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.