Amazon’s Echo will soon get notifications from Alexa skills

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Amazon is bringing one of the best and worst smartphone features to Alexa: notifications.

Sometime in the next few months, Amazon’s Echo devices and third-party Alexa devices will be able to receive notifications from any developer that decides to build them into their Alexa skill. All notifications will be opt in, and they won’t be read aloud until prompted by a user asking, “Alexa, what are my notifications?”

Notifications will show up in two ways: the device will emit a chime — so there will be some immediate, and potentially disruptive, sign that a notification has come in — and its light will begin to glow green. (If the device doesn’t have a light, it’ll have to present some other visual indication.)

This is pretty much exactly what Amazon is doing for Alexa’s voice messaging service, letting the device subtly indicate that something on the device is pending.

The first Alexa skills to add notifications will be AccuWeather, The Washington Post, Just Eat, and Life360. The Post will send notifications for breaking news (just imagine this scoop read by Alexa), Just Eat will send order confirmations, and AccuWeather will deliver weather updates.

It sounds like this is all still at least a couple months out. Amazon says developers will be able to start building their skills in “the coming months” and that hardware partners will be able to start updating their devices to support notifications in “the coming weeks.” By announcing now, developers can start planning — plus, Amazon gets some attention right ahead of the expected Google Home news tomorrow.

While it fully makes sense to bring notifications to Alexa, it’s easy to imagine these quickly becoming overwhelming and annoying. It’s not clear if Amazon has set limits on how frequently developers can send through notifications, but either way, anyone who owns an Alexa device will likely have to carefully police which apps are useful and restrained enough to grant notification access, too. Otherwise, that light’s just going to glow green forever.

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