SEATTLE — Amazon held a special event on Thursday to unveil a slew of new gadgets and services.
At the start of the event, Amazon exec Dave Limp said “We’ve got 70 things to talk about,” and if we was joking, it was hard to tell. According to Limp, Thursday’s event featured the largest number of devices and features that Amazon has ever announced in a single day.
The event was held in the Amazon Spheres, which are three large glass domes located on Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle. Business Insider was in attendance, and checked out the hands-on area afterwards.
Here’s everything Amazon announced at its massive September event:
NEW ECHO DOT
The Echo Dot — Amazon’s best-selling speaker ever, which is a miniature version of the original Echo — got a bunch of improvements, including a new design, and better speakers that are 70% louder than the previous version.
The new Echo Dot costs $50, like the last model, and starts shipping in October.
NEW ECHO PLUS
Amazon unveiled a new Echo Plus speaker that features stronger bass and an equalizer feature that lets you adjust the bass and treble using just your voice.
The new Echo Plus also has an integrated temperature sensor so you can create special commands that trigger actions, so you could have it turn on your fans if a room gets too hot, for example. It will also support local voice control, so you won’t need an internet connection to do some basic commands like turning on lights.
The new Echo Plus is available for pre-order, and starts shipping in October. It costs $149.99.
NEW ECHO SHOW
Amazon redesigned the Echo Show to have a bigger 10-inch HD screen — twice the display area of the original Echo Show — and better sound quality. It also has two new web browsers, including Firefox and Amazon’s Silk browser.
You can pre-order the new Echo Show now, which starts shipping in October. It costs $229.99.
Amazon made a tiny standalone microphone called Echo Input, which connects to a third-party speaker through an audio cable or Bluetooth so you can talk to Alexa and control the speaker from across the room (assuming it’s a big room), or from a different room. It’s less than an inch tall and is barely noticeable.
Amazon says the Echo Input will be available “later this year” for $34.99.
Amazon introduced a new subwoofer for the Amazon Echo, appropriately named Echo Sub. This is good if you like listening to music through your Echo but want some more bass.
It works with Amazon Echo and Echo Plus, and you can attach the Echo Sub to two of the same model of Echo speakers to create a 2.1 stereo sound system.
You can pre-order the Echo Sub starting today. It costs $129.99.
ECHO LINK and ECHO LINK AMP
Amazon’s new Echo Link lets you connect all of your stereo equipment via your Amazon Echo or Alexa app, including music selection, volume, and multi-room playback. Amazon says it will be available “soon.” Echo Link costs $199.99.
Echo Link Amp is like the Echo Link, but with a built-in 2-channel amplifier. It will also be available “soon,” and that model costs $299.99.
WI-FI SIMPLE SETUP
Amazon wants to make it easier to set up your electronic devices, so it created two new services: There’s a new thing called Amazon Wi-Fi Locker, which lets you re-use your network credentials to set up new devices, but the big standout feature is a new system called “Wi-Fi Simple Setup,” which lets people seamlessly connect their new Wi-Fi devices to their networks.
AMAZON SMART PLUG
Amazon unveiled a new gadget called the Smart Plug, which comes with Amazon’s new Wi-Fi Simple Setup feature.
Here’s how it works: If you connect a new smart kitchen appliance, like a smart coffee maker, into the Amazon Smart Plug, it will automatically connect to your Wi-Fi; no need to fuss with an extra app. It takes “less than 30 seconds,” according to Amazon.
A new AmazonBasics Microwave — yes, a microwave — comes with a built-in “Ask Alexa” button. Just press the button and issue a verbal command, like “one minute,” to get the timer going. The microwave also comes with a Dash Replenishment service, which means you can automatically order certain kinds of food, like popcorn, if you’re running low.
The AmazonBasics Microwave is available to pre-order, and will start shipping “later this year.” It costs $59.99.
ECHO WALL CLOCK
Amazon made a smart clock for your wall, called Echo Wall Clock, which can connect to your Echo device via Bluetooth. It works with all of your timers, alarms, and reminders, and even adjusts itself according to Daylight Savings.
The Echo Wall Clock ships “later this year,” and costs $29.99.
A new feature called Alexa Guard integrates security service providers with your Echo devices and smart lights to protect your home.
For instance, Alexa Guard can send you alerts with audio clips when specific sounds are detected, and you can choose to forward those alerts to your security provider like ADT or Ring.
Alexa Guard also uses machine learning to turn your smart lights on and off in a pattern that seems normal to make it seem like someone is home.
Amazon introduced a new $50 device called Echo Auto, with enough microphones in it to handle noise in your car so Alexa can properly hear your commands, whether it’s noisy inside or outside your vehicle. Echo Auto only needs to connect to your phone via Bluetooth to work.
Alexa is also coming to cars in a new invite-only (for now) feature called Alexa Auto, which lets you search for a nearby Starbucks, or directions to a location, using just your voice. Amazon will start shipping Alexa Auto “later this year.”
FIRE TV UPDATES
Amazon unveiled its first DVR device called Fire TV Recast, which lets you watch and record live TV content and stream it from anywhere via your Fire TV, Echo Show, Fire tablet, or mobile device.
There’s two versions. The cheaper one ($229.99) lets you record up to two shows at once, and the more expensive model ($279.99) gives you more storage and the ability to record up to four shows simultaneously. Both devices let you search for shows, or even delete your scheduled recordings, using just your voice with Alexa.
UPDATES TO ALEXA
Amazon announced it’s working to make Alexa “more opinionated and personal.” Thanks to a new feature called “Follow up,” you can ask follow-up questions to Alexa, negating the need to use her wake word every single time you have a question or command.
Alexa now supports captions for the Echo Show and Echo Spot devices, for hearing-impaired customers.
A Routines for Kids feature lets parents create customized commands, so if you say, “Alexa, good night,” it can begin a routine — like turning off the lights and starting sleep sounds, for instance.
A new feature called Alexa Multi-Room Music lets you add a bunch of different Alexa-enabled speakers to a single group — like if you own a Harmon Kardon Allure, or a Polk Command Bar — and play music from all of them. The feature’s coming “this fall.”
UPDATES TO RING
Back in February, Amazon bought a company that makes smart doorbells called Ring. Seven months later, Amazon is announcing that the Ring app and Ring Alarm feature can be accessed by smart locks from Schlage, Yale, Kwikset, and Danalock.
Amazon also announced the new Ring Stick Up Cam, which works indoors or outdoors. It will ship “later this year” and costs $179.99.
Amazon’s two Echo devices with screens, Echo Show and Echo Spot, are also getting doorbell support for Ring “later this year.” It will have a new feature called Doorbell Chime Announcements, which sounds a chime on all of your Echo devices if someone rings your smart doorbell.
NEW SOFTWARE FOR DEVELOPERS
Amazon announced the fourth version of its smart-home APIs, which let developers build Alexa into their devices. It includes the Alexa Connect Kit, which Amazon calls “the simplest way to create Wi-Fi connected, smart home products.” The Alexa Connect Kit has a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth low-energy module with Amazon software that can automatically connect to Amazon’s cloud services.
Alexa Presentation Language is a new feature for developers, which lets them build visual Alexa skills with graphics, videos, slideshows, and more.
Amazon’s new Alexa Smart Screen Device SDK lets developers build experiences for smart displays, TVs, and 2-in-1 tablets.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.