When a new notification comes in, the light ring at the top of your Amazon Echo or will turn green and you’ll hear a chime. To hear the notification, just say, “Alexa, what did I miss?”
Amazon says that skills from the Washington Post, AccuWeather and Life360 will be among the first to offer notifications. More will undoubtedly follow, thanks to new developer tools aimed at helping makers of Alexa skills put the notifications feature to work.
Amazon doesn’t give a specific timetable for when the feature will start rolling out to customers, saying only that it’ll arrive “soon.” Things tend to move pretty fast on the Alexa front — the recent addition of a newrolled out almost immediately after it was announced — so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the feature in action in the very near future.
I’ve reached out to Amazon to see if it can get any more specific with the ETA, and will update this post if I hear back.
The feature signals a shift from Alexa as a passive voice assistant to something a little more active. I theorized that this was a direction Amazon could go in back in October, when. From that review:
There are also reports that Amazon is looking into adding spoken push notifications into Alexa’s repertoire — potentially unprompted interjections to alert you about things like upcoming appointments or bad traffic conditions in the morning. I’d welcome the addition, so long as users get plenty of control over how often Alexa pipes up, if ever.
I also think Amazon could put the light ring on top of its Echo devices to good use here, with pulsing or even color-coded lights as a sort of silent indicator that Alexa has something to share. You could then say, “Alexa, what’s up” to hear the notification at your convenience.
From the looks of it, Amazon is indeed working to give users control over just how active those notifications are. “All skills require users to opt in before they’ll send alerts to any device,” Amazon’s announcement reads. You can also disable notifications or suppress them temporarily by putting your Echo device into “Do Not Disturb” mode, using either the Alexa app or a voice command.
Hopefully, Do Not Disturb mode applies to calls and messages, too. Amazon caught some flak recently after it was revealed that there’swith your number from sending your Echo unwanted calls or messages — a glaring oversight, and a fairly significant privacy flaw.