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Alexa gets smarter with Teachable AI and Guard Plus

With the new updates, Alexa can now fill in its knowledge gaps and understand more about when it should and shouldn't respond.

As well as launching a raft of new products, including the spherical Echo and Echo Dot, Amazon has announced how it’s making Alexa is getting smarter. One of the key new features is Teachable AI, which will let Alexa fill in its gaps to better understand what you’re saying.

With Teachable AI, Alexa can be taught new tricks. Say, “Alexa, turn on Dave’s reading mode”, for example, and Alexa will now ask you what you mean by “Dave’s reading mode”. Following up, you can say something like, “set lights to 50%”.

By responding to what Alexa doesn’t know, the voice assistant can expand its capabilities and learnings, rather than delivering a more frustrating experience where the system tells you it can’t do anything.

Privacy controls are being boosted, too. If you ask, “Alexa, how do I review my privacy settings?” you’ll get a link sent to the app. You can also say, “Alexa, delete everything I’ve said” to remove everything Alexa has recorded.

Amazon also announced a few new ways that Alexa will get smarter, although these features are US-only for now. A new feature, activated by, “Alexa, join our conversation” turns on Alexa, but lets it only respond when speech is directed at it.

In the example, two people discuss what to have for dinner, but Alexa only joins in when it hears a request to order a pizza; then, after a conversation about the size, Alexa only steps in to upgrade the pizza order from medium to large.

With this upgrade, Alexa will not only understand the context, but who’s talking and who it should respond to.

Alexa Guard, which is only available in the US, has been upgraded. The system is designed to listen out for dangers in your home, such as breaking glass, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. In the US, Alexa Guard Plus, a new subscription service adds in footstep and door-closing detection. And, Guard Plus can connect you with emergency responders when you can’t reach your phone.

The service will cost $4.99 a month, although Ring Protect Plus users will get Guard Plus thrown in for free. Given that most Ring Alarm owners will have this subscription already, it’s a neat upgrade.