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Ordering an Uber is getting easier and easier, going beyond the app and Facebook Messenger
“Call me an Uber,” you say aloud.
A few minutes later, like magic, a car is waiting for you outside.
This scenario is now a reality as Uber has integrated with Amazon Echo, a smart home wireless speaker operated via voice command, allowing users to hail an Uber just by speaking aloud the request. Other acceptable commands include "request me a ride," "get me an Uber," and "call a taxi." You can also ask Echo how far away the ride is.
Widely available starting last summer, the $180 Amazon Echo has been fairly well-received as a smart home device.
Along with the Fire tablet and Fire TV Stick, the Amazon Echo was one of the company's best selling devices in the week leading up to Christmas. These devices continue to drive more sales every year, with the 2015 holiday season doubling Amazon device sales compared to the year before.
Fundamentally, the Amazon Echo functions as a speaker, so it makes sense that most of the core apps are audio-related. Users can play music from Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn simply by making commands with their voice. Users can also control smart lights and other switches with other compatible smart home devices, including WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, and Insteon.
Now the device has stretched its boundaries once again, allowing users to request a ride just by asking the Echo to hail an Uber.
In fact, because the underlying technology powering this new integration is provided by Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service Alexa, the ability to hail an Uber with your voice should work with all Alexa-powered devices. In addition to the Echo, this includes the Fire TV as well as the Alexa apps on Fire OS, Android, iOS, and desktop browsers.
While the announcement is an exciting, widening-of-possibilities for Amazon’s device, the integration is just another step in Uber’s march toward making its service as pervasive as possible. In December, the company announced that it had launched deep integration with Facebook Messenger, meaning users chatting on the platform could hail an Uber directly from the app.
Lyft never confirmed whether they were working on a similar integration with Facebook Messenger, though there were reports that they would do so. We’ve reached out to see if they are pursuing an integration with Amazon Echo as well. (Will update when we hear back.)
As Uber says on its developer blog, today's newly announced integration is "made possible thanks to the Uber API," perhaps a dig at the fact that its main U.S. competitor Lyft has yet to offer a public API. That’s not to say that Lyft is impeded from making integrations of its own. The company just last week beat Uber to integrating with Waze’s navigation app.
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Uber is a ridesharing service headquartered in San Francisco, United States, which operates in multiple international cities. The company uses a smartphone application to arrange rides between riders and drivers.