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New Alexa features: Sound detection, refill medications and more

Smart assistants are there to make your life easier and more enjoyable. They can help you with simple tasks such as setting the thermostat or impressing your guests on movie night by setting the mood via lighting.

Amazon’s Alexa is built into all Echo devices and is compatible with numerous other smart devices. Though she’s one of the most popular smart assistants out here, Alexa isn’t perfect and does have her quirks. Tap or click here to check out how to solve five common Alexa problems.

Developers are constantly tweaking Alexa to improve functionality while adding new features. Keep reading for some helpful new features that were recently added to Alexa’s arsenal.

Sound Detection 

Alexa already can detect sounds such as glass breaking and a dog barking. Now Alexa can detect two new sounds: water running and appliances beeping. This is useful for knowing when the laundry is done or if someone left the sink running or refrigerator door open.

Here’s how to set up Sound Detection:

  • Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon, then Routines.
  • Name your routine, then tap Next.
  • Tap When this happens followed by Sound Detection.
  • Choose from the list of options.

While convenient, be aware that this feature highlights how a smart speaker-enabled device such as an Echo is always listening. Tap or click here to check out which devices are the biggest privacy offenders.

Preference teaching

You can teach Alexa routines, so she knows things like when you typically get home or wake up in the morning. Thanks to preference teaching, you can get more personal by informing her about your favorite types of food, sports team or recipes.

Alexa won’t suggest recipes containing meat to vegetarians, for example. Just say, “Alexa, I am a vegetarian.” When you ask for a restaurant recommendation, she’ll answer based on your food preferences. She’ll also let you know the latest scores for your favorite teams. Say, “Alexa, I like the Minnesota Vikings.”

Occupancy Routines (4th gen devices only)

Occupancy Routines kick in when an Echo device senses that someone is nearby. For example, walking into a room can make Alexa turn on the lights while leaving the room will cause her to turn them off. Until now, occupancy routines only worked on Echo devices with screens, including the Echo Show 10 (3rd Generation), Echo Show 8 (2nd Generation) and Echo Show 5 (2nd Generation).

Occupancy Routines now work on more devices via speakers and microphones. This brings the feature to the 4th-generation Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Dot with clock devices.

How do you feel about your smart speaker tracking your movement? Tap or click here to check out more on this useful (but disturbing) feature.

Refill prescriptions

Did you know Amazon Pharmacy customers can now ask Alexa to refill their prescriptions? When an order is placed, Alexa can give you proactive updates when your prescriptions have been delivered.

You can also ask Alexa to call Amazon Pharmacy to connect with an Amazon Pharmacy customer care representative who can answer questions on prescription status, your account, billing, drug information and side effects of medications.

Join the conversation (available for Echo Show 10 in the U.S.)

Conversation Mode is an opt-in feature that makes your exchanges with Alexa feel more natural by eliminating the need to repeat the wake word. She’ll also take breaths and vary her tone of voice and inflection. She now can pause when interrupted and respond when you address her.

Enable this feature by saying, “Alexa, join the conversation.”

What to eat (Echo Show 15 only)

Nothing kills date night faster than an argument over what to eat. Just say, “Alexa, what should I eat?” or add the What To Eat widget to your home screen on the Echo Show 15, which will be released on Dec. 9, 2021, and is available for pre-order now.

You’ll also get restaurant recommendations and delivery options from Whole Foods Market or Amazon Fresh and Blue Apron meal kits. Do the prep yourself with recipes from Allrecipes, Tasty, Epicurious and more.

If you’d like to see the complete November roundup of Alexa updates, click here.

By clicking our links, you’re supporting our research. As an Amazon Associate, we earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. Recommendations are not part of any business incentives.

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