​Alexa gets smarter with new Follow-up Mode update

One small step on the way to more natural conversation

​Alexa gets smarter with Follow-up Mode

If you’re getting tired of barking rapid-fire Alexa commands at your smart speaker, then Amazon’s latest Follow-up Mode update is for you.

Follow-up Mode enables Alexa to keep listening after an interaction, so you can add extra commands without using the dreaded wake-word. When you wake Alexa and ask her something, she'll listen for further commands for five seconds. In this period you don’t have to say Alexa, just concisely add your next request.

Essential reading: Complete guide to Amazon Alexa

The feature is limited to the US right now, and also won’t invoke if you’re listening to music, podcasts or using a Drop In call. You can enable it by heading to your Alexa smartphone app > Settings > choose your device and then toggle on Follow-up Mode.

Now there are a few interesting parts of this process, the effectiveness of which will only come out in the fullness of time. The first is that Alexa will actively ignore anything within this five-second follow up period which it deems is background conversation. We could see this leading to some frustrating exchanges – both in ignoring commands and recognising background noise – but it will be interesting to see how far the Alexa algorithm has evolved.

The next interesting element is that while this is certainly a significant advance for Alexa, it falls short of a truly natural experience. We’re sure most people, at some point, have wished that they could simply ask Alexa to do two things at once: “Alexa, turn on the lights AND set temperature to 20 degrees," for example. This update falls short of that dream. It’s a baby step on the way to talking to Alexa like an actual person, but will still require thought on the users’ behalf in how to shape their command.

US readers can check their Alexa apps now – but others will have to wait.

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