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You can now make two requests back-to-back using Alexa

Instead of having to use a wake word for each and every command you give Alexa, you can now do two commands back-to-back, only one wake word needed.

Published onMarch 13, 2018

Amazon Alexa Skills
  • Amazon introduced follow-up mode to its Echo devices. The new feature lets you issue two commands with only one wake word.
  • You still have to separate the two commands by a brief pause, and you can’t use complex sentences. But you’ll save time by only issuing one wake word.
  • There are some other caveats for the feature, but overall it’s pretty exciting.

Let’s say you want to ask Alexa to do two things for you that have nothing to do with each other, like turning on the living room lights as well as playing some music. You would have to say, “Hey Alexa, turn on the living room lights,” and then say, “Hey Alexa, play some music.” You have to use the wake word for both because Alexa only understands one command at a time.

But not so anymore! Amazon introduced something it’s calling “follow-up mode” to all Echo devices (and some third-party Echo systems). Now, assuming you’ve opted into follow-up mode, Alexa will wait approximately five seconds after you’ve issued a command to hear if you issue another command.

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With follow-up mode on, the example given at the top of this article would only be one command instead of two. It would sound like this, “Hey Alexa, turn on the living room lights…<brief pause>…play some music.” You don’t need to use the “Hey Alexa” command for both lines anymore.

Now, there are some caveats here that need to be kept in mind when using this new function:

  • Alexa may misinterpret the second command if there is music or TV audio playing in the background. If that happens, it will give an error, and you will have to reissue the wake command.
  • If you don’t issue the second command within the five-second window, Alexa goes back into sleep mode, and you will have to reissue the wake command.
  • Follow-up mode is only available in English at the moment.
  • If you are currently listening to music or otherwise using Alexa for some other function, follow-up mode is disabled. That means you can’t have music already playing and issue two commands. You’re stuck going one command at a time until you shut the music off.

Follow-up mode is a pretty killer feature, one that Google should adopt for its line of Google Home products as well. Eventually, it would be incredible to be able to converse naturally with a virtual assistant, issuing multiple commands in complex sentences. The day where we can say something like, “Hey Google, turn on the lights and tell me what time my dentist appointment is tomorrow,” and Assistant understands all queries, will be a glorious day.

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