Amazon’s new Alexa update stops you having to say ‘Alexa’ all the time

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Amazon has started to roll out a free update to customers with Fire tablets that transforms the popular devices into a touchscreen hub to control all of your smart home kit – from lightbulbs and thermostats, to smart kettles and coffee machines. Dubbed Device Dashboard, the new feature was created so that Alexa fans don’t always have to rely on voice commands to control everything, especially if you’re already curled up on the sofa using a Fire tablet.

It’s an acknowledgement that Amazon realises that “touch might be more convenient than voice” at certain times – like in the middle of a phone call, a good book, or a movie.

Amazon has worked hard to ensure that launching the Device Dashboard is as fast as saying the “Alexa…” wake word. Fire tablet owners will be jump into the Device Dashboard interface with a quick tap on the new Smart Home button in the left-hand corner of the navigation bar. Since it’s baked directly into the navigation bar, Device Dashboard is accessible across the Android-based operating system that runs on the Fire tablets.

So, whether you’re in the middle of playing a game, watching a show on Prime Video, or chatting with friends or family in the video call – you can tap the icon in the navigation bar to launch the new interface and adjust the lights in the room, turn on lamps, start the kettle boiling, and more without interrupting what you’re doing with a voice command.

The new Smart Home button is even accessible from the lock screen, Amazon says.

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According to a report from ZDNet, the latest update, which started to roll out this week and should be available on your Amazon-branded tablet very soon, is limited to a number of the more tablets. This includes the 2018 Amazon Fire HD 8, Amazon Fire 7 and Amazon Fire HD 10 from 2019, and the Amazon Fire HD 8 that launched earlier this year.

The news comes as Amazon announced a new touchscreen-enabled Alexa device, the Echo Show 10. The 10-inch display on the new Echo is designed to swivel to locate you in the room – so that it’s always in the optimum position to quickly glance and check your timers, the latest weather report, or the episode of The Grand Tour that you’re streaming from Amazon Prime Video. This nifty swivel system also means you’ll stay in-frame during a video call – no more need for relatives to crane their necks to watch you disappear as you potter around the home.

Not only that, but some of the speaker components inside the Echo Show 10 also move around when the display turns to face you. This means you’ll always get the best audio experience when the touchscreen is aimed towards you. The new system seems to be an evolution of the ring of lights at the top of previous Amazon Echo speakers – these lit-up in the direction it thought your voice was coming from as a way to show who it was listening to.

Amazon says all of the tracking smarts, which allows the Echo Show 10 to judge where you are in the room and angle its display towards you, is powered locally (i.e. on the device itself) so there shouldn’t be any privacy concerns. According to Amazon, there’s no facial recognition either, so you don’t need to worry about that. Instead, Amazon’s refreshed Echo Show 10 only knows that someone is present in the room and talking to it from a certain direct.

As you’d expect, you can switch off the motion tracking if you’d rather keep the device stationary.

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