Amazon Revives Delayed Doorbell Concierge as Alexa Greetings for Ring
Alexa can now talk to visitors who buzz the Ring Video Doorbell, responding through the new Alexa Greetings feature on behalf of the residents who aren’t home or are otherwise unavailable. The feature is a delayed version of Doorbell Concierge, which Amazon previewed back in 2019 at its hardware event and slated for an early 2020 debut.
Alexa Greetings awakens the voice assistant when the doorbell button is pushed, prompting a query about why the person is visiting. If the person says they have a package to deliver, Alexa will ask them if it needs a signature and where to place the delivery if no signature is required. Otherwise, the person can leave a video message that will be passed along to the people who live in the home. Ring Video Doorbell Pro owners who subscribe to Ring Protect can see all of the messages in the event history section of the Ring mobile app. The app also allows users to customize the package delivery response and adjust how quickly Alexa responds when the doorbell is rung, in case they want a chance to get to the door first. Ring also added a less responsive variation on Alexa Greetings called Quick Replies. When someone is at the door and the Ring app sends an alert, the user can prompt the doorbell to say one of six pre-set responses, such as asking them to leave a message, drop off any packages, or just to wait a minute for the user to reach the door.
“At Ring we invent devices and features that not only improve home security, but also add convenience. Alexa Greetings and Quick Replies are reimagining the answering machine so you never miss a thing,” Ring explained in a blog post. “No matter where you are, Smart Responses help make your Ring devices work harder for you.”
The quiet rollout of Alexa Greetings belies how significant this kind of service seemed when Amazon demonstrated Doorbell Concierge in the fall of 2019. Doorbell Concierge appeared to be the first of a whole new category of Alexa interactions. Alexa head scientist Rohit Prasad told Voicebot at the time that it was among the first examples of Alexa Conversations technology, aimed at gathering information from people and leveraging it to fulfill tasks independently. Alexa Greetings gives the voice assistant the agency to converse with a visitor and direct them to leave messages or packages without first getting explicit instructions.
As Voicebot founder Bret Kinsella pointed out at the time, this demonstrated a proactive Alexa. He compared it to Google Duplex and CallJoy, both of which involve unprompted interactions between Google Assistant and humans. Duplex makes appointments for a user, while CallJoy answers the phone for small businesses, fielding questions from customers and relaying messages taken over the phone. When first demoed, the feature also appeared to draw on the Alexa skill connections ability that enables Alexa to operate printers and third-party apps upon request.
Alexa is a lot more proactive now than in 2019, which may be why there’s not much of a spotlight on Alexa Greetings. Alexa Hunches let the voice assistant proactively operate smart home devices without needing to ask each time. The proactive elements come from the improved Alexa AI. The updated version of Alexa lets users instruct the voice assistant about their preferences with the Teachable AI feature, which Alexa may then apply to its latent goal inference in extrapolating more of what a customer wants. And, passing along a message about what the customer wants is a crucial role for any concierge, butler, and now, doorbell.