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.

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