Group calling, Netflix, new privacy features, and more are coming to Alexa

Alexa’s getting a bunch of new features to go along with revamped Echo speakers
Alexa group video calling. Credit: Amazon

25 September 2020

Besides a trio of redesigned Echo speakers and the new, self-rotating Echo Show, Amazon unleashed a slew of new and upcoming Alexa features, including group video calls, a way to check in on elderly relatives, and – finally – Netflix.

Group video calling

The Alexa-enabled Echo Show is already slated to get Zoom group video calling later this year, but Amazon just announced that Alexa is also getting native group calling functionality, both for voice and video calls with up to eight people. You will also be able to create and name calling groups, which means you can say things like, “Alexa, call my family” to jump on a group video call with your loved ones.

Netflix support

Also coming soon (and most of these new Alexa features are coming “soon,” by the way): Netflix support at last, meaning no more trying to stream Netflix videos using the Echo Show’s Silk web browser. With Alexa voice commands, you will be able to browse for Netflix movies and TV shows, search for videos, and control playback. The announcement of Netflix on the Echo Show comes about three months after the Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max got Netflix support.




Care Hub

The upcoming Care Hub will serve as a way to use Alexa to keep tabs on elderly loved ones. An activity feed will display your relative’s recent interactions with Alexa, such as whether they have played some music recently (although you will not see the exact song they played), and you can program an alert if your loved one has not chatted with Alexa lately. You can also ask Alexa to “drop in” on your relative, while they can set you as an emergency contact and summon you by saying “Alexa, call for help.”

New privacy features

Among Alexa’s new features are some enhanced privacy options, including the ability to say “Alexa, delete everything I’ve said” for a complete wipe of your voice recordings. There is also, “Alexa, how do I review my privacy settings” to get a link to Alexa’s privacy centre. Alexa can now also answer questions like “How do I manage my data?” (again, she will direct you to her privacy settings) or “How does my data improve Alexa?”

Help with dinner

Alexa will soon be able to suggest dinner ideas based on items you have put in your Whole Foods Market or Amazon Fresh cart. Just ask “Alexa, what’s for dinner” after your food delivery arrives, and she will toss out some ideas. You can also ask Alexa for meals that you can whip up quickly, and she can even update her recipes if you ask her to substitute an ingredient.

Better sound detection

In addition to listening for smoke alarms and breaking glass, Alexa will soon be able to tell when a baby is crying, or when someone is coughing or snoring. You will be able to build Alexa’s new sound detection capabilities into routines; for example (and as Amazon suggests), you could set a routine to turn on your bedroom lights when Alexa hears the baby crying, or to play white noise if someone starts to snore.

Sharing tunes

Know someone who would love the current song on your Echo speaker? You will soon be able to ask Alexa, “Share this song with Claire,” and your lucky friend will be able to play the song on their own Alexa speaker, or using the Alexa app.

IDG News Service

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