The Alexa app on Windows 10. Credit: Amazon
Amazon updated its Alexa app for Windows 10 today with hands-free activation. The voice assistant previously had to be manually activated on Windows 10, but with the new update, users will be able to summon the virtual helper to their PC simply by saying "Alexa" when the system is running.
This update brings Alexa on Windows 10 closer to the experience on other devices and more in line with other voice assistants. Most now respond to a specific activation phrase--or Wake Word in Amazon's parlance--to spare people from having to fumble with their devices. Alexa responds to "Alexa" by default, just like Siri listens for "Hey Siri" on Apple devices and Google Assistant waits to hear "OK Google" before offering a (virtual) helping hand.
This Alexa update will be automatically installed the next time the app is launched. From that point, saying the Wake World will "invoke Alexa regardless of whether the app is running in the foreground or background," though users can still opt for push-to-talk activation.
While requiring someone to actually press a button can help avoid problems of the service accidentally recording, it also reduces the convenience Alexa can offer, so letting people choose the option they're most comfortable with makes sense.
Amazon said the updated Alexa app for Windows 10 is available now from the Microsoft Store. The update also introduces the ability to listen to Pandora radio stations via Alexa as well as "the same features people know and love about the experience, including the ability to control smart home devices, manage calendars, play music, access tens of thousands of skills, and more." And fear not: Alexa's expansion won't be the end of Cortana.