Amazon Echo update reads news headlines so you don't have to

Amazon has just released a software update for its internet-connected, voice assistant-powered Echo speaker that brings several new options to the list of voice commands it can follow. Probably the most impressive is the ability for it to read news headlines when asked, but the update also includes improved controls for smart home set ups, along with in-depth settings for alarms and timers. The new software version is available now to Echo users.

For the news-reading feature, all users need to do is ask the speaker to read the top news headlines. They can even specify a topic to hear about, such as politics, technology, or entertainment. The Echo isn't going to read the full articles or provide any kind of in-depth explanation, but when someone is busy around the house, for example, and just wants to get the general idea of what's happening within a certain category, headlines can be enough to get the gist.

The options for timers and alarms include being able to tell the speaker to cancel a specific alarm. Multiple timers can now also be set, for example when in the kitchen with different dishes needing different times to cook. A user can also ask how much time is remaining on one or all of the timers.

Among the setting for controlling smart homes are ways to connect IFTTT triggers with timers and alarms, like turning on the room lights when the alarm goes off. As for various connected home hubs, the Amazon Echo now supports the Wink Hub, SmartThings Hub, and Hue or WeMo products.