Amazon is rolling out a long-awaited software update for its Echo family of smart speakers that allows the devices to function as an intercom system. You can place Echo devices in multiple rooms and then use teleconferencing to communicate between them.
The option of using an Echo as an intercom network has been a top request from users for a while. The feature is available now to owners of the Echo, Echo Dot, and upcoming Echo Show, TechCrunch reports. It acts largely as expected, letting you communicate between all the different Echo speakers that are set up on your network.
You can “Drop-In” on an Echo to start a call with family members in another room. Assuming you’ve given your speakers unique names, you can start a new conference by telling Alexa to “drop-in” and saying the name of the device. It’s as simple as telling Alexa to “drop in on the kitchen” or “call upstairs.”
The feature lets you talk to other members of your family without having to change your location yourself. You can even use the intercom via the Alexa app when you’re away from home, letting you check in on your children and pets. It gives you peace of mind that everything is running smoothly in your house.
Drop-In could also be viewed as an intrusive privacy violation though. It lets you interrupt other people when they’ might rather be left alone, a concept some families won’t be keen to accept. Amazon wants everyone to remain connected, talking to each other and fully immersed in the Alexa-powered smart home. A digital intercom is another form of reinforcing this aim, at the expense of alienating customers who don’t want constant communication.
The arrival of Drop-In comes shortly after Amazon rolled out hands-free calling and messaging across the Echo range. The company has been rapidly expanding the capabilities of its Alexa assistant to include more built-in “skills.” Amazon is trying to fend off an increasing level of competition in the smart home market from companies including Apple and Google.
Intercom mode should be available on the Echo product family from today. If you don’t have it yet, it could still be rolling out to your device. You could try checking for updates to the Alexa app in the App Store or Google Play Store. To use Drop-In, you’ll need to own at least two Echo speakers, making it a feature designed for people who have already bought into the Alexa ecosystem.
[Featured Image by Amazon]