Amazon’s popular Echo Show smart displays just learned a nifty new trick: the ability to add household items to Alexa’s shopping list by scanning their barcodes. The new feature, which was first spotted by VentureBeat, works on both the Echo Show 5 and the new Echo Show 8, which first went on sale last November.
Using the new barcode-scanning feature is simple. Just say “Alexa, scan this to my shopping list,” and Alexa will activate the Echo Show’s built-in camera and display an outline of a generic barcode on the screen (assuming you haven’t enabled the security shutter). You can then hold up your item to the screen to scan it.
This isn’t the first time that Alexa has used the Echo Show’s camera to scan household items. Intended for blind and visually impaired users, the Echo Show’s “Show and Tell” feature, which was announced back in September, lets Alexa identify items if you hold them up to the camera and ask, “Alexa, what am I holding?”
In my testing, the Echo scanner worked well. I tried the feature on my Echo Show 5, first using the barcode on an old Kleenex pocket pack that was sitting on my dresser. Impressively, the Echo Show’s camera scanned the wrinkled barcode almost immediately and promptly added it to my shopping list. I did the same with a bag of granola and again, Alexa managed to scan the barcode and identified the item within a second or so.
The new feature would be a perfect fit for an Echo Show in the kitchen, allowing you to quickly scan items from the cupboard. Of course, you can still also just ask Alexa to add something without a barcode to your shopping list, such as a lemon or a garlic bulb.
It’s worth noting that when you ask Alexa to add an item to your shopping list, she isn’t putting it in your Amazon shopping cart. Instead, she’s simply adding them to Alexa’s standard shopping list (there’s a to-do list as well, or you can create your own custom lists). You can see the shopping list at any time by asking Alexa, and you can also ask her to check items off your list. That’s a change from Amazon’s prior grocery scanner, the Dash Wand, which sent items straight to your cart.
For now, the new barcode-scanning feature only works on the Echo Show 5 and 8, though Alexa will ask for the name of the item on unsupported devices, such as the Echo Spot. We’ve reached out to Amazon to see if the 11-inch Echo Show will get the feature, too.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.