When Amazon Echo was first released it was limited to playing music, telling you the weather, set alarms, read news, tell corny jokes, produce shopping lists and reciting basic trivia. They are actually pretty good but not spectacular. Today, the Echo is now a family of three. Including the Echo, there's also the Echo Dot and Tap.
Alexa, an open API, and willingness of third-party companies to get their services or devices working with Echo have allowed the Echo's abilities to explode. With new abilities added every week, it's difficult to highlight twenty of them, but we've had a crack.
So, without further ado here are our picks of some of the 20 cool features of Amazon Echo to automate your life.
1. Cleverly control your home
One of the main features of Amazon Echo after launch was the addition of smart home control. Originally limited to devices like Phillip's Hue smart light bulbs, Echo now works with many brands and devices. Examples include SmartThings, Wink, Insteon and Nest to name but a few. The full range of devices can be found here. Some of the newer additions include Lutron and Bigg Ass Fans, for instance.
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 turn down the thermostat?
2. Get the facts
Your Amazon Echo can read Wikipedia believe it or not. Alexa can be commanded to reel off entire entries, give definitions and make some simple calculations.
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.
4. Manage your Google Calendar
Still use physical diaries or calendars? So do I, but in the information age it might be time to migrate to digital equivalents such as Google Calendar. Alexa can act as your own PA or secretary. She can add events and review them. Setup is fairly simple, you'll see an option under the Alexa app Setttings>Calender 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]?"
[Image Source: Pixabay]
5. Track your packages
Ah, we all love those days when we need 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 you package currently is.
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 login 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.
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.
[Image Source: Pixabay]
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 Calender 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 by the "Skills" section of the Alexa app or 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.
10. Plan dates easily
Get movie show times, 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 peddling? Alexa is here to help you. If you enable the Fidelity Investments skills, she'll reel off stock stats, quotes or news all day long.
[Image Source: Pixabay]
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 abreast of current events. By enabling NBC News skill you can ask Alexa to keep you up to date on the goings-on in the world of politics.
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" (Audible audiobooks), the Echo will start reading out a book for you.
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 the beautiful stream of numbers. Bliss.
[Image Source: Pixabay]
17. Start your day right
Let your 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 guide you through recipes. Though did we mention it can order your favourite pizza?
19. "Yo Momma"
Sick of Alexa's in built 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 favourite skill of Alexa's. Alexa is pretty accurate when it comes to cocktail recipes. It may have some issues with understanding cocktail names, however. If you're looking for an alternative skill to The Bartender, then the Patrón Tequila skill is another favourable 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.