Amazon invented ESP so multiple Dots won't echo through your house

Bruce Brown
Amazon invented ESP so multiple Dots won't echo through your house
Amazon wants virtual voice assistants in every room but needed a way to keep them all from answering at once. Enter Echo Spatial Perception. ESP knows where you are so you don't have multiple Alexas talking at once.

Will Echo speakers echo through the house? In the competition to fill everyone’s house with virtual voice assistants, Amazon enjoys a huge lead thanks to the tremendous success of the Amazon Echo smart speaker. But the first Echo and Echo Dot versions have an annoying habit — when more than one is in hearing range, they all answer. Now the problem of multiple Alexas answering your request has been solved, according to CNET.

The Amazon Echo and the Echo Dot speakers answer to “Alexa” by default. You can configure two of them to respond to “Amazon” or “Echo” in order to differentiate three speakers, but it would be annoying to have to remember the cylindrical or hockey puck-shaped speakers’ different “names.” Amazon’s solution is much more elegant and certainly more fitting for a smart appliance.

Related: Amazon’s $50 Echo Dot promises same functionality at a fraction of the size

The latest Amazon Echo and Echo Dot update introduces a new feature called “Echo Spatial Perception,” or ESP.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re walking through your house and you pause in the living room to ask, “Alexa, what’s the temperature outside?” Assume you have Echo Dots in the great room, the kitchen, and an adjacent year-round sunroom. Prior to ESP, all three would definitely hear you and each would answer your question. Annoying.

With the ESP update, the various Echo devices in your home are made aware of each other and can tell which is closest to you. All three would light up  — the Echo and Echo Dot’s indication they heard you — but only the closest one answers your question.

When CNET tested ESP with the original Amazon Echo and both generations of Echo Dots they worked as promised. The quick distance-to-voice check adds a step while the speakers calculate which is closest. In most tests, there was no response lag but the reviewer did notice a slight delay once or twice.

While Google and Apple are gearing up their respective virtual voice assistants to compete with Amazon’s Echo line, ESP removes a minor barrier to any household that wants to go completely Dot-y.