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Amazon Alexa devices gained a new skill this week. Now, you can use them as a modern-day mobile intercom system in your home.
It works like this: If you have more than one Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Spot, or Echo Show in your abode, you can speak into one to blast an audio message to another. It’s easy to set up. First, you need to name each Echo device. Amazon recommends addressing them by room name, for example, “The kitchen” or “The bedroom.” Then, in your Alexa App settings, make sure that drop-in functionality is enabled.
Once that’s done, you can say, “Alexa, call the kitchen” or “Alexa, drop in on the bedroom” to tell the folks in each of those respective rooms what’s going on.
Alternatively, you can drop in on a room when you’re away from home, too. You can do this using the Alexa app. Just open the app and then use one of the same commands (“Alexa, call the living room”), and you can relay a message without a phone call or text.
When you “drop in” on a room, the device there will give an audible chime and then show a green light rotating around the Echo while the call is going on. Unlike the intercoms of yore, the caller can hear everything within reach of the Echo device, and anyone on the other end can hear what’s going on with the caller. That is, it’s not a one-way interaction.
Intercoms (and phone calls) have been around for decades now. There’s nothing new about that. However, in households where you’re having to text the kids or your husband to get everyone down to dinner, this feature could inject a little more humanity into those interactions (without needing to yell across the house). The update also just gives a device you already have in your home one more piece of utility. And it doesn’t hurt that that utility is something Amazon’s competitors, such as Google Home, have yet to tap into.
Looking for more help? Here’s what you need to know about Amazon Alexa, Amazon Prime Pantry, Amazon Lockers, Amazon Prime Wardrobe, how to sell on Amazon, Amazon Prime membership and if it’s really worth it.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.