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Amazon's Cloud ESP just made every third-party Alexa gadget a better listener

The Amazon Echo's ESP feature makes it so only the Alexa device closest to you responds to your question. Now, new cloud-based software will make it much easier for Alexa gadgets not made by Amazon to follow suit.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology | Wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
2 min read

One of the biggest parts of Amazon's strategy for expanding the voice-activated Alexa ecosystem is to help third-party manufacturers make Alexa gadgets of their own. That's led to a bounty of new devices that feature the popular voice assistant, but they haven't always been able to incorporate all of Alexa's best features.

Chief among these: ESP, or "Echo-spatial perception," which makes it so that only the Echo speaker closest to you responds to your question or command. It's pretty much essential if you live in a home with more than one Alexa gadget, but since it requires device-side integration, a lot of those third-party gadget-makers were forced to launch their gadgets without it.

The result? Well, just watch the video clip below.

Fortunately, Amazon's been working on a fix called Cloud ESP that lets those third-party gadgets add in ESP with a simple software update. It's been quietly rolling out for the past few months, Amazon's team says, and has now been automatically applied to the entire catalog of Alexa gadgets Amazon doesn't make itself.

"Alexa continues to become increasingly integrated with people's lives as she is enabled across more devices from a range of manufacturers," said Priya Abani, director of Amazon Alexa. "By automatically enabling all devices to take advantage of ESP, customers are given the best experience with Alexa across the growing number of devices and Alexa-enabled experiences."

As for gadgets that already added ESP via the old method, an Amazon spokesperson adds the following:

"Cloud ESP has been automatically rolled out to all Alexa-enabled devices, which means any products that did not have a device-side ESP implementation now have the new cloud-based version live on their product. Developers who used a device-side implementation can continue using the current model, or choose to upgrade to cloud ESP to free additional resources and bandwidth."

The news comes during a busy week for Alexa that's also seen the debut of new equalizer controls for Echo speakers, as well as a new "Tap to Alexa" feature for the Echo Show and Echo Spot touchscreen smart speakers that's designed to make the assistant more accessible to the deaf and speech-impaired.

There's a dizzying number of Alexa devices not made by Amazon

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