Amazon Echos can now detect if you’re in the room — what you need to know

Amazon Echo (4th-gen)
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Back in September, during its big Amazon event, the company mentioned that an ultrasound feature would be coming to the fourth generation Echo and Echo Dot devices. It's a feature designed to detect if there are any people in the room at any given moment.

The idea here is that the Echo will be able to detect whether anyone is around, and switch connected devices on or off as a result. That feature is now arriving this week, and here's what you need to know.

The Echo devices will be able to use an “inaudible ultrasound wave” that detects when people are in the room. It's a bit like sonar, and its purpose is similar to the Echo Show’s motion-sensing capabilities — albeit using sound instead of a camera.

The feature can be enabled or disabled in the settings menu for each compatible device in the Alexa app. You'll want the Motion Detection settings, which can be toggled on and off. L:ikewise you can set up new occupancy routines to actually put this feature to work.

Examples include being able to turn lights on and off as you move around the house, having Alexa play music when someone is within range, and so on. It’s nothing particularly outlandish, especially since Alexa already supports routine support for various third-party motion sensors. The ultrasound just takes out the middleman by letting the Echo do all the hard work.

Amazon isn’t the only one doing this either. Google uses ultrasound in Nest devices, which allows it to sense how close people are. Depending on their proximity, the display will then offer up a different interface while Nest Mini speakers highlight volume controls when someone closes in. 

However, Google Assistant doesn’t let you use ultrasound detection to trigger any Google Home routines.

The feature is going to start arriving this week, so keep an eye on the Alexa app ready to tinker with the various new routines available to you. If you’re not sure how, check out our guide on how to create an Alexa smart home routine. You should also check out the best Alexa skills, to make sure you’re getting the most out of your virtual assistant.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.