Amazon Alexa Whisper Feature Now Available

Last month, in addition to announcing a dozen new Alexa-integrated products, Amazon also introduced new features that would make Alexa more ‘context aware’. The new capabilities ranged from location-based reminders to the addition step-by-step cooking instructions for recipe skills. It also introduced what Amazon is calling “whisper mode”, which is now generally available with the latest Alexa update:

Gone are the days of waking up your spouse or partner to ask Alexa for the weather in the morning or turn your alarm off. Whisper Mode is a new feature that allows you to whisper to Alexa, and she will whisper her response back to you.

Whisper Mode can be enabled by voice, by simply saying “Alexa, turn on Whisper Mode.” Or through a user’s Alexa account settings, under Alexa Voice Responses in the Alexa Account menu.

Improving Alexa’s Contextual Understanding

Whisper mode is a neat trick, but the real significance is the improvement of Alexa’s contextual understanding. When a person whispers to you, it signals that you need to be quiet, and if you are to reply, to whisper back. Now Alexa also understands the context of a whisper. It means she needs to be quiet. Some might find a device whispering creepy (it is October after all) but the creepy factor may be over ruled by the convenience factor.

The same goes for the other new features. For Alexa to understand context, she must be more aware of the user and its surroundings. Another example of this is the location-based reminders. Now users can ask Alexa set reminders based on the context of their locations. For instance, “Alexa, set a reminder for me to take the chicken out of the freezer when I get home.” It might seem a little jarring that Alexa knows the location of your home and the exact moment you set foot in the door. However, the convenience of never forgetting to take the chicken out of the freezer and delaying dinner an hour could off-set the unsettling feeling that Alexa is tracking your every move.

Amazon is betting that convenience trumps the loss of privacy. And that you’ll use Alexa to ask how to cook a chicken recipe for dinner that same night. And then you’ll whisper for her to play a lullaby to get your child to sleep. And that then you’ll forget what life was like before you had a personal voice assistant. Because she gets you. Now that Alexa has improved contextual understanding.

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