Alexa Routines Add Motion and Sounds to Activation Options
Alexa Routines can now activate when a device detects movement or the sound of running water or a beeping appliance, instead of a verbal phrase. The new choices, first announced last fall, continue Amazon’s ongoing work making Alexa better at distinguishing different kinds of sounds and improving the flexibility of routines, a collection of actions initiated by a single command.
Sound and Motion
The idea for the sound and movement activation for routines is to add more choices for users and make Alexa seem more proactive in its behavior. Instead of telling the voice assistant what to do, it can react to people coming into a room or turning on a faucet without saying a word, or to an appliance completing a task without anyone nearby. The sound detection for routines can be set up on the Alexa app for any Echo device. The ultrasound motion detection only works on the latest editions of the Echo and Echo Dot, however.
“For example, set a Routine that enables Alexa to send you a notification when your washer beeps to signify that your laundry is done. Or, have Alexa remind you to turn off the sink if the kids accidentally left the water running after brushing their teeth,” Amazon explained in a blog post. “You can now enable Occupancy Routines on even more Echo devices thanks to the addition of Ultrasound Motion Detection. With Occupancy Routines, you can have Alexa do things like turn on the lights when motion is detected near your device, or lower the thermostat when motion is not detected.
The Routines feature has become a lot more flexible with far more customization options since it first debuted. Originally limited to a few actions and phrases, routines can now include anything Alexa can do, with the option to type it into the app if it’s not one of the existing suggestions. The same goes with the commands, which can be anything the user wishes to say, with command phrase variations should the user not want to have to remember a precise phrase. Extending to sounds and motion from words isn’t too much of a leap. At the event last year, Amazon described plans for Custom Sound Event Detection that would let users teach the voice assistant what to do when it hears any kind of sound from just a few samples like a kettle boiling or a garage door opening.
In its monthly roundup, Alexa also revealed several other new features. The most notable is that the voice assistant will accept requests for refilling prescriptions for Amazon Pharmacy customers. Alexa then shares updates when it’s delivered and users can ask it to call Amazon Pharmacy customer care. The voice assistant can also open TikTok on Echo Show smart displays, and understand search requests to find certain kinds of videos. And, Verizon customers can also now answer phone calls on Alexa devices for $5 a month, with a free month trial.