Lenovo Debuts New Amazon Alexa ‘Show Mode’ That Turns Computers into Smart Displays
Lenovo is blurring the line between computers and smart displays with the Amazon Alexa Show Mode introduced this week at CES 2021. Show Mode puts Alexa upfront and transforms computers with compatible hardware into a variation on the Amazon Echo Show.
When Alexa Show Mode activates, the computer gains all of the main features of an Echo Show. Alexa connects to the computer’s far-field microphones and awaits commands. Users can ask the voice assistant to stream movies, launch apps, play games, and check the weather. With a connected Alexa account, the user can issue orders operating smart home devices or networked entertainment hardware like stereos and TVs. They can also pull up their contact list and make audio or video calls hands-free just as they would with an Echo Show. The only limitation as to where Show Mode is available has to do with the computer’s microphones. There need to be far-field mics for Alexa to be able to hear commands that aren’t made up-close. Only the Yoga Slim 9i, Yoga 9i, Yoga 7i, Yoga AIO 7, and the Ideapad 5 series of devices will include Show Mode as an option, and even then not until the second quarter of the year. Lenovo is also expected to go beyond just American English, bringing Alexa to Europe, Asia, and Oceania in the near future.
“With this new feature, Show Mode transforms your Lenovo PC into a hands-free, full-screen Alexa experience,” Lenovo explained in its announcement. “It turns your PC into an Echo Show-like display so that the whole family can now see and enjoy talking to Alexa. As powerful as a mouse click or keystroke, Alexa for PC lets you get more done with your PC with just your voice.”
Display All Day
Lenovo claimed to be the first company with computers that have Show Mode, suggesting it’s won’t be exclusively featured on Lenovo computers at some point. Microsoft came out with a similar idea in May with the Surface Book 3 and Cortana. The voice assistant is limited more toward operations on Windows 10, but the far-field microphones embedded in the laptop, which also converts into a tablet, mean the users can issue those commands from a distance, and conduct a phone or video call through the Surface Book 3 without needing to sit in front of it. This also isn’t the first time Amazon has explored the idea of integrating Alexa into screens that aren’t designed as smart displays either. In October, Amazon Fire revamped its smart television interface to incorporate Alexa in new ways. With a completely hands-free interface, Fire smart TVs can essentially function as a large smart display on the wall. As voice assistant developers continue to push the idea of ambient computing, the differences between how various devices interact with voice AIs may become relatively trivial and hard definitions of smart displays and smart speakers may soften.