New Alexa features announced: Celebrity voices, narking on your kids and more

A roundup of all the n​ew features highlighted at Amazon's latest event

Put Samuel L Jackson in your Echo
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With 14 new hardware devices announced by Amazon at its hardware event in Seattle, it's only fair that the power behind it all – Alexa – got some love, too.

From mimicking celebrity voices and being able to understand more than one language at once, to keeping track of your kid's grades and more intelligently watching over your home while you're gone, here's a look at all the new features coming to Alexa this year.

New Alexa features for 2019

New Alexa features announced: Celebrity voices, narking on your kids and more

Celebrity voices and multi-lingual mode

Honestly, all other features pale in comparison to the fact that you can now have Samuel L. Jackson live inside your Echo devices.

Both sanitized and NSFW versions of the iconic actor will roll out to Alexa devices later this year, with more celebrities following.

Each voice will cost $0.99 in 2019, bumping up to $4.99 next year. There's no word on when this will roll out to other territories.

Read this: Funny things to ask Alexa

New neural text-to-speech software is enabling this change, which will also make regular Alexa sound more human.

A new multi-lingual mode is also coming, so you can talk to Alexa in both Spanish and English, or French and English, or Indian and Hindi. The feature is coming in October.

“Alexa, why did you do that?”

It's a phrase we've all said often, although perhaps not quite so politely. Now the AI will be able to respond appropriately, providing a short explanation about the response to your last voice request.

You can also ask what exactly Alexa heard, by saying “Alexa, tell me what you heard” and Alexa will read back your most recent voice request.

Read more: Best Alexa skills to download

This is all in the name of providing users with more transparency over the responses they get, says Amazon. These features will be rolling out in the coming weeks.

Along the same lines, a new frustration detection feature will have Alexa apologize and attempt to clarify and recover if she "senses," ahem, frustration in your voice.

New Alexa features announced: Celebrity voices, narking on your kids and more

Auto-delete your voice recordings

Earlier this year Amazon introduced the ability for you to tell Alexa to delete everything you said that day, and what you just said.

Coming before the year is out, you'll be able to set it so your voice recordings auto-delete every three or 18 months on an ongoing basis.

Alexa is about to turn into a super-nark

Alexa will soon be able to nark on your kids, telling you their grades and whether they really have homework.

A new software developer kit can tie into programs used by schools to manage homework and teach content and feed the data into your smart speaker.

More family-focused functions

In addition to the school API, Alexa Communications for Kids will let parents whitelist users who can call their children on Echo devices.

Also FreeTime – Amazon’s all-you-can-eat content buffet for kids – is finally coming to the Show devices.

Plus a new "Drop In On All" mode will start a group video/audio chat with anyone in your family that owns an Echo device.

New Alexa features announced: Celebrity voices, narking on your kids and more

"Alexa, turn off Suzie's Wi-Fi"

Compatible Wi-Fi routers from Eero, ASUS, Linksys and TP-Link will soon be controllable by voice.

Similar to the functionality many router apps have, you will be able to manage Wi-Fi access for family members with voice commands, such as pausing Wi-Fi when dinner is ready and unpausing it once the dishes are done.

Hunches can now recommend routines

Alexa Hunches, which arrived earlier this year, can now suggest routines you may want to set up based on your daily habits.

For example, if you always set an alarm for 7am and immediately ask for the same playlist each morning, Alexa can suggest setting up a routine so that the alarm is always set and the playlist plays as soon as it goes off.

When Alexa asks if you would like a routine set up, just say “yes,” and the routine is ready to go.

New Alexa features announced: Celebrity voices, narking on your kids and more

Alexa Guard gets smarter

Currently, Alexa Guard listens for the sound of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, or glass breaking while you're out, sending you a notification to your phone so you can hear what it heard.

Starting this fall, Guard will begin supporting a new Smart Alert that can notify customers of the sound of more activity, like footsteps, talking, coughing or a door closing.

You can also now include putting Guard into Away mode in Routines, whereas previously you had to say "Alexa, I'm leaving" to arm Guard.

Now you can have Alexa set Guard to Away mode, lock the back door, and turn on the porch light with your choice of phrase.

Finally, Guard can now work with home security systems from Abode and Scout Alarm, in addition to Ring and ADT.

Devices can tell Alexa when they're low on goods

Similar to Amazon's Dash Replenishment service, soon smart home devices such as thermostats and locks will be able to tell Alexa when they need a top up.

You can get a notification when it’s time to re-order a part, or set up smart re-ordering so that supplies are automatically reordered before they run out.

Amazon has partnered with August, Blink, Ring, Schlage and Yale, among others, for this program.



TAGGED    amazon    smart home

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