Amazon’s Alexa Gains Follow-Up Mode for Back-to-Back Requests Without Repeating Wake Word

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Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant, built into dozens of different products, today gained a new “Follow-Up Mode” that’s designed to allow users to ask multiple questions in succession without the need to repeat the “Alexa” wake up word.

As noted by CNET, Follow-Up Mode allows Alexa to continue to listen for five seconds after an initial response to see if you have an additional request.

During this five second listening period, the blue ring on an Alexa device will light up to indicate that Alexa is listening. Anything else you say during this time period will not require you to add “Alexa” into the statement to wake up the Alexa device. If you don’t say anything else, your Alexa device will go back to sleep until the next time the “Alexa” wake word is uttered.

With Follow-Up Mode, Alexa cannot respond to multiple requests, like “Turn the lights on and set the thermostat to 70,” but you can ask two requests in succession. Asking “Alexa, turn on the lights” and then stating “Set the thermostat to 70” after the first “OK” from Alexa works, however.

According to Amazon, Follow-Up Mode is designed to make sure Alexa only responds if a legitimate request is spoken rather than simple background noise. A conversation with Alexa can also be ended immediately by saying “Thank you” or “Stop” after an initial request, and Follow-Up Mode won’t activate when listening to music, making a call, or listening to an audiobook.

The new Follow-Up Mode can be enabled in the Settings section of the Amazon Alexa app. Select a device and then scroll down to the new “Follow-Up Mode” toggle. Follow-Up Mode is available for all Amazon Echo devices and some third-party devices as well, but it is limited to US English at the current time.

The Alexa Follow-Up Mode, which seems like a useful new addition to Alexa, has no equivalent on Apple’s devices like the HomePod at the current time. On Apple’s speaker, you will need to activate it with a “Hey Siri” command before each request.

The addition of this new feature comes just a few days after Amazon implemented a fix for an issue that was causing Alexa-enabled devices to spontaneously laugh, creeping out some Alexa users. Amazon said the issue was caused by Alexa mistakenly hearing the phrase “Alexa, laugh,” which has now been changed to “Alexa, can you laugh?” to prevent accidental Alexa activations.

Tags: Amazon, Alexa

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Amazon Alexa’s ‘Follow-Up Mode’ enables successive requests without trigger word

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In an attempt to stay one step ahead of the virtual assistant competition, like Apple and Google, Amazon recently released a new feature that allows users to ask multiple questions in succession without repeating the "Alexa" wake word.
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Amazon’s Alexa gaining new ‘Follow-up Mode’, no longer requires trigger word after every request

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The most annoying thing about digital assistants is that you have to say a trigger word after every request, with few exceptions. Whether it be “Hey Siri”, “Ok Google”, or “Alexa”, it can become increasingly tiresome, especially if you’re trying to have a fluid conversation.



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Free iPhone Games: Word Flow Is a Fun & Engaging Way to Pass the Time

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I have to admit I have a new addiction. Well, not an addiction so much as a way to while away my time during on-demand NBC television show commercials you can’t fast forward through even though Comcast owns NBC. The game is called Word Flow (free with in-app purchases).

Related: Best iOS Racing Games: GRID Autosport for iPhone & iPad

When I got the eval code, I was pretty sure it was going to be one of two types of games I get asked to review. A non-engaging derivative, or a super deep labyrinth that I don’t have time to master. I was wrong. Word Flow is kind of a Goldie Locks game, in that its just right for the way I pass the time.

Basic game play is pretty simple. Make some words out of tiles and win. Bigger words, tiles with crowns, and words that incorporate blaster tiles (tiles that take out entire rows or columns of letters) earn more points. Theh bigger the words and the fewer the moves the better.

The game offers a simple linear path of levels; just follow the path. As you move up the levels, the game, of course, gets harder. Well, the goals get harder and the obstacles more challenging. You still have to spell words, but some of the letters must be released from harrowing circumstances before they can be employed. Letters arrive trapped in ice so you have to spell words using adjacent letters to break them free. Once liberated, those letters can be used to free letters near them. Ducks also end up in the puzzles. Their emancipation comes from scrolling them down rows by solving for words below them. So far I’ve broken a lot of ice cubes to unleash their letters and freed a number of rubber duckies. Each level starts with a set number of plays, when they run out, you can either buy more turns or start over.

If you go back to play a level, you are greeted with new letters; so game play isn’t the same, even if the general obstacles to overcome remain. Restart a level too often and you have to buy additional keys to unlock it (I think the game would be better if it allowed for play without keys on previously solved levels). Some of the levels can be a little daunting to figure out, so you might need a restart or two. Puzzles within puzzles.

Yes, I have trophies for things like unique word choice (not just spelling out the same short words over and over.) And from the looks of the trophy list, I have plenty of work ahead of me on the couch, in an airplane seat, or on a conference call where the team forgets I dialed in.

The one thing I would love to see is a legend that describes the various tools in the bag. The game does run through orientation levels, but if you don’t use the tools, you tend to forget what they are for. 

The tools also fail you. I recently used the word speller tool, the one that punches out a good word on your behalf (you get a few at the start, and then have to buy more of any tool once you spend your initial allocation), and it spelled out a great word;, but it broke my ability to break ice cubes, so I had to start over. Good word, bad strategy.

Grandleaf has so far released a few updates, so they seem to be squashing bugs and improving game play incrementally. I hope they keep at development with the same vigor they hope game players burn through virtual gold coins.

Final Verdict

Word Flow is a new game that I’m having fun with, and you should too. Like most iOS games, it’s free; but also like most games, it offers various add-ons, such as the elimination of ads, a beginner pack that loads you up on gold and goodies, and more. If you like solitary word play, it may be a good game to help you fill up your time on your iPhone doing something other than filling up your time on your iPhone.


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Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iOS Gaining Real-Time Co-Authoring, Drag and Drop Support

Microsoft today announced a major update for its Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps, which will see the introduction of real-time co-authoring, drag and drop support on the iPad, universal link support for shared files, and more.

With support for real-time co-authoring, multiple people can contribute to and edit documents in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on iOS devices. Changes made by each user will sync within seconds, plus you’ll be able to see everyone that’s working on a document and what they’re working on.

Real-time co-authoring support on iOS devices follows the introduction of the feature in Microsoft’s Mac apps earlier this month.

Microsoft is also adding drag and drop support for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on the iPad, which means you’ll be able to drag files between Microsoft apps and quickly add links, text, photos, graphs, and more.

The three apps will also support universal links, which means anytime you’re sent a shared Word, PowerPoint, or Excel file, it’ll open right in the app rather than requiring you to authenticate in a browser, and there are new Accessibility features like improved VoiceOver support for better navigation.

Microsoft today also announced major changes for the OneDrive app, which includes an overhauled interface, support for the Files app, drag and drop support, and several other new features.

Microsoft says the new functionality in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will be available “in the coming days” through updates available in the iOS App Store.

Microsoft Word [Direct Link], Microsoft Excel [Direct Link], and Microsoft PowerPoint [Direct Link] can all be downloaded from the App Store for free.

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