Those of us with Echo devices are used to saying “Alexa” whenever we want to speak with Amazon’s voice assistant, but now there’s a way for you and anyone nearby to chat up Alexa without repeatedly saying her name.
The trick: Alexa’s new Conversation Mode, which was first announced a year ago and is just now rolling out to the third-gen Echo Show 10. All you need to do is say “Alexa, join the conversation,” and Alexa will begin responding to commands and queries from you or anyone in its eyeline, all without having to say the wake word.
Of course, there already is an Alexa feature that lets you speak with her without the wake word: Follow-Up Mode, which lets you ask follow-up questions after an initial query without having to say “Alexa” again. But while Follow-Up Mode is handy for brief chats about the weather (“And what’s the weather tomorrow?”), Conversation Mode allows for “free-flowing interaction” with multiple participants, Amazon says.
Here’s how it works: If you’re (say) in the kitchen with the Echo Show 10 and you want to have a natural chat with Alexa, you can say “Alexa, join the conversation.” Whenever Conversation Mode is active, you’ll see a blue glow around the screen, while a light blue bar at the bottom of the display lets you know when a question is being recorded and sent to the cloud.
So, how will Alexa know when you’re talking to her and not someone else? According to Amazon, Alexa will “use visual and acoustic cues” to suss out when someone is addressing her, the most basic of which is whether someone in the room is looking at the screen (remember, the new Echo Show 10 has a rotating display) when they ask a question. If you or someone else interrupts Alexa, she’ll politely pause, and hopefully she won’t butt in with those annoying “by the way” digressions.
Once you’ve had enough of Alexa, you can say “Leave the conversation” to dismiss her. Amazon also promises that Conversation Mode will automatically turn off if you don’t speak with Alexa for a “short” period of time.
Amazon says that Conversation Mode will begin rolling out to the third-gen Echo Show 10 in the “coming weeks.” There’s no word on when—or if—Conversation Mode will be coming to other Echo devices.
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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.