Voice assistants have been a standard feature of smartphones for a few years, but Amazon’s Echo was the first device that successfully brought the technology into a smart home product.
You can use a the Alexa voice assistant on an Amazon Echo to get news or weather updates by voice, play music, dim your smart light bulbs, and thousand of other things (although nobody is actually using most of those features).
But soon you may also be able to use an Alexa-powered device to do something else: make phone calls.
Recode reports that Amazon is developing a new Alex device that can be used both to call telephones and to make device-to-device calls, allowing the product to act as a sort of intercom. Put a few around your house and you can speak to other members of the family.
The report follows an earlier article from the Wall Street Journal that suggested both Google and Amazon were working on adding phone calling capabilities to their smart speakers, but Recode says what’s new is that it has spoken to sources that say Amazon has begun beta testing its product.
There’s no word on when it will launch or how the phone call capabilities will work: will the speaker be linked to your existing phone number or will you need a new number, for example?
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see intercom features come to existing devices, since, unlike phone calls, that wouldn’t require any additional hardware. But Recode doesn’t say anything about that possibility.