We’re all talking about Amazon’s two most recent product releases, the Echo Look and the Echo Show. With the release of the Echo Show, Amazon also introduced Alexa calling.
With Alexa Calling and the Echo Show, people are able to use their digital smart home assistant’s screen to activate video calling. The Echo Show, on its own, can also use its screen to tap into and display your feed from any connected, compatible device including video doorbells, baby monitors, and indoor and outdoor security cameras.
What I find most interesting about how the Echo Show device and Alexa Calling feature work together, however, is the Drop In feature. It’s appropriately named, as it basically lets someone access a live feed from an Echo Show without someone on that end accepting and approving that live feed. Think of it as working more like a video intercom system, where two devices in different rooms can connect and share video two-way. The two Echo Show devices that are connecting do not need to be in the same house, though. If you have a device at work, you can use it to tap into the device that you have at your home.
This feature has some potential for being useful, but it also has a high creep factor since the call and video connect automatically, without the receiver taking any action to actually answer. It feels like it is very intrusive. I can’t imagine opening up my home to allow anyone to have the control it without permission. I think of nosey neighbors falling through your bushes while trying to look into your windows, or an annoying family member that walks right into your house without being invited, and without knocking.
When someone activates the Drop In feature to another Echo Show, they will receive a “frosted glass” view for 10 seconds, and then the live video feed will start automatically. If you are the receiver, you will have those 10 seconds to reject the Drop In entirely, or to answer in audio-only mode. Ten seconds might sound like ample time, but I’m not sure that it is.
I guess if you switch the perspective, though, and think of yourself as the caller, there might be some useful applications for this feature that make it cool (but it’s also still creepy). The first thing to point out would be that Amazon is not promoting Drop In as a feature that you use for everyone. It is being promoted as a feature that is great for those that want it, such as the closest members of your family. They are also emphasizing that this feature is not something that is automatically activated on all Echo Show devices; it is opt-in only and you are not under any obligation to use it just because you have the smart home device.
Amazon is also focusing on the positive ways that this feature can be used, including a way to check in on elderly or sick relatives or an in-house intercom used to check on your family or announce dinner.
I’m interested to see what kind of hacks people find for using this feature.
So, what do you think: is the Amazon Echo Show’s Drop In feature cool or creepy?