Amazon’s Alexa, the artificially intelligent voice assistant with thousands of apps and skills, cannot do everything. It is not particularly good at understanding natural language — that is to say, commands that are not precise or specific. And until now, it has not been able to store reminders or label countdown timers. But in an update on Thursday, Alexa is getting better.
Alexa will now remind you of tasks at the time you specify. Saying, “Alexa, remind me to take out the trash at 6 p.m.” will schedule an alert for later in the day. Alternatively, you can set a reminder for a particular day (“
Alexa’s reminders are not perfect. As The Verge points out, there is no context for a.m./p.m. reminders, so you have to include the abbreviation. Unlike Google’s Assistant, you can’t set a recurring reminder or specify a location in lieu of a time —
But otherwise, the reminder functionality’s roughly on par with competition like Apple’s Siri.
There is an easier way to distinguish between multiple timers now, too: Names. After the update hits your Echo, you will be able to say, “Alexa, set a chicken breast timer for 30 minutes” and, “
The new reminder and timer features come after the announcement of iCloud support in Alexa — its first integration with an Apple service — and
And it follows on the heels of new developer-centric improvements like Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) tags that let app creators control Alexa’s intonations — including whispers, expletive bleeps, and emphasis — a bit better than before.
There is a good reason for all the improvements — Apple is expected to announce a Siri-powered smart speaker at its Worldwide Developers Conference next week. Amazon, no doubt, wants to make sure its upcoming Echo Show measures up to the competition.
The new reminder and timer features are rolling out to users in the U.K. and Germany this month.
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