The ‘Drop In’ feature lets you use the Amazon Echo Show as an intercom or security camera

One of the more ambiguous features of the new Amazon Echo Show that was revealed this morning is a feature of the device’s video calling capabilities called “Drop In.” If not understood, it can easily be misinterpreted as an invasion of privacy, but if used correctly, it gives the Echo Show several additional use cases. Here’s exactly how the drop in feature works and how to use it without compromising your privacy.

The Echo Show’s drop in feature enables you, the device owner, to optionally allow specific contacts the ability to start a video call without you having to accept/answer the call. This means that anyone on your drop in white list can see your Echo Show’s camera video feed whenever they want. On the surface this might sound like a horrible feature that you’d never imagine wanting to use, which is why it’s important to understand exactly how it works and why it’s available in the first place.

Contacts who you’ve explicitly given drop in access to your Echo Show will be able to see if you’ve been “recently active.” It’s not clear what defines being “recently active,” but presumably it means you’ve recently used your Echo Show, or are currently using it, like listening to music. Recently active contacts who have given you drop in privileges will be listed on the Echo Show’s idle screen. This lets those who are allowed to drop in know that you are around, so they aren’t constantly calling into an empty room/house.

Caller’s view during first 10 seconds of a drop in call

To initiate a drop in call, you have to say “Alexa, drop in on [NAME],” as opposed to just requesting a regular video call by saying “Alexa, call [NAME].” If the person you are calling has explicitly given you drop in privileges ahead of time, you will immediately see a “frosted glass” view of the camera on the device you’re dropping in on. After 10 seconds, if the receiver does nothing, the blurred out view of the camera will automatically be replaced with a clear view.

Reciever’s view during first 10 seconds of a drop in call

On the receiving end of a drop in call, the Echo Show will immediately show a clear video feed of the person who is calling, along with a small preview of the frosted glass feed that the receiver’s camera is currently transmitting back to the caller. After 10 seconds, the receiver’s camera preview will go clear, indicating the caller can now see them.

The receiver of a drop in call has 10 seconds, while their camera feed is blurred, to either end the call, disable their video to have a voice-only call, or do nothing to automatically accept the video call. Remember, the receiver of a drop in call has to have granted the caller the ability to initiate an auto-answer drop in call ahead of time, so you’re probably not going to have many, if any, contacts with this privilege.

If you can’t think of anyone you would want to give automatic access to a live video feed of the inside of your house, you’re probably wondering why this feature even exists. For many people, I expect the most likely person they’d give drop in access to is themselves.

Amazon’s new Alexa-based calling and messaging service allows you to start conversations with yourself. This means you can use the Alexa app to call your own Echo Show. If you grant yourself drop in privileges, it means you can check in on your own live Echo Show camera feed anytime from anywhere. This essentially doubles the Echo Show as a makeshift home security camera.

Another use case for the drop in feature is for elderly and/or tech illiterate users. If you have an older family member with health concerns, it might be a good idea to have the option, which you’ll hopefully never need to use, to force their Echo Show to automatically answer in the event they can’t be reached and you’re worried something bad might have happened. For tech illiterate family members, it might be worth initially enabling the drop in feature so you can force your way through if they’re having trouble figuring out how to answer a regular video call.

One more scenery where drop in would be useful is if you have multiple units in your home. You could then use one Echo Show to drop in on the other and have a nice video intercom system in your house. I suspect many people buying two Echo Show’s with the $100 off “SHOW2PACK” promocode will be doing this.

The drop in feature may seem a bit invasive on the surface, but when used correctly, it can add additional functionality to the Echo Show. In addition to selecting which contacts can make drop in calls, you’re going to be able to specify which Echo Shows are allowed to receive drop in calls. This means, for example, you can allow certain people to drop in on you cooking in the kitchen, but keep everyone out of your living room or other more personal spaces. That granular control makes drop in a feature of the Echo Show that you might actually want to use.

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15 comments
  1. Joe D says:

    Security camera that the thief could deny the video from showing with his voice.

  2. ced says:

    Really, Really, bad idea people please wake the hell up and STOP giving your privacy away in the name of convenience.

  3. Michael says:

    I understand the privacy concerns, but this device could be a game changer in medicine and home health care.

    It could be used for patient consultation that is required by Pharmacists and every drug store should have one. Home health care workers can use to check in on patients on a regular basis. And using it could make tele-metric medicine the norm rather than the exception. A person in a rural area could have a doctor or nurse at their call like those in a metro area.

    • Joe D says:

      There’s nothing new in this technology that hasn’t existed in cell phones and tablets for 5+ years. There’s no breakthrough here.

      • Reflex says:

        The tech does not have to be ‘new’ for the application to be new. Yes, video conferencing has long existed. Yes voice assistances have existed for a few years now. Yes people have tablets and phones.

        However this is a new application of those technologies, that enables different scenarios that are potentially more convenient and accessible than existing solutions.

        A product does not have to be a ‘breakthrough’ in order to be worthwhile or useful. Most of what people think of as breakthroughs are merely combinations of existing technologies in novel ways.

        • Michael says:

          Well said Reflex.

          I remember the day we got a touch tone phone to replace the rotary dial telephone. It didn’t mean that we could talk to more people or do more things with it, just that it was more convenient and became the gateway to the phones we have today. Could you imagine a cell phone with a rotary dial? If AT&T had their way, answering machines or voice mail would not exist. Email would be in the distant future.

          I have a feeling that technology labs around the world are scrambling to find a way to integrate or come up with new ideas for video conferencing/phones.

        • AFTVnews says:

          Very well said Reflex.

          Most game changing “inventions” we take for granted existed in a similar form years before the game changing version.

      • Michael says:

        As Elias said “Another use case for the drop in feature is for elderly and/or tech illiterate users.”

        Yes, the technology is being used by millennials and even ones in the over 60 crowd like myself. But no cell phone or app needed. No need to select the front camera or back. No need to select landscape mode or portrait. Can also be hands free for those who do not have hands, or can not use them. Maybe a Vet who has lost arm(s) or a person with Multiple Sclerosis like my bride had. So I think it’s simply a great way to integrate the technology we have into an easy to use device.

        Also at a price point far less than an iPhone without a money sucking cell phone plan. That, by itself is a breakthrough and I’m sure that the cell phone providers are going to try and quash it with everything they can think of.

  4. Alan says:

    This is really a godsend for me. I’ve been waiting for this technology matched with the convenience for years. My mother has MS. She has gradually lost use of both arms over the years. We also tried the original echo, but there was not enough strength in her voice to command. I’ve also tried speakerphones, FaceTime and enterprise video conferencing solutions, but none of them will allow me to initiate communication without someone else’s assistance or the apps will run constantly and crash. Hundreds of miles apart, we will be able to communicate every day. I can’t wait to use the product!!!

  5. Craig says:

    Doesn’t seem to work from iPhone app unless you let Alexa app transmit live video from your phone’s camera even when the receiving Exho has no video capability. I refuse to open my phone’s camera 24×7 to an app that does not need it at all.

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