Alexa is getting even more personalized.
Amazon has rolled out a slew of software updates for its digital assistant that are aimed at making users’ lives easier.
The updates include location-based reminders, an email tool and a feature called ‘Hunches,’ in which Alexa is able to remind users if it thinks they’ve forgotten something.
The new features were first announced at Amazon’s Alexa-focused product event this fall, but are now set to arrive on voice-activated Echo devices.
Alexa Hunches is meant to take advantage of the system’s deep neural network capabilities in order to predict what you might need or may have forgotten.
When Alexa is confident that it has observed a pattern in user behavior, such as users’ tendency to turn off their front porch light before bedtime, the voice assistant will remind users to do it if it appears to have been forgotten.
If a user says ‘Alexa, good night,’ it might respond with something like ‘Hey, I think that you left the porch light on, would you like me to turn it off?’
Alexa is able to do this because it references your user activity, devices in the household and other data, enabling it to understand and learn more about the user’s behavior.
The Hunches feature might also prompt Alexa to remind you to lock your door if you have a smart lock, after a user says ‘Goodnight, Alexa
For now, Hunches are primarily meant for use with smart home gadgets, but will likely be expanded into more uses over time.
‘We’re just getting started,’ Amazon said when the features were first launched.
‘Like all things, this feature will get better and smarter over time.’
Other nifty features that come with the update include the ability to ask Alexa to check your email and read it aloud.
To use it, users ask Alexa to either ‘check my email’ or ‘read my email.’
Then, Alexa informs users how many unread emails they have that day and will begin reading through the most recent messages first.
Users have the option to ask Alexa to read the email, archive it, reply to it or delete it from their inbox.
However, it only works for replying to messages, not starting new email messages.
Amazon told CNBC that a user’s contacts and email messages are stored in its cloud and encrypted, but that the firm doesn’t read the contents of a user’s individual messages.
HOW CAN ALEXA HELP YOU BUY YOUR GROCERIES?
Amazon’s Echo may help around the home, but the e-commerce giant’s latest device is a designated kitchen assistant.
Called Dash Wand, the hand-held, Wi-Fi enabled gadget lets users add groceries to their online shopping cart via voice commands or by scanning the barcode on a specific product.
The Alexa powered device can also find recipes, convert cups to ounces, find nearby restaurants and more, and it is essentially free – users pay $20 for the device and get $20 off their next purchase.
Users push the button on Dash Wand and either say what they need or scan the barcode on a specific product.
All items are then added to the user’s online shopping cart on the platform.
Besides music, the Dash Wand has access to thousands Alexa’s features and skills.
It can turn down the lights, find recipes, recommend restaurants and more.
And it is essentially free – it costs $20 and users get $20 off the first purchase made with the device.
The feature works with Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail and Live.com emails.
Another useful tool involves reminders that are linked with a specific location, which will soon be available for U.S. users, before rolling out to all users over the next few weeks.
Users can tell Alexa to remind them to feed the dog when they get home and when it detects that a user has arrive at their house, via location-based information provided by their smartphone, it will send a push notification or speak the reminder via an Echo device.
The update also includes location-based routines, which enable users to trigger several commands when they reach a certain location.
For example, users can tell Alexa to turn on the lights, start the dishwasher and set the temperature to 70 degrees when they’re close to home, and Alexa will carry out the routine when it detects they’re nearby.