Amazon Innovations

Alexa’s Next Mission: Voice Calls Without A Smartphone

Next up for Amazon’s Echo, powered by Alexa: voice and video calling.

In an interview with CNBC, Rohit Prasad, VP and head scientist at Alexa Machine Learning, said the next hugely popular function on the Echo devices will be voice or video calling, in which Alexa removes the need to have your mobile device with you all the time.

“If you have not played with calling, and the video calls on Echo Show, you should try it, because that is revolutionizing how you can communicate,” Prasad said in the interview with CNBC. “When you can drop in on people who have given you access – so I can drop in and call my mom in her kitchen without her picking any device – it’s just awesome.”

Prasad told CNBC that being able to communicate via Alexa devices is one of the ways to reduce the dependency on a smartphone. “I can easily drop in and talk to my kids,” he said. “They don’t have a smartphone, so that’s my easiest way to talk to them. It’s yet another area where Alexa is taking the friction away.” The executive declined to comment when asked if Amazon is working on a smartphone or smart glasses to make calls.

For weeks now, speculation has abounded that Amazon would enable Alexa to make calls. Earlier this month, AFTVnews reported that Amazon is expanding the ability to make phone calls to devices that are not Alexa-enabled. Launched back in May, the service originally allowed Echo users to make free calls to any other Alexa-enabled devices. According to the report, anyone with the Alexa app can now make free phone calls to any U.S., Canadian or Mexican phone number without needing any additional hardware. Additionally, the report said those on the receiving end will have no indication the call is coming from Alexa’s app instead of from the mobile phone carrier.

Users can make phone calls either by saying the person’s name or speaking the phone number. Via voice commands, users can control the volume of the call and end the conversation – although they won’t be able to get calls from landline phones without the Echo being plugged into a landline phone, noted the report.

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