Alexa, Siri, and a step toward follow-up conversation

When you ask Siri, Alexa, or Google a question, you have to say the trigger phrase, “Hey Siri”, “Alexa”, or “OK Google”. When you want to follow-up, you have to repeat that trigger phrase.

But that is about to change.

Amazon has rolled out a beta of something it calls Follow-up Mode. From this Amazon Help page:

When you turn on Follow-Up Mode, you can make more requests without repeating the wake word. Follow-up mode is available on all hands-free Alexa-enabled devices. The blue indicator light on the Echo device remains on for a few seconds, letting you know that Alexa is active and ready for your next request.

The idea is, after you say “Alexa”, Alexa keeps listening for a follow-up query until it times out. Notably, follow-up mode does not kick in when:

  • Audio is playing. For example, the device is playing music, books, or you’re on a call through the device.
  • You end the conversation with Alexa. For example, you can say, “stop,” “cancel,” “go to sleep,” or “thank you.”
  • Alexa is not confident you’re speaking to her. For example, if she detects that speech was background noise or that the intent of the speech was not clear.

I’d think this would be relatively simple for Apple to implement for Siri. There’s certainly value when you want to do a sequence of things. But I also think it’d be a big help for Siri’s context analysis, making it more likely that two queries in a row are connected in some way, like so:

  • Hey Siri, what time is my next meeting?
  • What time is the one after that?


  • Hey Siri, what song is this?
  • What album is it from?

You get the idea. Conversational context is a bit of a holy grail. As is, all three (Siri, Alexa, Google) are still infants, still learning the most rudimentary rules of conversational memory.