Amazon today announced that Alexa will start to provide end users with notifications when new content becomes available on an Alexa-powered device through the use of audible and visual cues. Specifically, Amazon has announced the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) API now now includes Notification support which does mean that third-party developers can start to incorporate the feature with their skills, as can device makers. In fact, when it comes to device makers the announcement highlights that notifications are now a "required feature for all AVS devices."
The way notifications work is that when new content is available through an Alexa-enabled device, the device will sound an audible alarm and/or flash an LED light if the unit has one. The audible sound will only sound once while the LED will continually flash until the user has gone through the notifications. As to be expected, this is highly likely to be a feature that end users will either want or not want to use, and so it is one that is being made available on an opt-in basis. While all AVS devices will be required to make it available, the choice of whether it is active or not will come down to the end user.
As part of the announcement Amazon confirmed that from today end users will be able to activate notifications for The Washington Post, AccuWeather, and Life360 skills. It is worth pointing out that not only are notifications opt-in but they are also enabled on a per-skill basis, so end users can for example opt in to The Washington Post notifications but not AccuWeather notifications. It is also worth noting that notifications will not sound off/light up for all new content available through a skill, but more so for the more important aspects. Amazon explains this by saying AccuWeather will provide weather updates while The Washington Post will notify users with breaking news alerts. Although the currently supported skill list for notifications is pretty thin at the moment, this will change in time with Amazon noting there is "more coming soon" while at the same time asking skills builders to start to incorporate the notification feature with their respective skills. Owners of Alexa-enabled devices that are not able to light up when a notification becomes available will have to use the Amazon Alexa app to access notification-worthy content.