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Alexa's Echo Buttons can trigger your smart home routines now

All of a sudden, these cheap Alexa accessories sound pretty darned useful.

Ry Crist/CNET

Amazon introduced us to Echo Buttons last year amidst its annual September blitz of new Alexa gadgets. They seemed like kid-friendly novelties at best -- colorful Bluetooth buttons that sync with your Echo speaker to let you buzz in during things like Alexa trivia games. Aside from a few software upgrades aimed at getting developers to find new uses for them, we haven't heard much about them since.

You'll find Echo Buttons as a new option for triggering your Routines in the Alexa app.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

That changed today, as Amazon upgraded the Alexa app to allow users to trigger their Alexa Routines at the press of an Echo Button. That makes for a lot of sneaky new utility for those Echo Buttons, which sell in a two-pack for $20.

Possible uses include triggering smart home scenes or lighting changes with a single button push, or tapping a Button to instantly send a message to every Echo device in the house saying that dinner is ready. Routines can also trigger music playback, including songs and playlists from Spotify, as well as custom Alexa responses.

In short, there's a lot of room for creativity here. To get started, you'll need to make sure that your Alexa app is up to date. From there, head to the Routines section and select Echo Button as your trigger. The app will ask you to push the specific button you want to use, but aside from that, it's the same Routine-building process as before.

Amazon pitches Button-based Routines as a good fit for friends and houseguests who might need to trigger the smart lights without knowing your specific Alexa verbiage of choice. And yes, they could probably just as easily, you know, flip a light switch -- but then they'd miss out on that sweet lighting scene you spent minutes of your life putting together.

At any rate, we'll have to pick up a couple of Echo Buttons for the CNET Smart Home, then let you know what we think of triggering Routines with them in the near future.

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