10 amazing new Alexa features heading your way

It wasn't just hardware announced at the big September 2020 event

Alexa is about to get a whole lot smarter
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It wasn't just hardware announced at Amazon's big September 2020 launch event.

While we saw a new Echo 4th generation smart speaker, the 2020 Echo Dot models, a new Echo Show 10 and some new Fire TV Sticks, the digital voice assistant is becoming a far more advanced with brand new features.

Alexa is getting not only getting smarter but also more kid-friendly and will also be able to snoop (in a good way) around your house like never before.

Read on for a full roundup of the amazing new Alexa features that are heading our way in the coming months.

Natural Turn Taking

The new Alexa smart speakers are powered by Amazon’s AZ1 Neural Edge processor, which the company describes as "an all-new silicon module that’s purpose-built for accelerating machine learning applications."

With the AZ1 on board, Alexa is about to get a lot more conversational. There will be a new, all-neural, speech recognition model that will process speech faster, making Alexa even more responsive.

Alexa Natural Turn Taking will make conversations more natural, for example.

You can say, "Alexa, join our conversation" and you'll then be able to ditch the wake word and the voice assistants will be able to handle multiple participants in these more natural conversations.

Natural Turn Taking uses acoustic cues to distinguish device-directed and non-device-directed speech and can even use other cues, such as visual information from devices with cameras, to work out if a speakers’ body position suggests that they are likely to be addressing the voice assistant.

Better sound detection

Amazon stated that Alexa can already detect certain sounds such as glass breaking or the sound of a smoke alarm, and that improved noise detection would be added to the mix later this year.

A baby crying or someone coughing or snoring were all sounds that were mentioned, with the idea being that you'll be able to set up Alexa Routines based on these noises.

Think turning on the lights in your bedroom when Alexa detects the sound of a baby crying, or turning on white noise if your snoring is detected in the night.

Extra security smarts

Those new noise detection skills will come in handy for the all-new Alexa Guard Plus.

Alexa Guard Plus adds a few extra layers to the standard Alexa Guard service including letting users to ask Alexa to connect them directly to security agents by saying, “Alexa, call for help”.

Trained agents from security specialists can then request and dispatch medical, fire, or police assistance on users' behalf.

Alexa Guard Plus adds monitoring for footsteps, doors closing, or glass breaking to the mix and, when an Alexa Guard Plus system is set to away, a siren can be triggered on Echo smart speakers.

Alexa Guard Plus can also help to deter potential intruders by playing the sounds of dogs barking from Echo devices.

Extra, extra security smarts

The new Echo Show 10 not only boasts an improved HD display and a better speaker but it's also got some moves.

The Show 10 can pan, tilt, and zoom, keeping you in frame wherever you are in the room thanks to a silent brushless motor and a new AZ1 neural processor that can recognize the form of a human body.

This means it will physically pan and digitally zoom images from its 13-megapixel sensor, and the camera can work as a home security cam to check in on your abode. You can even remotely rotate the screen to take a look around the room.

It also works with Alexa Guard and will periodically pan around the room when Away Mode is activated, checking to a see if person in its field of view, and alerting you via the Alexa app if it spots someone.

Amazon has also released motion and sensing APIs to devs so they can create skills using the Show 10's unique hardware features.

Automatic Kids Mode

new alexa kid features

Alexa can now automatically shift to a kid’s profile when it recognizes a younger voice, bringing the parental controls that are part of the Kids + feature set to any Echo device in the house.

Once enabled, Alexa will provide kid-friendly responses no matter which device they talk to - not just on the kid-focused new Echo Dot models.

Reading Sidekick

Another new feature that's good for the little 'uns (and the big 'uns too) is Reading Sidekick, which is designed to help Alexa build fluency and encourage a love for reading.

Say “Alexa, let’s read,” and the AI will take turns reading with your child, providing encouragement when they are reading well and offering support when they struggle.

With these subtle changes Amazon is working toward creating a more natural smart home experience, where its voice assistant interacts with you more like a human, less like a robot.

Alexa Care Hub

Care Hub is a new Alexa feature that will enable family members to check in on aging loved ones from a distance.

After you and a family member have agreed to create a connection between your Alexa accounts, if they need help, they can call you as their emergency contact by saying, “Alexa, call for help.”

But it's not just a glorified panic alarm. With Care Hub set up, you'll also be able to see an activity feed detailing when loved ones have interacted with their Echo speakers or carried out an action on an Alexa-compatible smart home device, letting you know they are up and going about their day.

You could also set up an alert if no activity is detected before a certain time of day, so you can call to check in. Maybe a favorite lamp hasn't been switched on or a motion sensor hasn't picked up on a bedroom door being opened, for example.

Better video calls

video calls on echo show 10

Group calling is coming soon with Amazon's new Chime video conferencing skill, as is support for Zoom (Skype is already live).

Amazon is also adding new effects for video calls and Drop In calls.

This isn't just on the new Echo Show 10 - Video Calling with Fire TV is going live. You'll be able to connect a Logitech webcam with their Fire TV Cube to enable two-way video calling on Alexa.

Netflix on Echo Show

Netflix is finally making its way to an Echo Show 10 screen near you.

Joining Hulu and Prime Video on the platform, the addition of the top streaming service makes this a strong contender for the best smart screen for your kitchen.

Improved privacy settings

Say “Alexa, how do I review my privacy settings?” and Alexa will send you a direct link in the Alexa app to your Alexa Privacy Settings.

If you want to delete all the previously saved voice recordings on your account, you can simply say, “Alexa, delete everything I’ve said.”

You can also now choose whether or not to save your voice recordings. If you choose not to save them, they will be automatically deleted after Alexa processes your request.

TAGGED    amazon alexa

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