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Amazon Echo can soon answer follow-up questions without the ‘Alexa’ prompt

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Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Alexa will soon be smarter and more natural about the way it interacts with you. This includes Alexa being able to recall information you’ve told it to remember, asking multiple questions without each query beginning with “Alexa,” and launching skills through natural requests. Ruhi Sarikaya, head of the Alexa Brain group, announced the news this morning in a keynote presentation at the World Wide Web Conference in Lyon, France,

In the US, users will soon be able to ask Alexa to remember important information that can be retrieved at a certain date. For example, you could say, “Alexa, remember that Sean’s birthday is June 20th.” Alexa will then reply, “Okay, I’ll remember that Sean’s birthday is June 20th.” Google Assistant has had a remember feature for some time, which can also display a list of the last five things you’ve asked it to remember. Though this feature is in infancy for Alexa, it’s a welcome addition for unloading bits of information that clutter your mind (or if you don’t want to refer to Facebook to help remember friends’ birthdays.)

Alexa will also be able to understand conversational questions asked back to back without the need to say “Alexa” every time. This natural conversation feature is called context carryover; as long as you preface your first question with “Alexa,” you won’t have to with your follow-up inquiry. So, you could say, “Alexa, how is the weather in Seattle?” and then simply, “What about this weekend?” to get relevant responses. This will first be available for those in the US, UK, and Germany.

Lastly, it will be easier to find and launch skills in Alexa. Previously, you have to find a skill on your own in order to use it. Now, those in the US will be able to discover and engage with skills simply through natural conversation. If you asked “Alexa, how do I remove an oil stain from my shirt?” it might reply with “Here is Tide Stain Remover,” a skill that gives you step-by-step instructions on how to remove multiple types of stains. The latter is a clear branding opportunity for companies like Procter & Gamble to create skills to best match popular consumer queries.

All of this is being done to make using Alexa a more “friction-free” experience, making it so Alexa more closely matches the way we speak, instead of users having to remember how to interact with Alexa. Amazon has not given an exact date has been given for when these updates will be available for Alexa, only saying that they’re coming soon.