Amazon Echo Show’s new ‘Tap to Alexa’ accessibility feature is handy enough for anyone to use

Amazon has added a new accessibility feature to the Echo Show called “Tap to Alexa.” It’s meant to give people who are unable to interact with Alexa by voice, such as people with a speech impairment, a way to access most of the Echo Show’s features by using the touchscreen. It works by displaying a grid of customizable icons that execute Alexa tasks when tapped. While it’s meant to be used by impaired individuals, it’s actually hand enough that anyone might find it useful.

The new Tap to Alexa feature can be turned on in the Echo Show’s settings menu under the Accessibility option. Once enabled, an icon representing a hand tapping permanently appears in the lower right corner of the Echo Show’s home screen. The Tap to Alexa option is not present on my Echo Spot or Fire HD 10 in Show Mode, but it might be coming to other Alexa devices with touchscreens in the future.

Tapping the new icon on the home screen loads a grid of round icons for common Alexa tasks. Eight icons across two rows of four columns are displayed at once, but the screen can be swiped to move to additional pages of icons. There are eleven actions preconfigured by default, which include Weather, Timer, Music, Alarm, News, Shopping List, Traffic, To Do, Movies, Sports, and Joke.

Tapping most of the icons simply executes a corresponding Alex command, as if you spoke the command. Tapping the weather icon, for example, is equivalent to saying “Alexa, how’s the weather.” Tapping the music icon is like saying “Alexa, play some music.” The timer and alarm icons are slightly different, in that they bring up a touch interface to set timers and alarms. Several default timer amounts and alarm times are displayed to choose from, or you can enter a custom timer or alarm, all through the touchscreen without needing to say anything.

In the top right corner of the main Tap to Alexa interface are three options: Keyboard, Add, and Manage. Tapping the Manage option allows you to rearrange the order of the circular action icons on the screen and delete any that you don’t want. Tapping the keyboard icon brings up a full screen keyboard that is essentially a text interface for Alexa. You can type anything you want and Alexa will execute it as if you spoke it out loud.

Where the Tap to Alexa feature really gets powerful is its option to add your own Alexa actions to the touch interface. Tapping the Add icon in the corner brings up the same keyboard interface where you can type any Alexa command you want. This can literally be any text that you would normally speak to Alexa. After you’re done entering an Alexa command, you select an appropriate icon and enter a label for the action.

When you’re done, the new action will appear in the main interface with the icon and label you selected. Tapping it will execute the Alexa command you entered, as if you spoke it out loud to Alexa. This is a great way for anyone to have touch access to common Alexa tasks. You’re probably still going to speak to Alexa most of the time, since that’s the whole point of a voice assistant, but sometimes it’s handy having an alternative like this touch interface.

I personally don’t find the ambient information displayed on the Echo Show home screen useful, so I would much rather have this touch interface permanently displayed all the time. Unfortunately, that is not an option since the Tap to Alexa interface times out and returns to the regular home screen if left idle. As it is now, this new accessibility feature can give you a grid of handy custom Alexa actions that are just a couple touches away.

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9 comments
  1. H.E.C. says:

    Very nice addition to Echo Show functionality / UI.

    In the above example of “All Lights” – how would you configure the icon to “Toggle” the lights – i.e. to turn it on if in off state and vice versa. Does Alexa in general understand the “Toggle” command?

  2. Felix J. Torres says:

    This needs to go on the tablets.
    Maybe as a phone app, too.
    A godsend for home automation businesses.

    • Ray says:

      I’ll second that motion. I picked up a refurbished Amazon Fire HD 8 during the Prime Day frenzy primarily as an Echo Dot substitute. While the advantages are subtle, my favorite aspect is the ability to rewind audio streams, like news broadcasts, with the swipe of my finger. I do hope they port this Tap to Alexa to tablets soon. And while I’m at it, cheers to Amazon for constantly developing the Alexa platform. I’m an avid Apple customer, but it just seems like Apple’s products have languished, with little innovation, since Steve Jobs died. :/

  3. Farley says:

    SW version 611499020 not showing this option or my personal user error!

    The Show thus far has been lackluster and rather useless other than a clock radio, glad to see further development.

    • James Anderson says:

      The Echo Show is our landline. Our grandkids love to see us when calling. Just the feature alone has been great.

    • Glen says:

      Mine was showing the same version number and checking for a newer version said no new version. Rebooted it and then checked for a new version and it found the new software.

    • H.E.C. says:

      Mine have updated to 613508820 but still no Tap to Alexa option listed under Accessibility settings. I haven’t try to reboot the device though since the update.

      On another note – anyone have the experience (or issues) with using Echo Show outside of the “approved” countries (i.e. US, UK, Germany, Austria, Japan etc.) Amazon (video only) prime account linked to it? It seems to be unable to play any prime videos. The same goes for FTV and FTV sticks. Any advice on that?

  4. OG Charlie says:

    Really cool addition.

  5. Keith says:

    That’s a start but this device is really unimpressive so far.
    And I say this as the idiot who wound up with 3 of them!To me they’re like digital frames with Alexa built in.
    It’s got potential though.Itd be nice if I could pair 2 of them to the fire TV. The sound is pretty decent.

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