Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, can transform into Santa Claus especially for this festive season, the tech giant has revealed.
Users can say ‘Alexa, enable Hey Santa’ to hear him tell a story, sing a song, crack a joke, set a timer and more, as if he’s speaking down the phone from the North Pole.
The fun festive feature is sure to be particularly exciting for youngsters who want proof that Father Christmas exists in the run-up to the big day.
Users can also ask Alexa a range of Christmas-themed questions such as ‘Alexa, where is Santa?’ or ‘Alexa, how many days until Christmas?’, although these will return answers in Alexa’s standard robotised female voice.
The new Alexa feature lets families interact with Santa over the festive season, as if he’s speaking down the phone from the North Pole
‘We’ve introduced Santa, a new personality for Alexa that will bring Christmas cheer for the whole family,’ Amazon said.
‘You can ask Santa to tell you a story, sing a song, crack a joke, set a timer, and more, just say “Alexa, enable Hey Santa” to get started.’
Amazon has a long list of commands that will return answers in Santa’s voice, and another list that returns answers in the usual female Alexa voice.
Commands that start with ‘Hey Santa’ such as ‘sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ and ‘tell me about your reindeer’ will return responses in Santa’s voice.
Alexa as Santa can also sing has a festive duet with US singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor, by simply saying ‘Hey Santa, sing your duet with Meghan Trainor’.
INTERACT WITH SANTA VIA AMAZON ALEXA
Users can ask Santa to tell a story, sing a song, crack a joke, set a timer, and more; just say ‘Alexa, enable Hey Santa’ to get started
‘Hey Santa’ utterances to try (answered in Santa’s voice):
‘Hey Santa, sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas’
‘Hey Santa, sing the 12 Days of Christmas’
‘Hey Santa, sing Deck the Halls’
‘Hey Santa, tell me a story’
‘Hey Santa, tell me the North Pole news’
‘Hey Santa, tell me about your reindeer’
‘Hey Santa, can you laugh?’
‘Hey Santa, what is your favourite food?’
‘Hey Santa, merry Christmas’
‘Hey Santa, let’s dance’
‘Hey Santa, tell me a joke’
‘Hey Santa, let’s play a game’
‘Hey Santa, give me advice’
Christmas utterances to try with Alexa (answered in Alexa’s ususal voice):
‘Alexa, where is Santa?’
‘Alexa, sing a Christmas song’
‘Alexa, tell me a Christmas joke’
‘Alexa, how many days until Christmas?’
‘Alexa, do you like my Christmas jumper?’
‘Alexa, do you like my Christmas tree?’
‘Alexa, add roast potatoes to my shopping list’
‘Alexa, am I on the nice list?’
‘Alexa, will it snow on Christmas Day?’
‘Alexa, wake me up at 7am to Jingle Bells’
‘Alexa, tell me a Christmas story’
‘Alexa, how fast does Santa’s sleigh go?’
‘Alexa, what is Santa’s address?’
‘Alexa, what’s the best Christmas movie?’
‘Alexa, what do you want for Christmas?’
Amazon’s smart assistant powers the Echo speakers, including the spherical fourth generation Echo released in autumn 2020 (pictured)
ALEXA CAN NOW LISTEN OUT FOR BEEPING APPLIANCES
Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, can now listen out for running water and beeping home appliances in the US, the firm has revealed.
The tech giant has added both of these ‘sound detectors’ to Alexa Routines – sequences of tasks linked to Alexa that users can program as a shortcut.
It means Alexa can recognise the individual sounds and send a notification to the user via their device so they can attend to them.
If users want Alexa to detect the ping of a tumble dryer when it finishes a spin, for example, they can set up a routine for Alexa to send an alert.
Sight loss charity Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has also made messages from Santa available via Alexa.
Users just need to ask, ‘Alexa, read my RNIB Letter from Santa’ to hear the voice activated letter in Santa’s voice.
Other festive commands, such as ‘Alexa, do you like my Christmas jumper?’ and ‘Alexa, will it snow on Christmas Day?’ will return the normal female voice.
In case that’s not enough, Alexa can also help brainstorm your ideal Christmas day menu and help you shop for the required ingredients.
Users can just say, ‘Alexa, how do you make gingerbread?’ or ‘Alexa, how do you make mulled wine?’, for example.
Alexa users have already been able to hear celebrity voices coming out of their smart speaker as an alternative to the female voice – for example, former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal and actress Melissa McCarthy.
Users just need to say ‘Hey Shaq’ or ‘Hey Melissa’ to hear a selection of pre-recorded messages – although they don’t offer the same range of responses as the automated voices.
Users can also hear the distinctive tones of actor Samuel L. Jackson – known for his memorable dialogue in films like Pulp Fiction and Snakes on a Plane – simply by saying ‘Hey Samuel’.
Amazon also recently confirmed that it’s started rolling out the male version of its smart assistant voice to UK users.
There’s a short snippet of the voice here, which has a generic but robotic-sounding English accent.
In July, Amazon added ‘Ziggy’ as one of its ‘wake words’ – words that users can say before a command to make sure the smart assistant is listening – for US users.
The four other already-existing wake words are Alexa, Computer, Amazon and Echo.
Also, users can choose between either the male or female voice and use any of the wake words to activate them, meaning users could potentially start a command with the word ‘Ziggy’ and hear the female voice responding.
Amazon’s Alexa-powered wall-mountable Echo Show 15 – one of many new devices revealed at Amazon’s online unveiling event in September – started shipping on December 9.
AMAZON LAUNCHES ITS FIRST WALL-MOUNTED SPEAKER AND A ROBOT DOG AT UNVEILING EVENT
Amazon unveiled several new products at its online unveiling event in September, including an autonomous robot that can monitor a person’s home for intruders.
The $1,450 robot uses intelligent motion to check-in on your home while you’re away and give alerts about any disturbances.
It can move autonomously around your home, navigate to check in on specific areas, show a live view of rooms through the Astro app, or send alerts if it detects an unrecognised person.
Astro can move autonomously around your home, navigate to check in on specific areas, show you a live view of rooms through the Astro app, or even send alerts if it detects an unrecognized person
Astro will be priced at $1,450, but as part of Amazon’s Day 1 Editions program – which gives customers the chance get early access and contribute feedback – it will be available for an introductory price of $1,000.
Amazon also unveiled the Echo Show 15, a kids device called ‘Amazon Glow’ for them to share an ‘interactive projected space’ with loved ones and a new security doorbell.
The £240 ($250) Alexa-powered Echo Show 15 device boasts a 15.6-inch display that you can mount to your wall or place on your counter.
Users can hang it horizontally or vertically on a wall, like a photo frame, as it displays how-to videos, recipes from the web or shows streamed from Netflix and Spotify.
Echo Show 15 has a 15.6-inch display that you can mount to your wall or place on your counter
Echo Show 15 can display a live-stream from your smart doorbell, streaming services interfaces, personalized sticky notes to members of the family and much more.
If you’ve opted to hang it from the wall and want to disable the display, users can ask Alexa to show a photo frame, and Echo Show 15 just shows photos, so it blends into the background.
Amazon Glow, meanwhile, is a two-part device designed for children that lets them remotely connect with loved ones by participating in activities together.
During video calls on Glow, kids see a chat participants on a dedicated 8-inch display on a black device that looks almost like a retro walkie-talkie.
As they do so, they can be reading stories, playing games, and creating art on a 19-inch, touch-sensitive, ‘projected space’ that almost looks like a sheet of paper.
As children are enjoying engaging activities on the flat ‘projected space’, remote family and friends see the child on a tablet and participate in the same activities using a free Glow app.
Amazon says Glow combines ‘immersive projection, sensing and video technologies to make it feel like you’re having fun in-person’.
Read more: Here’s what Amazon announced at its autumn unveiling event