Video calls have become clutch this year, and just in time for the holidays, Amazon is launching the ability to do group video and audio calls via Amazon Echo devices.
The group calling feature will allow up to seven people to join a group call using commands like, “Alexa, call my family.” Users will be able to create groups, and once that group is created, any member can then initiate either a video or audio call—provided they have a supported device, such as the Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show. In the U.S., Amazon is also adding compatibility with Zoom and Amazon Chime, but you’ll have to have an Echo Show 8.
Amazon is also enabling a near real-time captioning feature for one-on-one video and audio calls, as well as Drop Ins, which is a nice touch. This only applies to Echo Show devices, but is actually a pretty cool feature for folks who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Amazon is also enabling children with a Fire Kids Edition tablet or a Fire tablet loaded with the Amazon Kids app to make Alexa-to-Alexa voice and video calls—but only to contacts pre-approved by their parents.
A lot of this dependent on whether your social group has Amazon Echo devices. But, you know, it is the gift-giving season, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a coincidence that Amazon is enabling this now as an incentive to pick its gadgets over similar competitors. That said, if your family or friend group is invested in the Alexa ecosystem, this could be a convenient alternative to other paid video-conferencing software, and potentially frees you from having to sit in front of a desktop or phone. As an added bonus, according to the Verge, these group calls don’t have a time limit—which could be good or bad depending on how long-winded your family video calls are.
Update, 12/21/2020, 12:05 pm: A previous version of this article included the phrase “Alexa, join my Zoom meeting” for group calls but this feature is only available for users with the Echo Show 8. We’ve rephrased to be clearer.