Alexa can now sense your presence. Why that's not creepy but actually cool Don't worry, Alexa is still a ways off from becoming sentient. We think.


The new second-gen Amazon Echo Show features a person detection feature that can control other smart home gadgets like lights and outlets.

New Amazon Echo Show Smart Display has started shipping across the country with a host of New features and tricks — One of which I’ve been eagerly waiting for: person detection. Although Alexa can’t differentiate between Google’s Face Match or Apple’s FaceID between different people, new echo show 8, Echo Show 5 and Echo Show Kids can at least find out if someone — anyone — is in the room with them. Although that’s a pretty cool job in itself, what interested me most was what Alexa can now do with that information.

Namely, you can now use person detection to fire off a set of commands Alexa Routines. Think of the lights that change depending on whether someone is in the room. An air conditioner or space heater that turns on or off based on occupancy. Your front door may shut. If there’s no one in the foyer, your bedtime routine may begin when you open your bedroom door, your garage door may shut, your kitchen may fill with songs — it It’s all based on whether someone is there or not.

Of course, there’s usually a slight difference between how to hawk a new feature and how it works in the real world, and Alexa’s person detection is no exception. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a great new trick, but it does come with some limitations, which I’ll explain in a bit after showing you how to set it up.

First, though, there are a few things you need to know about: a hidden setting you can’t change (but still requires an account), plus another minor (but important) one to consider. Limit.

echo-show-8-2nd-gen-1

It’s important to note that Alexa on your Echo Show must go a full 7 minutes without detecting a person before the person detection trigger is activated again.

Alexa’s person detection has a cool-down period

When I first started testing Alexa’s new person detection feature, I was convinced it wasn’t working. I set up a brand new Echo Show 8 on my desk and aimed it at myself while I worked. Next to it, I placed a desk lamp, which I then plugged into a smart outlet. I created a simple routine that asked Alexa to turn on that smart outlet whenever the Echo Show 8 detected a person, and still — no matter how much typing, suspicious layering, or frantic thrashing of the limbs — she Dagon Light never came.

I was almost ready to write off the new feature as DOA when an Amazon representative informed me that Alexa follows a 7-minute cool-down period between person detection events. To test it, I moved the Echo Show 8 to another room, turned off the smart plug, and set a 7-minute timer. When the alarm went off, I went to another room. Look and behold, my presence kick-started the routine, the desk light lit up – and my dilemma was solved.

The takeaway here is this – if you set up a routine with a new person detection trigger, then – for whatever reason – turn off the devices used in that routine (either manually or through the app). with), Alexa won’t turn on until you’ve been missing for at least seven minutes, then turn them on again.

philips-hue-motion-sensor-product-photo-5.jpg

A true motion sensor, such as this one from Philips Hue, uses ultrasonic sound to detect motion, allowing it to still function in the dark.

Alexa isn’t really a motion detector

Most motion sensors work using ultrasonic sound waves, which means they do not rely on light conditions to detect motion. Alexa, however, uses a camera and a computer processor to detect whether someone is in the room, and that means the Echo Show has to be looking at you before Alexa can know.

In my testing, Alexa almost never noticed when I entered a room, unless it was bright enough to read at least one print magazine. To me, that person detection trigger is essentially useless for turning on the nightlight, which is a major drawback. If this is your goal, you may need to consider dedicated motion sensors.

With all that said, here’s how to find the person and how to use it with Alexa Routines:

Echo Show 8 second generation during thunder

The new Echo Show 8 can detect a person as long as there is at least a moderate amount of light in the room.

To enable Alexa’s person detection, first check this setting

I recently discovered a new Alexa setting called home surveillance who changes you Echo Show’s webcam in a security camera (or something quite like that). Basically, Home Monitoring lets you check your Alexa camera feed in real time without having to share selfie videos during a video call. Whether or not you want to use such a feature, Home Monitoring also needs to be turned on before person detection can work. you can get Find out more about Home Monitoring here, but here’s what you need to do to enable person identification:

1. starting on echo show device itself, swipe down from the top of the screen and tap Adjustment, then scroll down and tap camera.

2. Make sure it is toggled for home surveillance is on and, if not, tap to do so.

once you start home surveillance, in addition to appearing in the places you’d expect, such as below Echo and Alexa, Your Alexa device will now appear in equipment submenu of alexa app under which cameras (That’s also where you’ll find the live video feed, FYI).

Get started with a super-simple Alexa routine like this one

Alexa Person Detection Routine

Here’s a very basic Alexa routine in which the person’s identity triggers a light to come on.

Before attempting to design any lengthy, complex automations based on person detection, I wanted to understand how this feature works using a dead-simple routine. To that end, I plugged a small desk lamp into a smart plug and set it to turn on whenever the Echo Show 8 detected a person. Here’s how to do it exactly like I did:

1. open to alexa app tap more more Tap Menu in the lower right corner, then a routine.

2. tap + (Plus) in the upper right corner, then tap Sign in enter regular name (I called mine “show 8 motion on”) and tap next when you are finished.

3. Tap when it happens, then tap smart home and then tap on echo show name The device you want to use to locate the person.

4. The next screen will present two options: people found out and people didn’t know. For this routine, select the first one, then tap next. (we will use people didn’t know option in the next example.

5. Tap add action Then scroll all the way down and tap smart home. Tap all equipment and scroll until you find device You want to be controlled by this routine (mine was “desk lamp“) and tap it.

6. The next screen sets what the device does when this routine is run — in this case, the box next to Power should be checked and toggle must turn On, then tap next.

7. Your routine should look like the following screenshot. Tap save. The Alexa app will now double check that you followed all the steps in the previous section to turn on Home Monitoring – tap next and done.

Once you’ve mastered those steps, building up a more complex routine with even more commands is literally a matter of repeating steps 5 and 6 as many times as necessary. What it doesn’t do, however, is turn the light (or whatever device you turned on) off again. For that, you’ll need another routine (one that’s pretty easy this way, quite frankly).

What should be on should be turned off: Alexa routine upside down

Alexa Person Detection Routine Off

Here’s the opposite of the previous routine – it turns off the lights when people are not detected.

Setting up a routine to turn off devices when people are not detected is almost identical to turning on the previous example. Instead of copypasting all the previous steps, I’ll save the two of us the trouble and just point out three steps that are slightly different:

  • step 2: To keep things neat and tidy, I have named this routine.”8 Show Motion Off
  • step 4: Instead of people found out, you would like to choose people didn’t know.
  • Step 6: leave it Power Check box checked, but tap toggle to turn it on Close.

If this isn’t your first Alexa routine rodeo, you may be curious why I didn’t combine these two routines into one. After all, Alexa has a Wait function, isn’t it?

However, it may very well be possible to create a longer routine to handle both the on and off tasks, given my trip-up with the unpublished 7-minute cool-down period and the finding that Alexa is effective in the dark. Visually blind, I kept them separate for simplicity. Plus, it’s not uncommon to find that a routine has unintended consequences, and when you keep things separate like this it’s much easier to isolate and correct them.

In other words, I am still testing this feature and will continue to do so for some time. I’ll come back and update this story when I’m actually using person detection as a regular trigger and have something new to share.

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