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Prefer to invoke Alexa hands-free on your PC? You’re in luck. Amazon today rolled out an update to the Alexa for Windows app that enables it to listen for hot words through built-in and USB-connected microphones, including webcam mics. Prior to the upgrade, hands-free listening required a PC “acoustically tuned specifically for Alexa,” like the Acer Spin 5, Acer Aspire 5, or HP Envy.
“This means you can easily invoke Alexa regardless of whether the app is running in the foreground or background — all you need to do is ask,” reads the app’s release notes. “Customers can toggle between hands-free Alexa and a push-to-talk experience at any time.”
Amazon notes that the app will update automatically after it’s launched. Alternatively, you can kick off the process manually by heading to the corresponding Windows Store page.
The Alexa app previously came preinstalled on select PCs from manufacturers, but it became broadly available through the Windows Store in the U.S., U.K., and Germany last November. Like Alexa-powered smart speakers and smart displays, it affords control over smart home devices and reads aloud your calendars, and it features elements of Microsoft Fluent Design like acrylic panels and compatibility with Windows 10’s dark mode.
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The Amazon for PC app’s latest improvements come months after Microsoft and Amazon launched an Alexa-Cortana public preview for Echo speakers and Windows 10 PCs. As part of the integration, users can say “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” to summon Alexa on Windows 10 PCs or “Alexa, open Cortana” to pull up Cortana on a range of Echo smart speakers.
“The world is big and so multifaceted,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said of the partnership in August 2017. “There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience.”
More recently, in September, Microsoft introduced Xbox voice control via skills for Cortana and Alexa. Users can power-toggle the console, launch apps and games, play movies, record gameplay, and take screenshots with voice commands.
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