Amazon just added a ton of new Alexa features – here’s how to use them
Improved natural language, easy-to-find privacy features, and more.
Amazon just had its yearly hardware event, and among new Echo devices comes a huge upgrade to Alexa’s skill set. The biggest change? The voice assistant will be more conversational, so you won’t have to say her name every few seconds to string multiple commands together.
That’ll be great when it arrives, as having to say Alexa all of the time is one of the only things that annoys me about the Echo Dots we have scattered around the house. That’s not the only feature, however, and we’ll go over that and more down below.
Less use of the Alexa wake word
Once the upgrade goes live, you won’t have to say Alexa’s name every time you want to do multiple commands in a short space of time. The cool thing about the “natural turn-taking” update is that you can also get Alexa to join in a multi-person conversation, and have her respond to multiple people, all without using the wake word. Nice.
Teach her new stuff
If you’ve used any voice assistant in the past, you know the horror of forgetting a command, only to have them say they don’t understand you when you try to muddle through. Now if that happens, Alexa will ask you questions to find out what you actually want her to do, instead of refusing to answer. For example, if you asked Alexa to set your room to “productive mode” and there are no pre-set routines for this, Alexa will ask you “I don’t know what productive mode is, could you teach me?” Once you walk Alexa through what you want to happen, she’ll remember the next time you ask.
Tell her to delete your recordings
Now you can ask Alexa to delete every recording she’s ever taken of you, by saying “Alexa, delete everything I’ve ever said.” That’ll please the privacy advocates, who have raised questions about recording retention in the past.
Tweak your privacy settings
The privacy settings are fairly robust, but they’re buried inside the Alexa app and take a little bit of digging to get to. There’s about to be a better way, by asking Alexa to help you review your privacy settings. That command prompts Alexa to send you a direct link to the privacy settings page, so you can review your existing settings, and revise any you want to change. Everything from voice recording history, detected sounds, smart home connections, and more are able to be tweaked or deleted.
As if having Alexa be more conversational isn’t enough, here are all the rest of the new Skills she’s getting later this fall:
- Alexa Guard Plus: Turn your Alexa into a home alarm system, with deterrent features and the ability to tap into third-party devices from manufacturers such as Wyze, Abode, and Scout
- Hunches: These are getting a makeover, with Alexa being able to actually perform some actions without asking you to confirm, such as turning off your lights when you leave the house
- New wake words: Well, not really just words, you can wake Alexa with trained sounds, such as a baby crying or a dog barking
- Alexa Care Hub: Look in on your elderly relatives or friends with this feature that lets you get notifications that things are okay at their home. With isolation being the watchword of the times, it’s a simple way to reassure your family members
- Group calling: Alexa will soon have the ability to create video or voice calls with up to eight users
- Netflix: Finally, Netflix will work on the Echo Show smart screens
- Zoom and Amazon Chime: You’ll be able to use these video chat services from your Echo Show
- Music sharing: You’ll be able to ask Alexa to share songs with Echo devices from your contacts
- Reading sidekick: Alexa can help your little ones learn to read, trading lines and offering encouragement
- Alexa voice profiles for kids: Alexa will tweak her responses to be age-appropriate
If you don’t see any of these new features yet, it’s likely that they’re still in the works, so just check every so often.
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