Amazon Alexa Learns Follow-Up Mode For Back-To-Back User Input, More Natural Conversation

Amazon is working hard on teaching its Alexa Voice AI some new tricks. Recently Alexa gained the ability to play music that you have heard previously even if you don’t know the track name. Amazon has now rolled something much more useful into its digital assistant with a new "Follow-up Mode." With this new mode, Alexa continues to listen for five seconds after it responds to your command, at which point you can follow-up for more natural dialog with the AI assistant.

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In function, this means you can say "Alexa, dim the lights" and then within five seconds you can issue another command without having to say "Alexa" again. The blue ring atop the Echo device will stay lit during its five-second listening phase. If you are a heavy Amazon Echo device user, this will mean you don’t have to say, Alexa, all the time.

If you don’t issue another command during those five seconds, Alexa will go back to sleep without the user having to do anything else. Amazon says that Alexa will respond to follow-up commands during that time, only if she is confident that it is a legitimate command. The concern here by users might be that during that five-second listening phase, Alexa might hear what it thinks are commands from a normal conversation and try to act on them.

Alexa does have a history of hearing commands even when they aren’t said, so this is a legitimate concern for users. If you want to kill that five second listening period after a command is issued, you can end the conversation by saying "stop" or "thank you." It's also worth noting that Alexa is still unable to string multiple commands together. This means you can't say "Alexa, dim the lights and play Marvin Gaye" You have to say "Alexa, dim the lights" and then when Alexa replies "ok" you can say "Play Marvin Gaye" within that five-second window.

You also must enable Follow-Up Mode for the Alexa device via the app. The setting is in the settings for the device in question and all a user has to do is flick the slider to turn the feature on. Follow-up Mode is an option for all Echo devices and some third-party Alexa devices for U.S. English.