Alexa’s new Follow-Up Mode can handle back-to-back requests


If you have a habit of peppering Alexa with multiple questions and commands, you’ve probably gotten used to saying “Alexa” over and over to keep waking up the digital assistant. Now, Amazon has a new feature called “Follow-Up Mode” that’s designed to make exchanges like that feel more natural.

The basic idea is simple, and obvious in hindsight. With Follow-Up Mode, Alexa will listen for 5 seconds after she’s done responding to you to see if you have anything else to ask. The blue ring on your Alexa device of choice will light up during these 5 seconds to indicate that she’s listening. If you have anything else to ask her, you can just ask it without needing to say her name first. If you don’t, she’ll just go back to sleep automatically without saying anything else.

The blue light on your Echo device will light up whenever Alexa is listening for a follow-up question.

Ian Knighton/CNET

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that Alexa can handle multiple commands at once. You can’t, for instance, say, “Alexa, turn off the lights and set the thermostat to 68.” What you can do is string those commands together in successive requests, like this:

To enable Follow-Up Mode, head to the Settings section of the Alexa app, then select your Alexa device and turn the feature on.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

You: “Alexa, turn off the lights.”
Alexa: “OK.” [continues listening]
You: “Set the thermostat to 68.”
Alexa: “OK, the heat is set to 68.”

Amazon says Alexa will only respond to follow-ups if she’s “confident” that it’s a legitimate request and not just background noise, so I’ll be curious to see how good she is at distinguishing between the two. Amazon also notes that you can end the “conversation” in relatively normal fashion by saying something like “thank you,” or “stop,” while she’s listening for a follow-up.

To enable Follow-Up Mode on your Alexa device, open the Alexa app and head to the settings. Select the device in question, then scroll down and toggle the Follow-Up Mode slider into the on position (it’s off by default). 

The feature appears to be an option for the entire Echo lineup, as well as some third-party Alexa devices, though it’s currently only available for US English. It also won’t activate while you’re listening to music, streaming an audiobook or making an Alexa call.

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