option for Echo speakers

Amazon is adapting its Alexa technology so that Echo smart speakers will switch to kid-friendly mode when they detect children are speaking to them.`



Echo Dot Kids Edition panda version. Amazon


© Provided by CNET
Echo Dot Kids Edition panda version. Amazon

Given how far these digital devices reach into our lives, that’s welcome news.

Echo devices reach deeply into our existence. We use them to get answers to questions, control lights and play music. Our kids see us using them, and kids mimic their parents. So in coming months, Amazon will give parents the option of setting up voice profiles for their children in order to produce kid-friendly responses, the giant retailer said at its device product launch event Thursday.



Echo Dot Kids Edition panda version


© Amazon

Echo Dot Kids Edition panda version


Once voice profiles are set up, the Alexa device will return kid-friendly answers, games, music, Audible books and premium skills, for example. The feature dovetails with the new

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Soon You Can Ask Alexa to Forget Everything You Ever Said

The newly announced Echo Show 10.

The newly announced Echo Show 10.
Image: Amazon

Privacy is the big thing that gives people the heebie-jeebies when it comes to digital assistants like Alexa. But at Amazon’s devices and services event today, the company announced it was expanding privacy settings with regard to voice recordings.

Later this year, you’ll be able to say, “Alexa, delete everything I’ve said.” According to Amazon, that command will then delete all previously saved voice recordings associated with your account. But, wait, didn’t Amazon already let you do that before? What gives?

Previously, you had to navigate through labyrinthian menu settings to find the page where you could review and delete any recordings. Then, in 2019, Amazon introduced the ability to say “Alexa, delete what I just said,” to erase your last request. You could say “Alexa, delete everything I said today.” While a nice improvement, it wasn’t completely foolproof. Gizmodo found

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Amazon Alexa can now immediately delete your voice recordings

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Amazon has been working to improve privacy for Alexa, especially after a controversy about human reviewers last year.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon appears to be making good on its effort to keep tightening privacy for its Alexa-powered devices, even after the hot-button issue has cooled down this year.

The most notable change is a new option to automatically delete your voice recordings immediately after they are processed by Alexa. A written transcript of these recordings will still be available for 30 days but can be deleted anytime you want. 

This feature, which is available starting Thursday, builds on Amazon’s other auto-delete functions, which let a customer delete Alexa voice recordings on a rolling three-month or 18-month basis. Both those options were announced at Amazon’s launch event last year.

It’s one of several features

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