Your Amazon Echo may soon get a lot more annoying
Why, Amazon? Why?!
In a move that’s sure to destroy your sanity, Amazon is giving Alexa one of the most hated features in the world: notifications.
The company announced Alexa’s new Notifications feature on Tuesday, stating that the addition is "a way [for Alexa] to proactively signal new content is available from skills and domains."
Until recently, Alexa couldn’t speak or do anything until a user said the wake word. The first big exception to this rule came when Amazon announced a calling and messaging feature for Alexa devices earlier this May.
Now, however, Alexa can chime in without instructions to "alert customers with information that’s important to them."
In other words, you are about to hear a whole lot more from Alexa, unprompted. Uuuuuugggggghhhh.
Introducing Notifications for Alexa, a way to proactively signal new content is available from skills and domains: https://t.co/eif7pXiuuX pic.twitter.com/LBtyNBxg87
— Alexa Developers (@alexadevs) May 16, 2017
The announcement was targeted at developers who make skills for Alexa and includes instructions for how developers can modify their apps to be ready for users.
With the new update, users will be able to opt-in to notifications for each skill using the Alexa app, and they will be notified by a chime and pulsing green light, similar to Blackberry-style LED notifications.
Users can also ask "Alexa, what did I miss?" or "Alexa, what are my notifications?" Fortunately, the update also comes with a "Do Not Disturb" mode which will mute notifications.
While notifications can be useful for certain apps to, say, announce a new podcast episode or share a breaking news alert, developers could misuse the notification capability as is often the case with push notifications on apps. For example, often times, news apps will allow users to opt in to all-or-nothing breaking news push notifications, which are then misused for events that are not necessarily of high urgency, and more to encourage engagement with the app.
It will be interesting to see how developers use this feature in the future. Many users of Alexa devices are not at home during the day, and coming home to a daily barrage of notifications is not a pleasant user experience, to say the least. That means developers will have to design an experience that doesn’t overwhelm users who are away from the Echo for hours at a time, while still being useful to those who are constantly around it.
The feature may be better suited for the Echo Show, Amazon’s new Echo with a screen, than the voice only devices, as viewing a number of notifications at a glance is much quicker than listening to them play one by one.
No matter whether you love or hate Alexa’s new notification features, the announcement is telling of the future of Alexa. No longer just a potentially helpful tool in the background, Amazon wants Alexa to be positioned to be the control center for your home. The LED pulsing is ironically reminiscent of answering machines, which also fits with Alexa’s recent transformation into the 21st century landline phone.
So say hi to Alexa … before she says hi to you first.