In a recent piece on Amazon’s “Day One” blog, Amazon detailed some of the “[n]ew ways Alexa makes life simpler and more convenient” and “your home smarter and safer” all the while keeping your “family and friends connected, and bring[ing] your favorite entertainment to you, wherever you are.”
If you were not already creeped out by Amazon’s admission earlier this year that it did in fact hire employees to listen to what customers have said to Alexa, then these new tidbits from Amazon may not make you feel much better.
Last year, Amazon introduced Alexa Guard to its line of Echo products, a feature that allows Alexa to detect “specific sounds,” according to How-To Geek, “like glass breaking, the smoke alarm going off, or the high-pitched squeals of the security system alarm. When it detects those sounds, it can send you a notification on your phone letting you know that something is up.” And “[s]ince the Echo is always listening, there’s not a special device that you need to add to get Alexa Guard to work … .”
And it only gets more interesting: “[S]oon when you set Guard to away mode, you can choose to have Alexa alert you to the sounds of activity when you’re not home by detecting sounds including footsteps, talking, coughing, a faucet turning on, a door closing, and more,” and “[a]s always,” Amazon assures, “the Alexa Guard experience is entirely opt-in.”
But wait, that’s not all! Now you can allow the all-hearing ear – I mean, Alexa – learn your daily, weekly, monthly … yearly routine by adding Guard to Alexa Routines. “With a simple phrase like ‘Alexa, I’m headed out’ you can trigger a convenient routine.” This tech will “proactively let you know when you need to replace something,” Amazon brags, like when you need to replace a battery for one of your smart devices. And to drive the point home, Amazon optimistically adds, “Additionally, Alexa will now have Hunches about Routines that you may want to set up based on your daily habits.” So, if you want to set an alarm at the same time every day and wake up to your local weather report, Alexa will not only know this, it will suggest this to Routine. And, good news, “[a]ll you have to do is say, ‘yes’ and the Routine is ready to go.”
Amazon has even been working on creating “[r]ing integration” for Alexa. Now, when you’re not home, Alexa is your “doorbell concierge,” engaging people who come to your door by answering the doorbell when it is rung.
Also, you can now connect to your Alexa account “from any Echo device—even ones you don’t own,” so Amazon can follow you elsewhere. But Amazon comforts, “We’ve built this with privacy in mind so that both sides get a notification, and you can choose if you want your devices to be available for Guest Connect.”
In what could be perceived as a welcome update, Alexa has five new features that “give you even more transparency and control.” The features includes: (1) Auto-delete voice recordings. “Customers can choose to have their voice recordings older than three months or 18 months automatically deleted on an ongoing basis;” (2) “Alexa, tell me what you heard.” State this prompt, and Alexa will read back your most recent voice request; (3) “Alexa, why did you do that?” This feature coming later this year will cause Alexa to “provide a short explanation about her response to your last voice request or action;” (4) Filter by device. You can also filter by device, making it easier to manage voice recordings and sort voice history allowing for review and deletion of voice recordings; and (5) Echo Show 8 with camera shutter. The newest member of the Echo Show family “Echo Show 8” features a built-in camera shutter and “microphone- and camera-off buttons built-in.” Notably, “[w]hen the button is pressed to turn the microphones off, the microphones are electrically disconnected and a dedicated red LED is illuminated to indicate the microphones are off.”