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Smart Home

Amazon's Alexa can now recognize your voice

Starting today, Alexa users can train the voice assistant to distinguish between different voices and offer each user personalized results.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa gets a cool new trick this week -- the ability to recognize your voice. Long-rumored to be in the works, Amazon is beginning to roll the feature out today, and expects it to be available to all Alexa users by the end of the week.

Starting today, you'll be able to train Alexa to recognize your voice.

Ry Crist/CNET

With voice recognition, Alexa will be able to tell who's talking to her and offer personally-tailored results -- a useful skill if you're sharing an Echo device with roommates or family members. And, if she doesn't recognize who's speaking, she'll just revert to the default Alexa experience.

To set it up, you'll need to navigate to the "Your Voice" section of the Alexa app's settings, then follow Amazon's instructions (you can also find an instructional video here). Once you've trained Alexa, she'll store your voice recognition info in the cloud, which means that it'll automatically apply to any other Alexa devices you purchase in the future.

Amazon tells us that the voice recognition feature will extend across the entire range of Echo devices, as well as many of the third-party Alexa devices not made by Amazon. That does not, however, include the battery-powered Amazon Tap.

To get started, you'll need to head to the setting section of the Alexa app to train her to recognize your voice.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

It's the latest development in the back-and-forth battle between Alexa and the Google Assistant, each one working to one-up the other with new features as they fight to earn a place in your home. In this case, Google got there first, introducing voice recognition for the Google Home smart speaker this past April. Now, six months later, Alexa evens the score.

As of today, Alexa will begin to use voice recognition to personally tailor calls and messages, flash briefings, shopping, and music playback via the Amazon Music Unlimited Family Plan. For instance, if I tell Alexa simply to "play music," she'll start playing songs based on my preferences. If my roommate asks, she'll play different songs that are better-suited to his tastes. 

When shopping, voice recognition will make it easier to make secure purchases. Users can already keep their kids from going on voice-activated shopping sprees by locking all purchases unless you give a code number. After using that code number one time with voice recognition enabled, Alexa will only ask for it in the future if she isn't sure it's you. Additional voice recognition use cases are on the way, Amazon says.

We'll be testing the new voice recognition feature out just as soon as the update arrives, so stay tuned for more details on how well it works, and how it compares with Google's approach.

Updated 10/12/17 to specify that voice recognition will not be coming to the Amazon Tap.