Amazon has unveiled a slate of new Alexa-focused developer features as part of its annual Alexa conference – and some could substantially alter the way we interact with the retailer’s smart home devices.
Designed to enhance the real-world usability of Alexa-powered products like those in Amazon’s Echo Dot and Echo Show lineups, the upgrades include the ability to implement multiple voice services on select devices, a suite of features to let you more seamlessly purchase products through Alexa, and the ability to set up Alexa devices without needing an Amazon login.
Soon, for instance, you’ll be able to ask Alexa a load more shopping-focused questions like: “What are the Amazon reviews?,” “How much does it cost?” or “When can it be delivered?,” and non-Amazon customers won’t have to go through multiple registration steps to boot up and start using their Alexa devices for the first time.
We’ve reached out to Amazon for specifics on both updates (it’s not yet clear how Alexa will know which product you’re asking about, nor how a lack of an Amazon account would work in-practice on devices so intrinsically connected to the online retailer).
Amazon also announced a partnership with audiomaker Skullcandy during its recent developer conference. The pair have teamed up to let owners of the latter brand’s upcoming Push Active and Grind Series headphones use both “Alexa” and “Hey Skullcandy” commands interchangeably – a partnership that bodes well for the future of multi-assistant devices (soon, perhaps, we may be able to choose between using Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant on our iPhones).
These updates aren’t the first new Alexa Skills to be announced in 2022, either. At this year’s annual re:Mars conference, Amazon revealed a decidedly creepy Skill that gives Alexa the ability to mimic other people’s voices, and a few months back, the popular voice assistant learned how to respond and perform actions without needing to hear the “Hey Alexa” command.
Sure, some of Alexa’s recent updates might sound like superficial novelties, but more than 20% of all Alexa interactions last year involved customers engaging with a Skill (an Amazon spokesperson told TechRadar that “tens of billions” of Skill-based actions were performed in 2021) – and we, for one, welcome any features that make our occasionally troubled relationship with Alexa run just that little bit smoother.
There’s been no word yet on when these new Skills will begin rolling out on Echo products and other Alexa-enabled devices, but we’ve reached out to Amazon for further details.