Amazon announces a slew of features for Alexa

Amazon introduced today a bevy of new features for Alexa along with announcements for its redesigned Echo Dot smart speakers, new Fire TV experience, and more. Soon, the digital assistant will be able to recognize sounds other than a wake word or secure your home while you're away, among other capabilities.

Alexa is also getting the new Guard Plus, which incorporates existing Guard features bolstered by additional home security options such as connecting you to an emergency hotline when you need medical or police assistance. You will also receive alerts when Alexa detects irregular sounds in your house while you're in the office, for example. The digital assistant can also play the sound of a siren or a barking dog from an Echo device to stop potential intruders. It will be available in the U.S. for $4.99 a month or $49 a year, with a free one-month trial upon signup. Ring Protect Plus customers can get it for free.

For customers who want to keep connected with their distant family members, Amazon has unveiled Care Hub. It allows your aging family members, for example, to call you even if their phone is away in case of an emergency. They only need to say, "Alexa, call for help". Alexa is also adding more privacy controls, which will let you delete your voice history or choose not to save your voice recordings at all.

Another feature coming to Alexa is support for hands-free group calling for up to eight users. You'll also be able to join a Zoom or Amazon Chime video call by just using your voice. There's even an option to add video effects like bubbles or a garden landscape to your Alexa or Drop In call.

Alexa will also be able to recommend recipes once your delivery from Whole Foods Market or Amazon Fresh arrives. Amazon is also launching new sound detectors for the digital assistant in order to listen for sounds of a baby crying or someone coughing, for example.

You'll also be able to watch Netflix shows on the Echo Show using your voice and share music with friends or family, who can then listen to the song you've sent on their Echo device or through the Alexa app. There's the Reading Sidekick as well for kids to help them read books, with a preview coming to Amazon Kids+ customers in the next few months.

All these features will be rolled out later this year, along with the Alexa voice profiles for kids. This feature was introduced earlier today with the debut of the new Echo Dot Kids Edition.

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