Courtesy Fibit
By Leena Rao
March 17, 2016

Amazon is steadily making its Alexa virtual assistant more useful.

The digital helper now can tell users how many steps they’ve taken that day, how they’ve slept, and how active they’ve been, Amazon said on Thursday. The information is based on data from wearable fitness tracker Fitbit.

Amazon’s Alexa, a rival to Apple’s Siri, lets people use their voices to get a wide range of information. The app runs on Amazon hardware including its connected Echo speaker and the companion Echo Dot.

Since debuting Echo last year, Amazon has added a number of “skills” that let Alexa go beyond answering basic commands like reading users’ calendar and setting morning alarms. It is also able to choose a song to play on Spotify, order an Uber ride, turn on lights, and even order pizzas from Domino’s.

Alexa comes with a companion iOS and Android app to link to the many services it supports like Nest, Uber and Capital One. Those services are most commonly activated by simply saying “Alexa,” followed by a command.

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With the Fitbit integration, users simply have to say something like “Alexa, ask Fitbit how I’m doing today,” and the device will say how many steps they have taken. In addition to saying how well you slept last night, or the number of calories you’ve burned, it will also encourage you to walk or exercise more.

Fitbit also said Alexa’s responses will even be tailored to the specific time of day. For example, users who ask at 9 am about how many steps they’ve taken may hear, “You’ve got to start somewhere,” or “Try to take a walk today, but don’t forgot to stop and smell the roses.”

Amazon said that this is the first Alexa skill with a wearable device.

Although Amazon has faced difficulty competing with the likes of Apple and Google in smartphones and tablets, it is showing promise with Alexa and the Echo device line. Amazon does not disclose sales numbers, but the company said in December that the Echo was its best selling product over $100 on Black Friday.

David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices, said recently that the company was surprised at how popular Echo has become. Some analysts are speculating that Echo could become Amazon’s next $1 billion business.

Last week, Amazon announced an integration with Capital One that essentially turned Alexa into a virtual bank teller that can give you your account balances and minimum payments amounts.

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