You can now also touch Alexa on Fire tablets

Tablet on a table in a living room
Tap to activate Alexa is coming to Fire tablets, including the new Fire HD 8 and 8 Plus. | Image: Amazon

Amazon is bringing more accessibility features to its Fire tablets – including the new Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus announced today – by adding support for Tap to Alexa, compatibility with access controllers to the Bluetooth switch and the launch of a new text-to-speech feature.

Tap to Alexa is an accessibility feature that lets you interact with the voice assistant using touch instead of voice. Previously only an option on Echo Show devices (speakers with touchscreens), it’s now available on Amazon’s Fire tablets, eighth generation or newer, in the US, UK, Germany and in Japan.

With Tap to Alexa enabled, a small “tap” icon sits on the screen which, when tapped, opens a dashboard of common commands. These include Stop, Timer, Alarm, Weather, Traffic and Prank. Tapping on one of these tiles makes Alexa respond as if you said the command out loud.

Some are one tap and you’re done (tap Prank, and it tells you a joke). Others require more interaction. Tap Alarm and follow the on-screen time and date selection steps. A quick question tile lets you type in any request and Alexa will respond as if it were said out loud.

An Echo Show displaying touch buttons
Image: Amazon
The Tap to Alexa display on an Echo Show 5.

It is also possible to add any specific request as its own thumbnail. For example, to stream a favorite TV show, call a friend, or run an Alexa routine, such as a Goodnight routine that can lock a smart lock and turn off smart lights.

Designed for customers with speech and/or mobility disabilities, Tap to Alexa coming to wearable devices with Alexa on board could make the device useful to more people. For example, having the feature on a tablet means a person in a wheelchair can mount the tablet on it and have quick access to Alexa commands using touch.

Also new is compatibility with Bluetooth switch access controllers, such as a button, blink sensor, or sip straw. Combined with Tap to Alexa, Switch Access Controllers allow people with reduced mobility to make Alexa requests directly to a Fire tablet.

For users with speech impairments, Text to Speech on Fire tablets are designed to allow a user to type sentences and have them spoken aloud through the tablet. It’s also possible to save shortcut thumbnails for common phrases, such as “I’m hungry.”

Amazon says it worked with the United Spinal Institute’s Tech Access Initiative to get feedback on these new features and understand how it could help users with speech and mobility disabilities be more independent.

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