Amazon’s Alexa just became a bit more useful thanks to the addition of new features aimed at commuters, weather watchers, and basketball fans. They build on previous commute-, weather-, and sport-related Alexa services introduced throughout the past year, and point to Amazon’s bid for dominance in the growing voice-enabled devices market.
Now you can ask Alexa to send information about your commute, traffic conditions, or directions to a destination directly to your phone. Simply say “Alexa, how is the traffic to the airport?” within earshot of any Alexa-enabled device. Once Alexa gives you the requested update, you can then say “Alexa, send that to my phone,” at which point Alexa will confirm and send a tappable notification to your phone that will start route guidance within your default maps app.
It’s worth pointing out that Google Assistant on Google Home could already send information to phones, including directions, traffic information, and sports standings. Alexa’s feature would appear to put the two assistants roughly on a par in that regard.
In somewhat related news, Alexa can now proactively notify you when there’s severe weather. Say “Alexa, tell me when there’s a severe weather alert” and Alexa will alert you when there’s a local severe weather warning. This adds to the small but growing list of proactive notifications Alexa actively supports, such as notifications for when artists you follow drop a new album or single, updates on shopping and news, and notifications from select third-party skills (like those from the Washington Post, AccuWeather, and Life360).
Lastly, you’re now able to watch video highlights from NBA games on any Alexa-enabled device with a screen. Say “Alexa, play the Lakers highlights” to access video highlights from the team’s most recent game or ask “Alexa, play the NBA highlights” to see all the most recent NBA highlights. It’s an extension of the existing partnership between Amazon and NBA, which in 2018 saw Amazon begin offering live games from NBA League Pass as part of its Prime Video Channels service.
Alexa last month gained the ability to add items to shopping lists by barcode — the Echo Show 5 and Echo Show 8 can scan the barcodes of common grocery items to add to the voice assistant’s built-in list. As of late January 2020, Alexa can also set timers and alarms for a specific device using voice. For example, you can now say to any device “Alexa, set an alarm for 6 a.m. on my bedroom Echo” or “Alexa, set a five-minute timer on Kitchen Echo.”