The next time you talk to a smart assistant in your home, it might be to make a call.
You can already get a smart speaker to do some neat things, such as play music, tell you the weather, play a custom made routine of yours, or even sing a song, but a new feature could just see you talk to someone other than an AI assistant.
While Alexa will always be there on an Amazon speaker if you call for her (unless you’ve changed it to Echo, Computer, or one of the many other options Amazon offers), someone else could be on the other end of the speaker if you ask Alexa to call someone on a contact list, much like you might with a phone.
In fact, it’s exactly “a phone”, with Amazon adding call support to Alexa-enabled speakers this week, adding a calling feature via the Alexa app’s “Communicate” section.
Add and verify a phone number through the app, grant Amazon access to calling and messaging, and add up to ten contacts, and Alexa will be able to call and message those contacts on speakers in your home.
It means if you need to call your parents, kids, or partner, you’ll just need to ask Alexa to call or message them, referring to them the way they’re listed as contacts (if your mum is down as “Mum”, it should work, but if her contact has her down as her name, calling “Mum” won’t).
Calls made using an Alexa-enabled speaker or smart display will essentially use your phone number, but not necessarily your phone to make the service work.
Interestingly, Amazon’s local arm confirmed to Pickr that you won’t need a phone nearby to make a call with Alexa. Once setup, the service uses WiFi to make the call, rather than leans on the phone itself, so you may not need to have the phone nearby.
That could mean setting Echo speakers to call “Mum” and “Dad” for the kids, provided you set up the contacts of you and/or a partner with the names “Mum” and “Dad”. Once set up, the kids could actually call you up by asking their smart speakers to do that, or even call up another family member the same way.
As to how you can make it work, you’ll need an Amazon-enabled smart speaker, which includes the entire Echo range such as an Echo speaker or Echo Show display, plus anything else with Alexa onboard, such as a Sonos Roam or Arc. Once you have one of those, grab the Alexa app and run through the steps, and it shouldn’t be long until you’re calling using a smart speaker.