Alexa wishlist: Six features we'd like to see added to Alexa's core capabilities

We asked our readers and social networking followers what features they wanted to see. Their answers might surprise you.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

It started with just one. Soon, there was a second in the bedroom. Within a year, they multiplied. We had six standing guard and listening. Five years later, we have a total of 10 Alexas listening to us: One in each of two bedrooms; one in each of two offices; one each in the kitchen, workshop, living room, and back porch. We even have one in each bathroom.

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You may think this is excessive, and, of course, it is. But we're not alone. When I put out a call asking for Alexa wishlist features, most had to do with multi-device situations. Plus, with the pandemic going on, expect hands-free operation through devices like Alexa to become even more entrenched in our daily lives.

In this article, I'm going to share with you the wished-for features requested by my Facebook and Twitter correspondents. Now, let me be clear. I didn't want features that could be accomplished by Alexa skills. I wanted features that need to be baked into each Alexa itself (herself?).

I'm also reasonably sure we haven't hit on everything, so feel free to add your wishlists in the comments below.

Multi-device mitigation

The biggest category of desired features is improving multi-device performance. We have this problem all the time. Our kitchen is separated from our living room by an entrance hallway -- but, even so, sometimes, when we tell Alexa something while in the living room, the kitchen device responds.

Also: After a month of Alexa in every room: The good, the bad, and the creepy

This is frustrating. We have changed the wake words for some of our machines (the bathroom and bedroom Alexas use different wake words, for example), but it would be nice if the sensing algorithm Alexa uses was just a little smarter about which device is being addressed.

More voices

Alexa allows you to change your alarm sound. For a few years, it would allow you to use various celebrity voices including Alec Baldwin. But while it still has some alternate sounds, they're no Baldwin.

What we really want are more voices. Why can't Alexa be a guy? Why can't Alexa sound like Michael Caine in Batman or Patrick Stewart in Picard? Or, if you want to keep it in the Amazon family, why can't I say, "Jeremy, what time is it?" and have The Grand Tour's Jeremy Clarkson answer?

Also: This is what happens when Amazon's Alexa decides to take over

I mean, let's get serious here. When my wife and I drove across the US, we didn't use a map. We simply entered our destination into the TomTom, and Snoop Dogg guided us from Florida to Oregon. Sure, there was that time outside Bend when Snoop sent us down a dirt road... but, generally speaking, we put our lives in Snoop's hands and felt protected and reassured.

Why can't we have Snoop in our Alexa? We'd pay the same $12.95 we paid for his voice in the TomTom.

Or, do you have any idea how much I'd pay (probably $12.95) to have Winston Churchill in my bathroom (wait, that sounded wrong), Snoop in my living room, Alexa in my bedroom (because the familiar is always comforting when trying to go to sleep), and Jeremy Clarkson in my garage?

Alexa team, get on this.

More wake words

Alexa responds to Alexa, Echo, Computer, and Amazon. We want more. I'd feel so much more comfortable if I could say, "Snoop, is it all going to be okay?" I know he'd give us a reassuring answer.

Also: Dueling Alexas: With the Amazon Echo Tap and Dot, Alexa needs more names

Teaching polite interactions

OK, so we're getting away from multi-device integration, but I think this wishlist item from one of my readers is important and worthy of attention. He writes, "I would like it to have an algorithm that rewards 'Please' and 'Thank you.' Lots of kids are using these things."

That's such a great idea. Rather than training our kids that they can just call out into the air and make a demand, it would be great to add some encouragement for being on best behavior.

Better location smarts

Another reader said this: "I live in Centerville, a village in Barnstable, Massachusetts. If I ask for the weather, Alexa gives the local weather. But if I ask for the weather in Centerville, she gives the weather for Centerville, Virginia. I have to ask specifically for weather in Barnstable, Massachusetts to get back to local weather."

I get this a lot. We have a Dallas and a Salem here in Oregon. But I've found that if I ask "Alexa, is it raining in Dallas?" she sometimes responds with the weather in Dallas, Texas. Likewise, she sometimes confuses Salem, Oregon with Salem, Mass.

Oddly enough, Oregon tends to steal names from other places: Portland, Ore., from Portland, Maine; Albany, Ore., from Albany, NY.; Springfield and Medford, Ore., from Springfield and Medford, Mass.; Redmond, Ore., and Redmond, Wash., and on and on and on. Bend. Wilsonville. Happy Valley. Sherwood. Lebanon. Ontario. Monmouth. Newport. Independence. Florence. Seaside. Phoenix. Lafayette. Harrisburg. Toledo. Dayton. Union. Durham. Lowell. Oakland. Glendale. Even Mount Vernon.

Seriously, Alexa should always be able to tell by geolocation or the zip code on the account where you are, and never confuse Detroit, Ore., with Detroit, Kan.

Status data

One of my Facebook correspondents wants better awareness. He suggested, "Alexa, what's your network connectivity status?" Or "Alexa, what's your remaining battery life?" Or "Alexa, which device are you?" for a home with multiple devices.

It would be nice to simply ask, "Alexa, how are you feeling?" and get a rundown of everything from upload/download speeds to Wi-Fi signal strength, to round-trip time on the internet.

What's your wish?

So that's our main wishlist. What features would you like to see baked into Alexa? What name would you like her (or him) to respond to? Whose voice would you like to hear on your Alexa? Let us know below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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