Amazon is adding new features in Alexa. The smart assistant will listen for the sound made by kids turning on their Xboxes and then give them a chorelist.

Amazon has taken the latest step to make it more passive and allow it to perform more automatically without human intervention. 

Speaking at Web Summit 2021, which is being held in Lisbon this week, Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President of the Alexa division, said the firm wants people to have to talk to Alexa less.

Passive sounds are one of the new features that move it in this direction. These are audio files that people record at home and then trigger a Routine.

He explained, “Let’s say you’re a parent and want your children to do their chores,”

“You could train Alexa, to listen for the sound Xbox turning on, to show your children a list of things to do on the Echo Show.”

Amazon is adding new features to Alexa that would allow the smart assistant to listen for the sound of kids turning on an Xbox, and automatically give them a chore list

Amazon is adding new features in Alexa. The smart assistant will listen for children turning on Xboxes and then automatically give them chore lists.

'Lets say you are a parent and want to make sure your kids do their chores,' Mr Taylor said in his speech, 'you could train Alexa to listen for the sound of Xbox turning on and have it automatically show your kids a to-do list on the Echo Show'

“Let’s say you’re a parent and want your children to do their chores,” Mr Taylor stated in his speech. “You could train Alexa so that it can hear the Xbox turning on and show your kids a list on the Echo Show.”


Open the Alexa app

Select Routines from the menu (three horizontal lines).

Select the Plus icon

Select This is what happensFollow the steps in the app and choose the routine that you want.

Select Add actionFollow the steps on the app to select the action that best suits your routine.

Multiple actions can be selected for the same routine.

Select Save

“Historically, you had to be an AI scientist to tailor AI to a task. But with self-service AI, anyone can enable it to their requirements,” he said.

He stated that “In the very near future the devices and services that we rely upon will become much more proactive,” adding that this is an industry-wide shift.

‘Instead of needing to reach for our phones or make a request to a voice assistant, AI will turn off the lights before bed, offer to start your coffee in the morning, or adjust the thermostat when you’re away – all without being asked.’

Amazon has been developing ‘Routines’ over the past few years. These are sequences of tasks that can be programmed by users and linked to Alexa or other smart devices. 

Mr Taylor said that routines were enhanced with pre-set triggers. Devices are designed to respond to certain events in a specific way.

This could include playing soothing music when it hears a baby crying, turning the lights off if there isn’t any movement detected, or spotting a parcel on camera.

Amazon is adding to this feature by allowing users record their own sounds, such a child playing the Xbox, a dog barking, or even the refrigerator opening.

Mr Taylor explained, “Customers will be in a position to teach Alexa how to recognize distinct sounds within their unique environment with just few audio samples. After that, Alexa will have the option to start a routine once that sound has been detected.”

Another example of this functionality is a recording of the laptop startup sound that someone working remotely can use to turn off the TV. 

Amazon is also adding video and triggers such as Ring cameras that detect ‘objects within their home that matter’, such as garage doors openings.

A feature called power state allows you to trigger a routine if a light, or plug, has been left on longer than 30 mins during the day.

The latest move is part of a series of measures by Amazon designed to make it more 'passive', having it do more automatically without human intervention

Amazon’s latest move is one of a series of actions designed to make Amazon more passive, allowing it to do more automatically and without human intervention.

Amazon’s new $1500 robot Astro has been deemed a “disaster that is not ready for publication” by its designers 

Amazon’s new household robot has been called a “disaster that isn’t ready for release” by its designers. One even claimed that it would throw itself down stairs if given the chance.

The $1,450 (£1,115) Alexa-powered bot called Astro was unveiled by the company yesterday as an autonomous device that can monitor a person’s home while they are not there.

It can be controlled remotely to monitor pets, people, and your home security and send alerts about any unusual activity.

But some of its designers aren’t convinced that the bot will live to Amazon’s expectations.

One person involved called Astro “terrible” while another dismissed Amazon’s pitch that it could aid the elderly as “absurdist nonsense”, according to Motherboard.

‘Increasingly, you don’t have to ask Alexa do these tasks around my house. Alexa is doing it on my behalf. You speak to Alexa less,” Mr Taylor stated.

Another application is to play the sound of a barking dog if the Ring doorbell detects that a human is home but nobody is there.

Mr Taylor said that there are many other applications that could make it feel like scifi movies and shows you grew up with. He also mentioned the recently announced Alexa robotics robot Astro. 

It can communicate with family members, find out where each family member is located in the house, and show up without being asked.

Mr Taylor said that AI can send a message to confirm grandma is home and is available to you.

“Soon Alexa will have the ability to infer patterns from which to recommend routines. Alexa will recognize Justin Bieber as the first song you hear every morning when you enter the room to start your day.

Amazon is also incorporating ‘common sense” into its AI. For example, Amazon knows that you might enjoy a meal once but not every day. It also knows that you shouldn’t blast music in a room with babies in the middle of the night. 

Amazon, Google, and Apple are all vying to have their virtual AI assistant be used in future devices and in people’s homes. 

Taylor stated that in the future, there will be multiple assistants and not just Alexa. They will play different roles in different contexts. 

'There are other applications to start feel like sci-fi movies and shows we grew up with,' said Mr Taylor, including the recently announced Alexa robot Astro (pictured)

“There are other applications that can start to feel like sci-fi movies, shows, and movies we grew up watching,” said Mr Taylor. This includes the recently announced Alexa robot Astro (pictured). 

These will likely be based off existing assistance such as Siri and Google but with a custom branding approach and narrow focus. 

The new custom assistant Hey Disney from Disney is a great example. Alexa customers will soon be able to interact directly with Disney content by simply saying “Hey, Disney” beginning next spring, he explained. 

He stated that artificial intelligence will become a background tool that runs through our homes and lives, in every device we have, from a fridge and washing machine to light switches and door locks.  

At the Portugal-based conference, Taylor stated that “This is the next big leap forward in technology inside and outside of the home.”

It understands you and adapts to your needs. It is there for you when you need it and recedes when you don’t.

“Ultimately AI will enable people from a wider set of use cases to influence and shape the future development of AI. This will drive future AI development.”


Amazon devices have been activated previously when they aren’t wanted, which could indicate that they could be listening.

Millions of people are hesitant to invite these powerful microphones and devices into their homes, fearing that their conversations will be heard.

Amazon devices rely upon microphones to listen out for key words, which can be activated by accident or without the owner’s knowledge. 

The camera on the £119.99 ($129) Echo Spot, which doubles up as a ‘smart alarm’, will also probably be facing directly at the user’s bed. 

The device boasts sophisticated microphones that can pick up conversations from across the room, even when music is playing. A hack by British security researcher Mark Barnes saw 2015 and 2016 versions of the Echo turned into a live microphone.

Fraudsters can then use this live audio feed for sensitive information.