When Amazon Echo was first released it was limited to playing music, telling you the weather, setting alarms, reading the news, producing shopping lists, and telling corny jokes. They were fun to have around the house, but nothing to brag. Today, there is a small family of Amazon Echo and Alexa Devices at just about every price point, each packed with a host of features. Another perfect gadget.
There is a host to Echo's abilities to explore thanks to an open API and other third parties. With new abilities added every week, it's difficult to pick and highlight twenty of them. Still, we've had a crack at it and put together some general tips and tricks concerning Alexa that we think you will appreciate. Hopefully, Alexa will not start laughing in your sleep.
What can Alexa do?
There is a lot Alexa can do. In fact, if you stop by Amazon you can see a plethora of "skills" that you can try with your own Alexa powered device. Some are pure novelty, but some are very useful.
Maybe you want Alexa to transfer money? You can do that. You can ask Alexa to "speak like Pikachu". Alexa can order food, gifts, and everything in between. And, if you really want to live in the future, you can have Alexa fully automate your home. The possibilities are almost endless.
How to set up Amazon Echo?
Properly setting up an Amazon echo is much easier than you think. All you have to do is; download the Alexa app, add a device, select the device you have at home, and follow the on-screen instructions. You are easily able to add a host of apps and accounts to your device for quick voice command access.
1. Cleverly control your home
The Amazon assistant has got you and your home covered. One of the main features of the Amazon Echo is the smart home control, which was added after launch. Originally limited to devices like Philips Hue smart light bulbs, Echo now works with many brands and devices. Examples include SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, and Nest to name a few. The full range of devices can be found here. To utilize this, simply set up Alexa to recognize your home devices and watch the magic happen.
This isn't necessarily a cheap method but can you put a price on being able to command a device to turn the bedroom lights on or tune the thermostat down?
2. Get the facts
Believe it or not, your Amazon Echo can read Wikipedia. Alexa can be commanded to reel off entire entries, give definitions, and make some simple calculations. Even more so, Alexa can give you a host of tips. This is one of our favorite Alexa features.
3. Find your phone
After setting up your IFTTT recipe, your Amazon Echo can help you with that age-old problem of misplaced phones. Clearly, this relies on you remembering not to mute it. But, this is also one of our favorite Alexa skills.
4. Manage your Google Calendar
Still, use physical diaries or calendars? So do I, but in the age of information, maybe it's time to migrate to digital counterparts, like Google Calendar. Alexa can act as your own PA or secretary. It can add events and review them. Setup is fairly simple, you'll see an option under the Alexa app Settings>Calendar tab.
Log into your Google account and you're set to use these commands, and many more:
"Alexa, what's on my calendar tomorrow at [time]?"
"Alexa, what's on my calendar on [day]?"
5. Track your packages
Ah, we all love those days when we needed to wait in for a delivery, don't we? Yeah right, until we've developed Star Trek replicators, or more realistically, "within the hour" drone delivery, we are stuck with waiting for "hand" delivery. A recent update to Echo has added the ability to track packages ordered from Amazon. You can even see where on the delivery chain your package currently is. This is a good Alexa feature for families with impatient children during Christmas.
Just say "Alexa, where's my stuff?"
6. Get going with Uber
Uber is a convenient alternative to the more traditional taxi service. Alexa makes it even simpler. You'll find, so I'm told, that you can set Uber up under the "Skills" section on the Alexa App. Simply enable it and log in to your Uber account. You'll need to set your address for your Echo under the "device location" section. Once set up command your Amazon Echo:
"Alexa, ask Uber for a ride" or "Alexa, ask Uber to get me a car" or play around with your prose.
Also, if you are not a fan of talkative drivers, Uber has a new feature that allows you to silence drivers.
7. His (well her) master's voice
Spotify is now a native service for Echo which also includes Pandora, TuneIn Radio, and iHeartRadio. Alexa can now order up songs, genres, playlists, pause or adjust the volume. You are even able to keep a Google spreadsheet of the songs you've listened to on your Amazon Echo.
8. Aide Memoire
As you can imagine, simplifying and streamlining your shopping experience is pretty important for Amazon. Your Amazon Echo lets you keep a shopping list with ease and send it to your phone. This isn't limited to shopping. You can keep to-do lists and deliver it to your phone or sync to your Calendar or Evernote account by using IFTTT recipes.
9. Order pizza from Domino's
Sick of the tedious routine of finding your phone, looking at the menu, and actually talking to someone to order a pizza? Then here's your answer. Ordering from Domino's is now effortless with Echo. Simply say "Alexa, open Domino's and place my Easy Order."
You can set this up from the "Skills" section of the Alexa app or by logging into your Domino's account. If you haven't already got one, set up a Domino's account and select an easy order according to your preferences. Don't forget to include all your billing and delivery address details of course. Who doesn't love some Pizza? Maybe a robot will deliver one?
10. Plan dates easily
Get movie showtimes, book restaurants based on Yelp reviews, or find business opening hours with your Echo. This feature also makes using your phone physically obsolete.
11. Get sports scores
Sports Fan? You'll love Amazon Echo's ability to keep up with all the latest league-based sports. Your Amazon Echo can pull up final or in-progress game results and even keep you up to date with match schedules. Here are a few sports-related questions you can ask Alexa:
"Alexa, what is the score of the New York Knicks game?"
"Alexa, who is winning the Yankees game?"
12. Check stocks
Checking your portfolio status daily or hourly? Worried about that impending bear market they keep speculating about? Alexa is here to help you. If you enable the Fidelity Investments skills, it'll reel off stock stats, quotes, and news all day long.
13. Do a quick workout
By enabling the 7-minute workout skill you can get a rapid-fire workout perfect for mornings or just before bed. Once enabled, simply command your Amazon Echo "Alexa, start a seven-minute workout" and rest is up to you. You can also find images and tutorials in the Alexa app if you don't know how to do a certain exercise.
14. Talk politics
No matter how you feel about politics you should try to keep yourself up-to-date on current events. By enabling NBC News skill you can ask Alexa to keep you up to date on the ongoing events of the world of politics. However, in this current political landscape, maybe this should be avoided.
15. Read Kindle e-books or Audible audiobooks
As long as you have audiobooks in your library you can ask your Amazon Echo to read one to you. With a simple "Alexa, read me a Kindle book" or "Alexa, read me an audiobook" (for Audible audiobooks), the Echo will start reading out a book for you. Here are some of the best audiobooks for engineers.
16. Recite Pi
We all need to know Pi to 100 decimal places, right? I know I use it daily, *cough*. Alexa is great at simple calculations and is pretty nerdy. Try asking her to recite Pi to 100 digits, sit back and immerse yourself in a beautiful stream of numbers. Bliss. If you are a Pi nerd, here are some Pi facts to make your day.
17. Start your day right
Let Amazon Echo help you schedule your day according to weather, traffic, and public transport information.
18. Personal kitchen assistant
Amazon Echo is very handy for those who like to cook. Alexa can set timers, calculate conversions, or even guide you through recipes. Though, did we mention it can order your favorite pizza? This is perfect for a picky foodie.
19. "Yo Momma"
Sick of Alexa's inbuilt jokes? Try out "Yo Momma Jokes" for Amazon Echo. Once activated through the Skills section you can trigger it by saying "start Mom Jokes", which is odd. Other than that, this skill is very funny and provides real humor.
20. Your very own bartender
This is probably my favorite Alexa skill. Alexa is pretty accurate when it comes to cocktail recipes. However, it sometimes has some issues with understanding cocktail names. If you're looking for an alternative skill to The Bartender, then the Patrón Tequila skill is another favorable addition for drink recipes.
There you go, 20 cool features to automate your life. Have we missed any? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know.
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