Create motion-activated workouts on a newer Amazon Echo or Echo Dot

Do you want your Amazon Echo smart speaker to be able to automatically turn on the lights whenever someone walks into the room? Thanks to ultrasound technology, the new Echo and Echo Dot speakers can now do just that.

So-called “Occupancy Routines” are nothing new for camera-equipped Echo Show displays, including third-generation Echo Show 10 and second-generation Echo Show 8 and 5 devices. But now some Echo speakers can pull off the same trick without the need for a camera.

As Amazon previously announced at its fall hardware event, fourth-gen Echo and Echo Dot speakers (the fourth-gen Echo Dot with a clock also seems to count) can now use ultrasound to detect if people are nearby, which means it can configure Busy Routines for those two devices.

Amazon Echo Speaker Ultrasound Motion Detection Ben Patterson / IDG

You can enable or disable the motion detection capabilities of the ultrasound-enabled Echo and Echo Dot speakers.

What are occupation routines? Simply put, they are Alexa routines that are triggered by one of two things: the presence of people or the lack of them. For example, you can create an occupancy routine that has Alexa turn on the lights in a room when your fourth-generation Echo Dot detects people entering, while a second routine might turn off the lights when the speaker no longer detects movement.

Amazon notes that humans cannot hear the ultrasound emitted by Echo speakers (I can attest to that), and that ultrasound-driven motion detection takes place entirely on the device. That said, once motion is detected, Alexa will ping the cloud to trigger any motion-enabled routine.

Do you want to try it? Here’s how to get started.

How to Create a Motion Activated Routine on a Fourth Generation Echo or Echo Dot

  1. First, you’ll want to make sure that motion detection is enabled on your compatible Echo speaker. Open the Alexa app, tap the Devices tab, tap Echo and Alexa, tap an Echo speaker, then tap the Settings in the upper right corner of the screen. You will see a Motion detection fit under the general heading if the speaker supports the function. Tap it, then tap the switch to enable it.
  2. Next, it’s time to create a routine. Tap on the Plus tab, then tap Routines, followed by the “+” button in the upper right corner.
  3. Go ahead and name the new routine, then tap When this happens > Smart House, then touch an Echo or Echo Dot equipped with ultrasound. (You can also see other motion detection devices on the list, including compatible Echo displays, motion sensors, and security cameras.) Select whether the routine will be triggered when people are detected or are not detected, then tap Next.
  4. By default, your new routine will run “Anytime”. If you only want the routine to activate on certain days or at a certain time of day (for example, after dark), tap Changeand then select specific days and times. You can also set Alexa to “suppress” the routine to prevent it from waking up again too soon (although, as I’ll discuss in a moment, ultrasound-powered occupancy routines have a built-in cooldown period).
  5. Add the actions you want to be triggered when your Echo speaker detects (or doesn’t) detect movement, from turning on lights or playing music to telling a joke or reading the latest headlines.
  6. All finished? Tap Save money.

Now, a couple of things to keep in mind about your new ultrasound-enabled Alexa routines.

For starters (and according to Amazon), ultrasound-powered motion detection is designed to detect “important” movements (such as people entering a room), while more subtle movements (such as waving the hand) will likely go unnoticed.

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