Amazon's Alexa will be getting a new feature that could be a massive boost to its functionality soon, in the form of notifications for Alexa. According to an announcement made today via the company's developers page, the feature is far enough along that developers can now sign up to be notified when the associated developer tools go live. With notifications, the A.I.-based digital assistant and devices with Alexa enabled will be able to deliver information to users in ways that are more "proactive." What it means is that users will be able to decide which skills can deliver notifications and developers will be able to update skills or create new ones to deliver that information without them necessarily having to ask for it every time. Amazon may have inadvertently revealed that developers from some companies have already started working on getting their associated Alexa skills updated since the announcement also confides that AccuWeather, The Washington Post, Just Eat, and Life360 will be among the first to push out notifications.
For an example use-case scenario, Amazon points to a possible notifications system for The Wall Street Journal, with users being able to receive their daily news from Alexa via notifications. Such a notification would simply inform users of the most recent breaking news stories and articles. An AccuWeather notification, conversely, would provide weather alerts to the user. Of course, users will also have the ability to temporarily disable notifications if they need to by activating "Do Not Disturb" mode on a given Alexa-enabled device. However, nobody needs to worry about missing notifications while they are temporarily disabled and Amazon's Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show devices will flash a green light to show that there are missed notifications. Users will then be able to ask "What did I miss?" or "What are my notifications?" to retrieve those.
The new notifications tools will also require more than just software updates in some cases. That's because an Alexa-enabled device will play a sound and light up an indicator upon receiving a notification. For AVS, Amazon says that a developer preview will be available soon and that device makers will have to update their products to "support a new directive and to control an on-device indicator (LED or on-screen equivalent) and earcon." The notification will need to stay active, presumably just for the LED or on-screen indicator itself, rather than the noise, until the user reads or deletes it. Notifications can also be set to expire, which will cause the notification indicator to stop. That shouldn't be a problem for most devices that support Alexa, but it may be for others. Meanwhile, notifications for Alexa skills will arrive on the developer side of things, via ASK in "the coming months." For now, customers will soon be able to try out notifications for select skills and provide feedback, while Amazon works out any remaining kinks or bugs. Once the user experience is worked out, the development tools will be released to ASK. Developers and device makers alike can head over to the source link below to get signed up for updates, in the meantime.