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Alexa is getting hands-free group calls in time for Christmas

Christmas has come early for Echo users. This afternoon, Amazon took to its blog to announce a handful of exciting updates coming to Echo devices in the US first.

Perhaps the biggest announcement is the launch of hands-free group calls. Now, Echo users can call up to seven friends and family members by saying the phrase “Alexa, call my [group name]” – for example, “Alexa, call my family”.

The new feature is available on all supported Echo devices, including the Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show and works with both video and audio calls, depending on your device.

Only one user is required to create and name the group in the Alexa app. Once the group has been created, any member is able to kick off a group call by asking Alexa to call the group name.

Related: Which Amazon Echo speaker should you buy?

Amazon has also added Alexa commands for joining conference calls in Zoom and Amazon Chime on the Echo Show 8.

You can now just say “Alexa, join my meeting”, “Alexa, join my Zoom meeting” or “Alexa, join my Amazon Chime meeting” to chat with friends, family and colleagues over the two video conferencing services.

Amazon has also launched its new Call Captioning feature with the aim being to help deaf and hard of hearing customers as well as those partaking in calls in noisy environments. Call Captioning allows all of Amazon’s Echo Show devices to generate text in real time during one-on-one video and audio calls and Drop In calls.

Related: Amazon Alexa Guide – Features, entertainment, smart home and more

The final new feature is the addition of outbound Alexa-to-Alexa voice and video calls for kids on Amazon Fire tablets.

Kids can now use their Fire Kids Edition or regular Fire tablet running the Amazon Kids app to call friends and family with an Echo device or the Alexa app on their phones.

Parents can add and manage approved contacts in the Alexa app and Amazon is working on an update to allow kids to receive incoming calls from those approved contacts in the coming months.

The new features start rolling out from today in the US, but we hope to see them available on Echo devices here in the UK soon.