Amazon Announces Alexa's New Features

Alongside a new lineup of Echo devicesAmazon introduced new Alexa features that it says helps make life more convenient, safe, and entertaining. New capabilities include entertainment features like left-right stereo pairing, TIDAL, and Amazon Music New Release Notifications; productivity features like email management, step-by-step cooking, and location-based Routines; smart home and home monitoring features like Alexa Guard, Hunches, and Local Voice Control; and FreeTime on Alexa features like kid-focused Routines, podcasts, new skills, and more.

Alexa Guard

Alexa can help keep your home safe when you're away with Alexa Guard-just say, "Alexa, I'm leaving" to activate Guard. When you enable Guard, Alexa can send you Smart Alerts about the sound of glass-breaking, smoke detectors, or carbon monoxide alarms detected in your home. Alexa can also intuitively turn lights on and off to help deter intruders using Away Lighting and can integrate with alarm systems from Ring and ADT to keep your home safe. This feature will be available on select Echo devices later this year.


As you interact with your smart home, Alexa learns more about your day-to-day usage and can sense when connected smart devices such as lights, locks, switches, and plugs are not in the state that you prefer. For example, if your living room light is on when you say "Alexa, good night," Alexa will respond with "Goodnight. By the way, your living room light is on. Do you want me to turn it off?" This feature will be available later this year.

Frustration Free Setup

We want to remove the frustration of connecting new smart home devices to Wi-Fi by making it as simple as plugging them in. As a first step toward realizing this vision, we're rolling out Wi-Fi simple setup so customers can connect smart devices to their Wi-Fi network and Alexa by simply using their voice or scanning a barcode on the back of their smart device using the Alexa app. Wi-Fi simple setup is initially available with new Echo devices, the new Amazon Smart Plug, and AmazonBasics Microwave. Additional devices will be added in the future.

Local Voice Control

When there's an internet outage, or if you're in an area with unreliable internet connection, Local Voice Control allows you to still use your voice to control lights, plugs, and switches that are connected to an Echo device with a built-in smart home hub, such as the all-new Echo Plus or all-new Echo Show.

Video Doorbell

In the coming weeks, Echo Show devices will have a two-way talk feature that works with Ring and August doorbell cameras. When the doorbell rings or motion is detected by the security camera, just say "Alexa, answer the front door" to see and talk to whoever is there without having to open the door. Additionally, Alexa will be able to play a chime and make an announcement when someone rings your Ring and August doorbell cameras. You can also use Alexa Routines to play custom announcements when the front door camera detects movement or someone rings the doorbell.

Alexa Makes Your Life More Convenient

Customize your daily routine by adding location-based Alexa Routines that trigger when you leave or arrive at home or work. Plus add timed delays in between Alexa Routine actions; add time-limited music--great for white noise or sleep sounds; and add temperature and motion-based Alexa Routines that trigger when the temperature in a room is too high or too low, or when motion is detected.

Location-Based Reminders

You can set reminders to trigger when you leave or arrive at home or work. Simply say, "Alexa, remind me to take the chicken out when I get home," and when you arrive, Alexa will automatically speak the reminder and send a notification to your phone.

Cook with Alexa

Simply ask Alexa for step-by-step cooking instructions from Kitchen Stories, Allrecipes, Epicurious, Food52, TheKitchn, and SideChef. Say "Alexa, let's start cooking," and Alexa will walk you step-by-step through your favorite recipe.

Multi-step Requests

Ask Alexa to do multiple things at once within one request. For example, add several items to your shopping list by saying "Alexa, add bananas, paper towels, and cat food to my shopping list;" or turn the Echo volume up and start a playlist by saying, "Alexa, play Pandora at volume 8."

Email Integration

If you need to manage your personal inbox but aren't able to sit with your computer or smartphone, all you need to do is ask Alexa to check and reply to email through Gmail, Outlook.com, and Hotmail.com. Simply link your email in your Alexa app and say, "Alexa, do I have emails from Sarah?"

Whisper Mode

Gone are the days of waking up your spouse or partner to ask Alexa for the weather in the morning or turn your alarm off. Whisper Mode is a new feature that allows you to whisper to Alexa, and she will whisper her response back to you.

More Calling Options

Skype voice and video calling with Alexa will allow customers to connect with the hundreds of millions of people using Skype around the world. Just say, "Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype" to quickly connect with Jimmy anywhere he uses Skype.

Built-In Web Browser

Echo Show now has a built-in web browser that can be opened by saying, "Alexa, open Silk" or "Alexa, open Firefox." Once open, you can use the on-screen keyboard to type a URL and visit your favorite website. And like other browsers, you can bookmark your favorite websites for easy access.

Alexa Makes Life More Entertaining

Later this year, global music streaming platform TIDAL will be available on all Echo devices. This service leverages the new Music Skill API also just announced. Learn more about the developer benefits of the new, self-service Music Skill API: www.developer.amazon.com/blogs/alexa/

With the new left-right stereo pairing feature, you can connect two of the same, supported Echo devices for stereo sound.

With Amazon Music's New Release Notifications, customers will soon be able to ask Alexa to follow their favorite artist, and receive notifications on their Echo device or within the Amazon Music mobile app when an artist releases a new album or track. After asking to hear the new album or track, customers will also be surprised to hear some of their favorite artists' voices delivering the message themselves on their Echo.

With overlapping groups, you can add one Echo device to several multi-room music groups. For example, the Echo in your kitchen can be included in both the "Kitchen" group for daily listening, and the "Downstairs" group when you're having friends over on the weekend.

Set your preferred speaker for music playback in your Alexa app--be it an Echo device, a third-party AVS speaker, or a multi-room music group. When you want to play music in that space, simply say "Alexa, play rock music" and it will stream from your preferred speaker.

Integrations with Fire TV Recast, Hulu, and NBC will make live TV viewing and on-demand streaming available on any Echo Show. Simply say "Alexa, watch Good Morning America" to watch the news with your morning coffee, or "Alexa, tune to ESPN on Hulu" to catch up with your favorite sports team. Click here to learn more about the new Echo Show.

Skills and Games for the Screen

Tens of thousands of skills are available on the all-new Echo Show, including many visually enhanced experiences. You can get up to the minute stock information and news updates at a glance with CNBC, quickly check your Capital One balance, play Who Wants to be a Millionaire or turn anytime into story time with the Amazon Storytime skill.

All-New FreeTime on Alexa Features

Parents can now easily set Routines with FreeTime on Alexa using a set of simple pre-configured Alexa Routines. For example, parents can enable the Good Night Routine in the Alexa app, and when parents or kids say, "Alexa, good night," Alexa will offer a parent-customized goodnight message, tell them an interesting fact, turn off the lights, turn on the night light, and start sleep sounds or white noise. After School, Bed Time, and Good Morning Routines can also be customized with white noise timers, smart home controls, music, personalized Alexa messages, and more.

Kids already love listening to Audible through FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa, and soon FreeTime Unlimited customers will have over 1,000 Audible books available to enjoy. To offer even more content, using Amazon FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa, kids can listen to popular kid and family podcasts, including Brain's On from American Public RadioStory Pirates from Gimlet Media, and Ear Snacks from Andrew and Polly. These podcasts offer educational and age-appropriate news, stories, and more.

New FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa skills like Train Like an Avenger and Animal Workout help get families active and moving together, all while using their imagination. Plus new skills like Oregon Trail, Star Wars Missions, and Animal Rescue offer fun and educational content.

SpeechTek Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues
Related Articles

Sensory Makes Wake Words Smarter with New High-Res Voice Recognition and Authentication

Sensory, a provider of wake words for personal assistants, raises the performance bar for always-listening wake word and speech recognition, with an upgraded turn-key voice interface solutions for devices of all shapes, sizes, and power requirements.

Amazon Announces New Echo Devices

Amazon introduced a new line-up of Echo devices, Echo companion devices, and Amazon smart home devices, making it easier to bring the features and convenience of Alexa to any room and now, to the car.