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Amazon Echo: 6 best new features and how to use them – CNET

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New features are coming to your Echo devices.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Your Amazon Echo device is getting a slew of new features, which Amazon announced Thursday at a private, virtual media event. The changes range from a totally redesigned line of Echo speakers (they’re spherical!) to software enhancements that promise to make your existing Amazon Echo smarter and more secure. 

The tech giant also announced a rotating Echo Show and a flying security camera drone that can survey your house, along with new kids’ Echo devices.

Here are the six best new Amazon Echo features and how you’ll use them once they become available.

Echo Guard Plus enhances home security

Amazon’s Echo Guard was released as a free home security feature to help detect and alert you to glass breaking and smoke alarm noises. Now Amazon wants to upgrade you to Echo Guard Plus for $5 a month for even more security features. 

Your Echo will listen for additional sounds, like doors opening when you’re away, and can play sounds like dogs barking to deter intruders. If further attention is needed, Alexa can connect you to a 24/7 Emergency Helpline, which can then request medical, fire or police assistance.

Once Echo Guard Plus is available, you can access it by opening the Alexa app on your phone and selecting More > Settings > Guard

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Amazon’s new features will come to Echo speakers new and old, including these two made just for kids.

Amanda Ringstad/Amazon

Alexa gets smarter about your routines

You’ve always had to use wake words like Alexa, Echo, Computer or Amazon to activate your smart speaker routines. Now you’ll be able to create routines that activate with the sounds of snoring, a baby crying or a dog barking. For example, a routine could be triggered to turn off your TV when it hears snoring sounds. Or, you could set up a routine that turns your lights on when you hear your baby cry.

When the new routines feature is available, you can access it by tapping More > Routines in the Alexa app to set up all the details.

Group calling

Soon, you’ll be able to call up to eight friends or relatives at the same time with Amazon’s new group-calling feature. It’ll work with audio on Echo speakers and video calls on Echo Shows. To get started, you can say something like “Alexa, call my family.” You’ll be able to create and name groups in the Alexa app.

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This is Amazon’s new Echo Dot with Clock.

Amazon

Music sharing

When you’re listening to music on your Echo speaker and a song comes on that reminds you of a friend, you’ll soon be able to share the song with them. All you have to say is “Alexa, share this song with Jill.” After you share the song, the person will be able to listen to it on their Echo device or the Alexa app.

Netflix on Echo Show

You’re no longer limited to watching Amazon Prime movies on your Echo Show. If you’ve got a Netflix account, you’ll soon be able to watch it on your Echo Show. To use it, you’ll say something like “Alexa, search comedy movies on Netflix.”

A new way to support people with medical concerns

Care Hub is designed to help you stay in touch with your aging loved ones from a distance. Once it’s available, you’ll need to agree to create a connection between your two Alexa accounts to get started. If your loved one needs help, they can say “Alexa, call for help” to get in touch with you.

You’ll also be able to see their activity feed so you know if they’re up and moving, and set up an alert if the device detects no activity before a certain time of day.

We’ll update this story as these features begin to roll out.

For more Amazon Echo tips, check out how to share your Alexa routines with friends and family, four places to avoid putting Amazon Echo in your home and three best uses for Amazon Echo in your bedroom

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