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Alexa adds whisper mode, a godsend to parents

Alexa now knows not to wake the baby and can help kids with daily routines.

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Amazon announced new Alexa features especially for parents with small children. 

Ian Knighton/CNET

Amazon is adding smarts to its voice assistant Alexa to help make life a little easier for busy parents.

On Thursday the company said it's giving Alexa, which powers its Echo line of products, two new features specifically geared toward families with small children. First it's added a "whisper" mode, in which Alexa will respond to commands in a whisper so as not to wake a sleeping baby. Amazon has also added a "routines" feature to its Echo Dot Kids Edition that lets parents create custom Alexa commands they can use to listen to music, turn the lights on and off, and other daily common tasks.

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Echo Dot Kids Edition is an Echo Dot that includes a colorful bumper around it. Parents can set the device to a new version of Alexa that's more kid friendly, with simplified language, more follow-up answers to typical kid questions and new parental controls.

The features were announced as part of an event in Seattle to introduce several new products in the Echo line. 

Google is aggressively expanding its line of Echo devices to keep pace with competitors. Amazon first launched the original Echo in 2014. The device became a hit for the company and helped usher in a new era of voice computing. Now Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft are racing to build up their own voice assistants and integrate them into more devices to catch Amazon. In addition to adding several new Echo products, Amazon is also enhancing the software features of Alexa to make it stand out from the pack. 

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