Look Mom – No Hands! Easy Video Visits Using Amazon Echo Show

Here’s a way to visit family or friends this COVID-19 season without their having to do or know anything technical. We covered this briefly in AT and Coronavirus Preparedness . Thank you, Jeannie Krull, of the North Dakota Assistive Technology (AT) Program (ND Assistive) for this deeper look.
Due to COVID-19, you may have heard stories of seniors, people with disabilities, and those with health issues having “face-to-face” conversations with their loved ones through a window in order to comply with social distancing.
But what if no one can get to their window?    What if they do not have the cognitive or physical skills to dial the phone or push the button to answer?  And what if someone is not technically savvy enough to use Messenger, Facetime, or Zoom?
At ND Assistive, we get questions like this all the time–especially now–and there are many great solutions. Today, though, I want to highlight one feature on one device: “Drop-in” calling with the Amazon Echo Show.
Drop-In Feature of the Amazon Echo Show
The  Amazon Echo Show is an “Alexa” voice-activated assistant with a touch-screen display.
An 8″ Amazon Echo Show receiving a call. The Show has many  benefits for seniors  and those with disabilities. However, the feature that sets it apart, in my opinion, is its capacity to “drop-in” via video call, a hands-free operation on both ends.
Echo Show allows family members to video-call one another, simply by saying something like “Alexa drop-in on Grandma.” It’s similar to a video intercom, but without the buttons.
To receive a call, Grandma need only be within earshot of her Echo Show. The call starts automatically and she can see and talk to whoever is calling.  She does not have to touch the screen or say anything to accept the call.  The caller sees the image of Grandma slowly fade in (on their own Echo Show or their Smartphone), giving Grandma a little time to prepare to be seen.
Now, this whole thing may sound intrusive, but it all has to be set up ahead of time and permissions must be granted by the users. No one can drop in unless the receiver has granted access.
Echo Show also has a standard video calling feature for persons who do not welcome drop-ins. This feature allows a user the choice to accept or ignore calls, as well as make them by voice  (i.e. “Alexa call Dennis”). Drop-In is highlighted here because the feature requires the receiver to do nothing, not even respond. [Editor’s note: one state AT program director uses this feature to drop in on her own living room and make sure her teenager is not throwing any parties!]
Michael Simon from Tech Hive  does a wonderful job explaining how to set up calls and which devices can be used to make and receive calls.
Video Demo

This video demonstrates a Drop-In video call on the Amazon Echo Show. This particular call was initiated from an Amazon Alexa app on the...

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