Tech Talk: Make the Most of Amazon Echo with these Alexa Skills
As of right now, there are over 10,000 skills available for Amazon’s personal assistant, Alexa. But which ones are the ones really worth checking out, and what are they able to do? Well the short answer is, they can do just about anything you can think of. “Skills” for Alexa are like apps that you can install on Alexa, and give her more features and functionality. Of course, there are a number of things that you can already do with Alexa and there’s always more functionality coming, out of the box. But here are the best to use with your new Amazon Echo.
Get Amazon’s Latest Deals
Amazon has exclusive deals that are available through Alexa. So you can ask Alexa “what are your latest deals” and she’ll let you know what’s happening right now. These won’t appear on Amazon’s website and are only available through Alexa. Amazon makes it even easier, as you can tell Alexa to purchase one of those products that’s on sale. So for instance, if the Wemo Smart Plug Mini is on sale (which it often times is, through Alexa), you can tell Alexa to purchase it, and it’ll be at your store within two days, if you have Amazon Prime.
Listen to Music, Audiobooks & Podcasts
Since Alexa is mostly available on speakers, you’ll want to listen to music, or maybe an audiobook or podcast with Alexa. And well you can do that as well. There are a ton of different skills for doing these tasks, and depending on the service you want to use, will depend on the skill you want to install. For music, there are a ton of skills available for streaming services, including Spotify, Google Play Music, TuneIn Radio, iHeart Radio and many more. There’s of course Audible, and others for audiobooks, and a variety of ones available for podcasts. With these skills, you can tell Alexa to “Play Christmas music on Spotify” or something similar, you will need to specify the music service, or it will default to Amazon Music.
Control your Smart Home
This is the main reason why many people are interested in Alexa, to control their smart home. Similar to the section above with music streaming, you’ll need a different Alexa skill for each smart home brand you are using. For instance, there is skill for LIFX’s lights, then another for August Home’s smart locks, and the list goes on. But the good thing is, if you are using multiple lights, you can just say Alexa, “turn off the lights” and she’ll turn them all off, even if they are using different brands and different Alexa skills. Which makes things easy.
Set Timers, Alarms & Reminders
Alexa can also do the usual array of things, like set a timer for you, or an alarm and even remind you of different things. The timer feature is really useful when you are cooking. Say you need a timer for 20 minutes, just say “Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes” and once the 20 minutes are up, an alarm will go off. You can also do something similar for alarms and reminders, by saying “Alexa, wake me up at 7am tomorrow”. You can also tell Alexa to wake you up with your favorite radio station or music playlist.
Book your Vacation with Alexa
Companies have been really embracing smart assistants like Alexa, and now you can even book your next vacation or any trip really, with the Kayak skill for Alexa. You can ask Alexa to ask Kayak for flights to Las Vegas, or flights to Cancun, just as a few examples. She will return results for you. Though, it’s a bit better on something with a display, like the Echo Show or the Fire TV (or Fire TV Stick), so you can actually visualize the flights and dates. But it is also a great skill to take advantage of.
Start Your Car with Alexa
Ford and Hyundai have already integrated Alexa into some of their models, and many more will be following in the future. But with Ford, you are able to connect Alexa to the Fusion (only, at this point) and ask Alexa to start your car. This is especially helpful in the winter, so you aren’t getting into a cold car. You can also lock and unlock the doors, or even check your gas or battery levels, depending on whether you have the EV, Hybrid or regular Fusion.
Today’s Top News Stories
Ask Alexa for your Daily Briefing, and she will begin reading off the top headlines from the news organization skills that you have enabled. Most of the major news organizations have their own Alexa Skills that you can enable, including NPR, CNBC, MSNBC, ABC, CNN and many more. Even many local news organizations are available. This allows you to wake up in the morning and get caught up on what happened over night while you sip your morning coffee.
Find something to cook for Dinner
There are many recipe Skills available for Alexa as well. Like Allrecipes. You can ask Alexa and Allrecipes to find you recipes based on what you have available for cooking, like chicken, steak, salmon, etc. Or even ask Allrecipes for how to cook a specific dish, and Alexa will walk you through the entire thing.
Workout with Alexa
There are a number of fitness skills available for Alexa, but you can also get in a full workout with Alexa, at home. So for those who say they don’t have time to workout, that’s no longer an excuse. A popular skill is the ‘7-minute Workout’. Which will walk you through a quick 7-minute workout using bodyweight, so you don’t even need gym equipment. Of course there are other skills you can use as well, like Fitbit, for keeping up with your stats for the day.
“Alexa, Ask Botvac to clean the house”
That’s right, if you have a robot vacuum, it more than likely supports Alexa. So you can ask Alex to tell the robot vacuum to start cleaning without even lifting a finger. There are a number of models from Neato, iRobot, Samsung and even Eufy that all support Alexa and some support Google Assistant or will support it in the future.
Find Out Who Won The Game Last Night
Alexa can also answer most simple questions for you. So you can ask Alexa who won the big game last night between your favorite teams. Or you can ask Alexa for the latest sports news, in case your favorite player was traded. And much more. Now with more complicated questions, Alexa does appear to have issues, since it doesn’t have a robust search engine behind it like the Google Assistant.
That’s really just the beginning of what Alexa can do. There are over 10,000 skills and really none of them are bad at all. So that just tells you how much Alexa is really able to do. If you just recently got a new Echo, maybe for the holidays, these are a great set of skills to get started with though. And you can find many more here.