Tech rumors are fantastic. There is no shortage of them, about 50% turn out to be true and it gives us all something to write about. This weeks big rumor is that the Echo lineup may be getting push notifications.
For the unfamiliar, this is what your phone does when it alerts you that you have new mail, or a text, or your lives are full in Candy Crush. Basically a push notification is an unprompted action from your device. In the world of voice assistants, this would mean that Alexa could start talking to you without you ever asking for anything.
Anyone with a cell phone has probably experienced how annoying this can be when you suddenly get an Amber Alert or Hazardous Weather advisory. If you own a Nest Protect, you’ve probably been home when it decides to run a self test and starts talking out of nowhere. Sometimes it’s very helpful when our devices talk to us without being prompted, sometimes it’s incredibly annoying, and sometimes it scares the shit out of us.
Like it or not, developers have been begging Amazon to let them push notifications with Alexa. Naturally, this would have to come with a high degree of control for the users, and not be rolled out half baked like the Skills store. We would need to be able to control things like which skills are allowed to push notifications, when they can push notifications, what type of notifications we want from them, and be able to mute the whole notification system for a period of time.
I envision myself asking Alexa to notify me whenever the Yankees score, forgetting that they’re on the west coast, and getting alerts until two in the morning. Obviously Amazon would have to make the ability to set quiet times a priority, but what about when you’re just not home? I’ve seen what my dog does when my Nest Protect decides its time for a self test and no one is around. First the Protect starts talking, which sets my dog on alert, then it sounds a brief alarm, which sets my dog off barking for 20 minutes. Would this be the case with my Echo?
Another question revolves around multiple Echos and Dots in a house. Since they don’t sync audio across multiple units, would I wind up getting notifications from every unit in the house? Because that would get tired quickly.
On the upside, there are a lot of reasons why this could be an awesome feature. The aforementioned sports score update can come in handy, especially with out of market games. Having Alexa notify you that your Uber, or your pizza, is about to arrive would be helpful. Many people could benefit from severe weather updates. There are a lot of very helpful possibilities here.
Time will tell if Amazon is actually planning Echo push notifications, or if it is just a rumor. At this point, one site claims they have exclusive information about this, and the rest of us are just parroting their information. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t something that Amazon has been mulling over for a while. With the holiday season approaching, I expect Amazon to roll out some combination of new features and products for the Echo lineup. I’m hoping for audio syncing, but push notifications would be a welcome addition.