Amazon Alexa enhancements add geolocation, kids’ Routines, and more

mom and son using with amazon echo

The constantly evolving tones of Amazon’s Alexa get a little smarter this week with a handful of new enhancements and features designed to make life easier, especially for busy parents and others who are constantly on the go.

Probably the most important batch of features helps Alexa figure out just where you are, exactly, and respond accordingly. New location-based routines can automatically activate every time a user enters or leaves a location. That means Alexa enthusiasts can create routines that turn on the lights when they get home or turn off the music when they split. This new feature is based on the GPS readings from your smartphone.

The smart assistant can also fire up location-based reminders that automatically trigger when you reach a destination, such as “Alexa, remind me to start the broiler when I get home.” Unlike some Alexa features that are dependent on a nearby Echo smart speaker, location-based reminders can be used for locations outside the home where an Echo may not be present. In the latter instance, users will receive a push notification through the Alexa app reminding them to complete their given task.

Voice is, of course, an essential element to Alexa’s many abilities and for those who are prone to fancy restaurants and takeout, her new ability will be welcomed. Now, Echo owners can search for and call local businesses and restaurants simply by shouting out, “Alexa, what’s the number for Domino’s?” Users can follow up with “Alexa, call them,” to get that awesome Thai takeout order started.

If you’re a new parent, Alexa has some cool new kid-friendly routines on deck. Parents can customize a “Good Night” routine in the Alexa app that can share a comforting sleepytime message or an engaging fact, turn of the lights, turn off the night light, and start sleep sounds that will turn off after a bit.

For parents who have trouble sleeping, Alexa also has a couple of new tricks. Users can now add a sleep timer for music in Alexa Routines so frazzled parents can play white noise, sleep sounds, or Michael Bublé or whatever for an hour before turning off.

For parents and partners who are mindful about their absence, Alexa has a new Routine where you can send a pre-recorded message to all of your Alexa devices on command. A dinnertime routine would be the digital equivalent of a dinner bell telling family to come down for dinner, while the command, “Alexa, I’m leaving,” can trigger a notification to send an alert to Echo and other connected devices, “I’m on my way home.”

Other new features include a “Do Not Disturb” command that can be embedded within Alexa Routines as well as a “Stop Audio” command that can be embedded in Routines with commands like, “I’m leaving.”

Finally, Alexa is aiding and abetting email junkies with a new command that reads, “Alexa, check my email.” The digital assistant will then respond with a summary of new and important messages from the last 24 hours — like anyone who engages with Alexa has ever gone 24 hours without email. Customers can get their fix by linking their Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail or Live accounts in the Alexa app.

These features started rolling out on Monday, December 10, and will be available to all U.S. customers in the coming days.

Home Theater

Polk Audio’s Command Bar joins Alexa’s multiroom music party

Polk's Command Bar is a home theater soundbar with Alexa built in. But with a new update, it can also be grouped with Amazon's Echo products and other third-party speakers for a multi-room experience.
Smart Home

Military-grade baby monitor called Miku was a hit with parents at CES 2019

Who knew the world needed a smarter baby monitor? Apparently it's the startup Miku, which brought a new high-tech baby monitor to CES 2019 that uses A.I., machine learning, and high quality cameras to keep an eye on kids.
Smart Home

Here’s everything Amazon and its partners announced for Alexa at CES

Amazon Alexa is rocking CES 2019. After selling millions of Echo and Dot smart speakers during the 2018 holiday season, extending its reach everywhere, Amazon has announced a ton of new partnerships with device manufacturers.
Smart Home

Here are the craziest things that work with Amazon Alexa at CES 2019

CES 2019 is the hotbed for the products that are going to revolutionize your life in the near future. In the meantime, here's a bunch of weird devices that talk to Amazon Alexa that you probably won't buy.
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.
Smart Home

A.I.’s humorous side: Here are the funniest things to ask Alexa

Amazon's Alexa voice assistant has a wide repertoire of funny responses, jokes, and hidden replies that you can have fun with. Here are the best funny things to ask Alexa and examples of what her responses are.
Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.
Smart Home

The best multicookers of 2019 for everything from sauteing to slow cooking

Find the best multicookers for your cooking ambitions. Whether you are just getting started in the kitchen or you've been cooking for years and want a device to make it easier, these are the best smart pots for you to choose from.
Smart Home

This Silicon Valley studio rents for $1,500 per month — to 2 cats

A man in San Jose, California, rents a studio apartment for $1,500 per month for a very important reason: So his daughter's two cats have a place to call their own. It may be the swankiest cat pad on the West Coast.
Deals

Amazon drops prices on Roomba robot vacuums by up to $150

Amazon is offering discounts on iRobot Roombas and other robot vacuums to help you get a leg-up on those chores. We've rounded up the best deals available now and put them all in one place.
Smart Home

Speed up cooking with one of the best pressure cookers on the market

Not all pressure cookers are created equally. You have to choose between stovetop cookers, multicookers, canners, and even microwave cookers. Our pressure cooking buyer's guide includes our picks for the best in each category.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…