New Alexa setting makes follow-up questions much easier to ask

Alexa is easily the current leader of the growing virtual assistant market, and Amazon is keen to stay ahead of competition from Google and Apple. The company's newest feature for Alexa is dubbed "follow-up mode," and it makes it easier for users to ask multiple questions in succession by dropping the need to repeat the wake-up command.

With follow-up mode, users can give Alexa commands or requests back to back, without having to say "Alexa" for each one. For example, you can ask the assistant to turn on the lights, and once that task is complete you can then tell it to adjust the temperature. This doesn't mean you combine commands into a single request, but it at least cuts down on the times you have to say "Alexa" in the same interaction.

The way it works is that Alexa continues to listen for commands for up to five seconds after completing the first. Any requests made within that time period don't need to repeat "Alexa." The additional listening period is denoted on Amazon's Echo speakers by the glowing blue ring; once it's no longer lit up, Alexa is back in sleep mode and requires the wake-up command.

Amazon notes that follow-up requests will only be acted on when Alexa is "confident" it didn't come from background noise, such as a TV show or conversation. It will take some time to see how accurately this works, and it's likely to be improved down the line. One current feature to address this issue is that users can say "thank you" or "stop" at the end of their commands to cut short the additional listening period and put Alexa back to sleep.

Follow-up mode is currently available for all Echo devices and several third-party products, however it is an opt-in setting by default and limited to English.