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Massive Alexa update brings location-based smarts, email reading and more

Amazon has updated its Alexa assistant with location-based smarts as part of a significant update, rolling out from today and in the weeks to come.

The company is now enabling users to set time– and location-based routines and reminders for users arrive or leave a specific place. For example, users can ask Alexa to “remind me to take the chicken out of the freezer when I get home.” The reminder will be spoken by the speaker and a push notification will be sent to the phone via the Alexa app, which is helpful in situations when users are not within earshot of the speaker.

Location-based routines will enable users to set the thermostat and turn off the lights when they leave the house, for example. These routines are a usually a collection of commands that are grouped under a single voice prompt, but now they can be enabled simply by arriving or leaving a set destination.

Alexa Routines are also being boosted in a number of ways, namely through timed Wake Actions. For example, if you don’t want to hear the news along with the lights coming on and the blinds being raised immediately when your alarm goes off, you can choose to delay that element of the routine by 20 minutes.

Related: Best Alexa Skills

The company is also adding announcements that are broadcast to all Echo devices in the house. This could be handy for telling everyone dinner is ready. Elsewhere, Amazon is improving timers by giving users the power to add time to those already running, rather than requiring users to start a brand new timer.

The company is also allowing users to search and call local businesses using their Alexa device. A TechCrunch report explaining the new feature says it’ll be possible to ask “Alexa where is the nearest Whole Foods?” And follow it up with “Call them.”

The personal assistant is also gaining the ability to read emails, starting with users in the US. Starting with Gmail, Outlook and Hotmail accounts, users can ask Alexa to check, read, replay to, delete or archive messages. Unfortunately it appears only US users are in line for all of these features at the moment, but we’ll keep you posted.

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