Amazon is adding offline voice recognition to Alexa devices

Plus more new features are coming to the voice assistant soon.


Amazon announced a slew of new connected devices today, and with those came some new Alexa features that users will be able to take advantage of. The most interesting, by far, are the new privacy features coming to the latest Alexa devices. Soon, US customers can choose to have all of their voice commands processed on their Alexa devices. That means these audio clips won't be sent to the cloud and they'll be automatically deleted after the Alexa device processes them.

The online retailer has received much scrutiny over the years when it comes to the privacy implications of its smart speakers and displays. Back in 2019, Amazon added a toggle that let users opt-out of having their voice recordings and message transcripts "manually reviewed," and before that, the company added an option to delete your entire voice history with one command. This new feature builds on that, but it seemingly will only work with the latest Echo devices with the AZ1 Neural Edge processor. According to Amazon, the feature will first be available on the 4th-generation Echo and the Echo Show 10, and will come to more devices in the future.

Most other new Alexa features are only available on Amazon's smart displays, like the new Echo Show 15. First, Sling TV will be coming to all Echo Show devices soon, adding to the already lengthy list of streaming services accessible from Amazon's displays. Second, Echo devices with cameras will be able to use Visual ID, a feature that lets Alexa recognize you when you're in the camera's field of view. By knowing who's in front of the camera, the device's display can then present personalized information like calendar alerts and TV show preferences. It's important to note that Visual ID is something you have to enroll in — not an automatic feature — and you can delete your Visual ID at any time.

Amazon's also revamping Care Hub, which connects caregivers and their loved ones using the Alexa app and compatible devices, into a new subscription service called Alexa Together. This essentially lets caregivers check in on others remotely and set up things like alerts, emergency contact information and more. It includes features like Urgent Response, which gives you access to a professional emergency help line, and Remote Assist, which lets caregivers do things like set reminders, link music services and more to make things easier for their loved ones. Alexa Together will be available later this year for $20 per month, and current Care Hub customers can get one year of the service free.

Finally, Amazon partnered with Disney to bring a new voice assistant to its smart devices. "Hey, Disney" is the entertainment giant's own assistant that's built on on Amazon's Alexa technology. In addition to giving you access to characters from the Disney universe to chat with, the new assistant will also be able to set timers, reminders, check the weather and more. Echo users will be able to purchase the "Hey, Disney" assistant from the Alexa Skills store in 2022, and it will be available on Echo devices in Walt Disney World Resort hotel rooms.

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