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6 of Amazon’s best new features for your Echo and how to use them



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New features are coming to your Echo devices.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Your Amazon Echo device get a lot new features, as Amazon announced this week at a private, virtual media event. The changes range from a whole newly designed series of Echo speakers (they are spherical!) to software enhancements that promise to make Alexa on your existing Amazon Echo smarter and more secure.

The technology giant also announced one rotating Echo Show and a flying security camera drones that can map your house, together with new Echo devices for children. They will all be able to take advantage of Alexa’s new features.

Here are the six best new Amazon Echo features and how to use them when they become available.

Echo Guard Plus can make your home safer

Amazon’s Echo Guard was released as a free home security feature to detect and alert you to broken glass and smoke alarms. Now Amazon wants to upgrade you to Echo Guard Plus for $ 5 a month for even more security features.

Your echo will listen for additional sounds, such as doors that open when you are away, and can play sounds like dogs barking to deter intruders. If additional attention is needed, Alexa can connect you to an emergency service around the clock, which can then request medical, fire or police assistance.

When Echo Guard Plus is available, you can access it by opening the Alexa app on your phone and selecting More > settings > Guard.

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Amazon’s new features will come to Echo speakers new and old, including these two made just for kids.

Amanda Ringstad / Amazon

Alexa gets smarter about your routines

You’ve always had to use wake-up words like “Alexa”, “Echo”, “Computer” or “Amazon” to activate your smart speaker routines. Now you will be able to create routines that are activated by the sound of snoring, a baby crying or a dog barking. For example, a routine may turn off your TV when the device picks up the sound of snoring. Or you can create a routine that turns on your lights when your baby starts crying.

When the new routine function is available, you can access it by pressing More > Routines in the Alexa app to set all the details.

Group calls come to Echo

Soon you will be able to call up to eight friends or relatives at the same time with Amazon’s new group call feature. It works with audio on Echo speakers and video calls on Echo Shows. To get started, you can say something like “Alexa, call my family.” You will be able to create and name groups in the Alexa app.

Brand new Echo Dot with watch

This is Amazon’s new Echo Dot with Clock.

Amazon

Share music with friends

When you listen to music on your Echo speaker and a song comes up that reminds you of a friend, you will soon be able to share the song with that person. All you have to say is “Alexa, share this song with Jill.” Once you have shared the song, the person will be able to listen to it on their own Echo device or the Alexa app.

A real Netflix app for Echo Show

You are no longer limited to watching Amazon Prime movies on your Echo Show. If you have a Netflix account, you will soon also be able to watch Netflix video in your Echo Show. If you want to use it, say something like “Alexa, search for comedy movies on Netflix.”

A new way to support loved ones

The Care Hub feature is designed to help you keep in touch with your aging loved ones at a distance. When available, the two households must agree to establish a connection between your two Alexa accounts to get started. If your loved ones need help, they can say “Alexa, call for help” to get in touch with you.

You will also be able to see their activity flow so that you know if they are moving and set an alert if the device does not detect any activity before a certain time of day.

We will update this story as these features begin to roll out.

For more Amazon Echo tips, check it out how to share your Alexa routines with friends and family, four places to avoid placing an Amazon Echo in your home and three best uses for an Amazon Echo in your bedroom
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