A few weeks ago, Amazon held an event where they introduced a slew of latest product announcements and upcoming features. They also introduced the new Echo speakers and Echo Show display along with the cloud-based gaming platform. But the highlight of the event was the feature upgrade in Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant that continues to expand its reach by enabling connectivity with over 140,000 smart home devices. Alexa is expanding its support not only for different gadgets but is also becoming more intelligent with each update.
Recently, Vice President of Amazon Smart Home and Alexa Mobile, Daniel Rausch, revealed that Alexa is becoming smarter and more independent. It can complete tasks without assistance from the speaker owners. Soon, Alexa can act on Hunches without asking, and it will react to other words other than ‘wake word,’ and it will protect your house in a better manner with the help of Alexa Guard. So, you can expect Alexa to be more proactive and predictive to create an ambient space of your home.
Here are some of the best features you will find on Alexa:
Alexa Guard Plus
Alexa Guard has been a free feature on Alexa for quite a while. It enables the users to monitor their homes when they are away from it. Once you activate this feature on the smart speaker, it can detect footsteps, unusual activity, listen to glass breaking, alert you about fire alarms, and more through an alert that you will receive on your smartphone.
The company is now expanding its features and introducing it as Alexa Guard Plus. It will be a subscription service that charges $4.99 per month to add some exciting features on top of the standard offerings. Alexa Guard Plus has a robust detector that can check an activity based on the sound it produces. It will also listen to an opening or closing door and detect other such activities related to thieves or unwanted visitors. It will also bring deterrence features that can play sounds and perform actions to keep unwanted visitors away by creating an illusion that your home is not unattended or empty. Along with these Alexa Guard Plus will also have preconfigured emergency helpline numbers to help you connect to emergency services in seconds without looking for your smartphone.
Amazon is also offering support for Alexa Guard Plus from a variety of hardware partners, including Abode, Wyze, Amazon’s Ring, A3 Smart Home, Scout, and Resideo.
Upgraded Hunches (Intuition)
It has been more than a year since Amazon introduced the use of ‘Hunches’ through which Alexa can suggest tasks related to the one you’re doing. For example, tweak the temperature as you turn off the lights before going to bed. Rausch also revealed Alexa itself is capable of initiating and completing the minor actions in your smart home devices. It doesn’t always require voice command to perform a task.
With an upgrade to Hunches, Alexa will be able to perform a few sets of actions without any command. This will resolve a few minor tasks for you, e.g. Alexa will automatically turn off the connected smart home devices as you leave the house. Rausch believes that the Alexa app will enable the users to access control over Alexa’s capability of taking decisions, and “close the loop” by confirming with users to ensure that the automatic actions are necessary.
Note that a few devices are not a part of the Hunches upgrade so that you can ensure some manual safety and not leave everything on Alexa.
Alexa Care Hub
Pandemic has forced everyone to stay in their homes, making us lose contact with people we love. In these times, one is most concerned about their elderly family members who are living alone. Rausch revealed that they are introducing a better feature to resolve the worries of watching out for our elders. The Alexa Care Hub will let you link two Amazon Alexa accounts at a time, and will give one account access to the activity of the other account connected to the Echo device.
But the elderly one or anyone who needs you to watch over them has to send an invite to your Alexa account. The Care Hub will send notifications related to their general activity around the house to reassure you or the caretaker about their wellbeing and how they’re spending their day. This feature will let you have a tension-free day while keeping you connected with the ones who matter.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, the following are some other Alexa feature updates:
- Group calling: You will be able to join video- or voice-driven group calls with up to eight other participants.
- Netflix on Echo Show devices: After a year, the Echo Show is coming to an end, and Netflix will take its place in the Echo Show devices.
- Music sharing: You can ask Alexa to “share a song with (name of any contact),” and it will share the music, enabling them to listen to the song on their Echo.
- Child Profile: When your kids talk to Alexa, the voice assistant will automatically adjust its responses according to the age of the child.