New Alexa Features For Your Smart Home
February 21, 2023
It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since Alexa starting helping us with our day-to-day lives. Debbie and I were early adopters and Alexa has always been part of our smart home. Since Alexa debuted, Amazon has worked to improve the experience with new features like Routines, smart home control, Drop In and Announcements. Recently, Amazon announced a few more things they’ve been working on — new devices and Alexa features to help people even more throughout their day.
Every month, millions of us use Alexa as a reminder of something important, to add items to our shopping list, or to set an alarm. Debbie really likes the alarm and timer functions when she’s cooking. More homeowners than ever are also using Alexa with a screen, which combines the voice-first experience with ambient visuals such as recipe recommendations, reminders or even photos. Amazon launched a brand-new Echo Show 15 to offer a new digital hub for your home. They’ve redesigned the home screen on Echo Show devices to show more information at a glance with customizable Alexa widgets, and new features designed to help families stay organized.
The new Echo Show calendar widget makes it easier to view and manage your family’s schedule. You just tap the screen or ask Alexa to add events or appointments and everyone in your household can see the daily schedule at a glance. With a new feature called visual ID, you can teach your device to recognize you so you can see a personalized view of your daily events and reminders when you step in front of your Echo Show device’s camera. There are three ways to create your visual ID:
- Enroll when you set up your device — you’ll be asked on-screen if you’d like to enroll.
- Enroll by saying the phrase: “Alexa, learn my face.”
- Enroll via touchscreen on your device.
- Open Settings
- Open Your Profile & Family
- Select Enable visual ID
You will soon be able to create and display digital sticky notes on your Echo Show screen. You can ask Alexa to save a note about where you’ve stored things or what temperature to reheat dinner. You can also create and assign notes to individuals in your household to remind them of something or just to brighten their day.
If you struggle sometimes with trying to figure out what to eat or want something a little different, soon you can find your next meal with new, curated ideas based on the preferences and dietary restrictions you and your family teach to Alexa. Whether you’re looking for a new recipe, nearby restaurant, prepared foods from the grocery store or even meal kits, you can ask, “Alexa, what should I eat?” or add the ‘What To Eat’ widget to your home screen to discover new options at a glance.
Millions of Alexa users ask for updates on their Amazon orders every month. With the ‘Your Deliveries’ widget on Echo Show, you can stay on top of active Amazon shipments with a snapshot of most recent items you’ve ordered and expected delivery dates.
The new map widget also makes it easier to keep track of your personal devices like Tile Trackers or check how close a delivery is to your house. You can say, “Alexa, find my Echo Buds,” or “Alexa, locate my packages,” to see a dynamic, real-time map on your Echo Show device’s screen.
With the new smart home favorites widget you can more easily view and control your home’s smart home devices with just a tap. You can add up to 10 favorite devices — including smart lights, cameras and thermostats — so you can quickly check if you left the lights on or adjust the thermostat.
More homeowners are asking Alexa to play their favorite shows, movies and live TV than ever before. No surprise as there is four times the content on Echo Show devices than a year ago. With more people using their Echo Show devices as their kitchen TV, Amazon responded by adding more content and ways to help them find something to watch.
Soon, you’ll be able to watch live TV with SLING on your Echo Show devices. You’ll just ask Alexa to tune in to your favorite channels to stream live sports, news, entertainment and more. SLING also offers on-demand movies and TV shows giving you more content to choose from. Debbie and I currently use the Fire TV Cube the same way on all of our TVs and love how easy it is to use the enormous variety of programming to choose from. It’s a convenient, single location for all of the streaming services we subscribe to and the voice assistant makes it easy to switch between services and channels.
Amazon recently announced a new feature on Fire TV that uses Alexa Conversations to make it simple and natural to just ask for movie and TV recommendations. Soon, you’ll be able to just say, “Alexa, what should I watch,” to your Fire TV device and Alexa will guide you through a conversational experience to help you find your next TV show or movie.
Starting next year, you will be able to access an entirely new kind of voice assistant that will work alongside Alexa at home and across Walt Disney World Resort hotel rooms. Fans and guests will be able to interact with some of their most beloved Disney characters, simply by saying ‘Hey, Disney!’ on supported Echo devices at home and at Disney Resort hotels.
And Amazon is adding more exclusive content for Amazon Kids+ members, including Super Spy Ryan, ARPO: Robot Babysitter, LEGO Monkie Kid and Blippi’s Treehouse. Soon, you’ll be able to say, “Alexa, play Blippi’s Treehouse,” to your Echo Show device to get started. Some of our grandkids are huge Blippi fans so this will make for exciting times in ours and their homes (insert extreme sarcasm here.)
You can also turn your Echo Show 15 into a beautiful picture frame displaying full-screen pictures of your favorite family vacation or holiday from Amazon Photos and Facebook Photos. With Amazon Photos, Prime members have unlimited photo storage.
Alexa makes day-to-day life convenient and gives people peace of mind with proactive features like Alexa Guard, Hunches, and Routines. They’re also adding new features and services that do even more.
Alexa Together is a new subscription service designed to help aging family members feel more comfortable and confident living independently. The service takes what people have loved about their Care Hub — the activity feed, Care alerts, and easy ways to stay connected — and delivers an even more helpful experience, with 24/7 hands-free access to an Urgent Response professional emergency helpline and compatibility with third-party fall detection devices from brands like Vayyar. An optional Remote Assist feature means caregivers can help a loved one by setting reminders, help manage shopping lists, set up music services and more without having to be there in person. Early next year, multiple people will be able to connect their accounts so more family members can stay in the loop and help provide support. Alexa Together will be available for $19.99 a month, after a free six-month trial for new customers or a one-year trial for existing Care Hub customers, when Alexa Together launches later this year.
Soon, you will be able to create even smarter Alexa Routines that start when you enter or exit a room, using new ultrasound motion detection on the Echo (4th Gen) and Echo Dot (4th Gen) devices. When a motion-based Routine is set up, your device emits an inaudible ultrasound wave through its speakers which reflects off nearby objects to detect movement, and automatically starts your Routine with no speech required. For example, Alexa can automatically turn on the lights when you walk into the room or turn off your Fire TV if it was left on after you’ve gone to bed.
Next year, you’ll be able to teach Alexa to recognize sounds that are unique to your home and use these sounds to initiate more customized Routines. Like the sound your refrigerator door makes when it’s left open, for example. Once you’ve taught Alexa to recognize this noise, you can use it to initiate a Routine that has Alexa send you a notification to close the door so your food doesn’t spoil.
Soon, Alexa users in the US with the 4th Generation Echo and Echo Show 10 and Echo Show 15 can choose to have the audio of their Alexa voice requests processed directly on device and not sent to the cloud. With this setting, users’ voice recordings are also automatically deleted after the on-device processing. Text transcripts will still be sent to the cloud and available in the Alexa app until you decide to delete them. You can access the new setting in the Alexa app.
Early next year, you will be able to review requests associated with specific household members who have set up voice ID in the Alexa app or by visiting Alexa Privacy Settings. This allows you to have control over how you see and delete the voice history for those members of your household.
Currently, Echo users will receive a reminder to review their privacy settings in the Alexa app 30 days after they’ve set up their device. This is in addition to the annual email all Alexa users receive encouraging them to review their privacy settings.
I realize not everyone is an Amazon Alexa user. We started using Alexa 7 years ago as at the time it seemed to be the smart home platform with the widest range of integrations with other technologies and manufacturers. If you’re using Apple Home Kit or Google Assistant, how does your platform compare?
What are your thoughts on Alexa and all the new capabilities? It seems to me they’re really trying to appeal to a broad range of users and a full scope of smart home technologies. I’d be interested in feedback on your experience if you’re already using Alexa at home. If you aren’t, are you considering it?
Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails what you think about Alexa and all the new capabilities. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’
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