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

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.

Comments

"Context Carryover" is huge.

Next request: consistently pick up where I left off on my Flash Briefing.

If Alexa can do follow up replys, then Alexa has to be constantly listening then.

It’s always "listening" of course, but it’s not always sending that data.

Um…So this is already somewhat enabled on my account and is super annoying.
It doesn’t understand the idea that you are ‘not talking to it’.
This means that you will have some request like "Whats the weather"
And then you tell your SO that she might need her umbrella, to which your echo runs off trying to order you an umbrella…
Is this update a fix that locks the replies to specific replies?

I thought this was suppose to be live months ago (maybe in beta?). I have 4 Dots and 1 Show, and none of them reply to multiple request. It doesn’t matter how soon or long I wait to ask the follow up.

You can disable that.

I actually have this enabled on my Echo Tap already.

Alexa App → Settings → [your device] → Follow-Up Mode

ahhh Thanks! I thought it was live months ago.

this sounds a little bit difference, in that all that feature did was keep her live so you dont have to say alexa. Now this seems to understand pronouns and a prior part of the request so it is way more natural.

it might be possible to come back and it understand context even when repeating the "alexa" prompt.

still not available in the UK annoyingly.

Alexa, remember it’s my wife who murdered me…aaahhhrgblrg…..

I’m now happy that I may be able to point out my killer without having to try to scratch their name out in blood.

Now, if Alexa could only learn to distinguish "Alexa" from random words that sound nothing like it. Or, give meaningful weather forecasts by using a server that has something to do with my location. Or, allow me to edit my contacts list. Or, get a more reliable connection to home control hubs and services (I’m looking at YOU, DumbThings, Wink, Hue, and Nest!). Or, answer questions at least half as intelligently as Google Assistant does. Or, tell Amazon to not discontinue their music upload service that I depend on.

Up until a few months ago, the Amazon Echoes were among my favorite gadgets (and I have at least one, generally a lot more, of every model Amazon has released). But now I loath them.

Anyone want to buy an extensive collection of Echo devices in working[sic] condition, cheap?

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