Users will have to give Alexa access to their contacts and she’ll able to filter through them and determine which ones also have access to the interface. After this, the user will be able to see a list with all of their contacts that are available for texting or calling. All that’s left is to tell Alexa to make the call or send a message.
The Drop-In feature, also going live, turns the Echo device into an intercom. If you own multiple Echo devices (which is now possible since Amazon removed their ‘one device per customer’ regulation that was enforced during the invite-only phase), the user will be able to get in touch with Echo devices in another room within the same house.
For instance, if the user is in the living room and wants to get in touch with someone in the kitchen, all they have to do is say, “Alexa, drop in on the kitchen,” and they’ll be able to broadcast their message on the Echo device located in the other room.
Restricting contacts and who will able to contact you on the Echo device is a feature not available in India yet, but they do have plans of rolling it out shortly.
Making Alexa smarter
Any smart technology gets dumber in India because it hasn’t been tailored to fit the local requirements. For instance, one of the primary focus areas for Amazon has been to recognise what the right pronunciation of Indian words and names are in local accents.
Puneesh Kumar, the Country Manager for India (Alexa Experience and Devices) stated in an interview with ETtech that – "We are trying to make sure Alexa can even pronounce the words correctly because it needs to sound natural. We don't want anything to sound robotic or mechanised."
The results are evident with Alexa pronouncing Lata Mangeshkar in a non-Indian accent just three months ago and now enunciating that same name perfectly in a local Indian accent.
Kumar also reiterated that, during the invite-only phase, Alexa has received major upgrades in terms of speech recognition, expanded local knowledge, localised skills and a better music selection.
Alexa hasn’t quite taken the nation by storm, but Echo owners are excited that Alexa is gradually integrating localised skills to make the interface more India-friendly. Amazon has even removed the invite-only limitation that kept Echo from being mainstream and making all Echo devices (ie. Echo Dot, Echo and Echo Plus) across 20 cities in India at over 350 retails stores.