Friday, September 9, 2016
Soon Amazon Echo's Alexa will start talking notifications to you, unprompted.
If a new report from The Information is accurate, Amazon is planning to update the Alexa assistant found on its Echo speakers (and now Fire tablets) so that it will automatically speak aloud certain important notifications — without first being prompted by users. Right now, you must address Alexa directly before it responds to commands or speaks back to you about music playback, the weather, news, Uber arrivals, and so on. But The Information claims that Amazon will soon deliver something that app developers have been asking for; the ability for Alexa to blurt out push notifications all on its own.
It's a natural extension for Amazon's assistant that would be hugely useful at times. But it's also easy to imagine such a feature becoming incredibly annoying if Amazon isn't careful about choosing which notifications are worthy of instant audio alerts. If people are bothered to the point of disabling notifications or interacting with Alexa less often, that would be a problem.
Presumably users will have strict control over which notifications are so important that they must be heard immediately and can't wait for a peek at a smartphone's lock screen. Hopefully you'll be able to limit them to certain times of day, as well. The Information says it's not yet clear which apps and Alexa "skills" will gain push notifications; companies like August that make smart home devices already compatible with Alexa are also eager for the functionality to arrive. "It’s on our wish list that when Alexa does have push notifications, the Echo speaker would notify you that someone is outside your door," August CEO Jason Johnson said, referring to the company's Doorbell Cam.