Amazon adds one-command group calls to let ‘Alexa, call the family’ this holiday
Amazon has announced it is bringing a new feature to Alexa, just in time for this strangest of Christmases. The company has confirmed that its Group Calling feature, first trailed in September, is rolling out. It allows you to create a group (for example) ‘the family’ and start a group call in either audio or video, with a single command (ie ‘Alexa, call the family’).
Amazon first trailed the feature earlier in the year, when it said “Video calling and Drop In have been more popular this year than ever before. Soon, it will be easy for up to eight friends or family members to join a hands-free audio or video call with Alexa. Simply say, ‘Alexa, call my family,’ for example, to connect with your family for the next catch-up, happy hour, or birthday celebration. You will be able to create and name groups in the Alexa app.“
As we approach our COVID-Christmas, which will see families separated in ways rarely seen in peacetime, tech companies are rushing to enable services to bridge the gap. Amazon said in the Fall that it would also be bringing visual effects to video calls, but it seems this has been delayed, to ensure the basic function was ready for Christmas. As it is, the group calls feature is said to work on ‘compatible devices’. Amazon lists its own-branded Echo series but doesn’t specify any third-party devices. We’re on the case and will add any we discover to this article.
This native support doesn’t affect services from other video calling services. At the moment, Amazon Alexa is the last of the major smart displays not to support direct calling via Zoom, which was promised to roll out across Alexa, Google Home, and Facebook Portal in time for Christmas. There’s a week to go, it could still come, but they’re cutting it pretty fine. Hopefully, today’s announcement will serve as an effective alternative, for Christmas and the year ahead.