I received an Amazon Echo for Christmas this year, and I have to admit at first I was a little skeptical. What is all the buzz about anyway and what can I actually do with an Amazon Echo? I wasn’t sure it could really do more for me than Siri or my phone, but after having Alexa (that’s the voice’s name) in my home for a few weeks, connected to my Wifi and linked to my Amazon account I have to say she’s become a welcome houseguest.
From productive time-savers to fun diversions, here are lots of cool things you can do with the Amazon Echo just by asking Alexa, should you be wondering if it’s worth the purchase.
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Note that some of these commands will need to be enabled in your Skills tab in the Echo app
1. Alexa, play David Bowie. Purchase music on Amazon and stream it right to the excellent Bluetooth speaker, though the Echo can also play content from Amazon Prime, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Audible and Kindle Books. So, pretty much anything. All without draining my phone battery or using up data — though I would probably replace a system like Sonos if I want to blast tunes for a party.
2. Alexa, did the Cavaliers win? You can ask Alexa to look up any info you’re curious about, like sports schedules and scores, who won the Golden Globe for best actor in 2016, or the year Cleopatra born. She can even answer math problems, which is why we unplug her at homework time.
3. Alexa, set timer for 10 minutes. Whether you’re setting an alarm for the cookies in the oven or the kids’ daily reading, it’s really easy to just call out for Alexa to do it for you.
4. Alexa, start 7 minute workout. The results are simple exercises like jumping jacks and sit ups, but maybe it will get you moving — or your kids?
5. Alexa, play NPR. I love how easy it is to catch up on the news in the morning since Alexa plays streaming radio upon request.
6. Alexa, what’s traffic like right now? Alexa can tell you the roads to avoid on your morning commute, which is especially nice if you don’t want to wait 10 minutes for a traffic report on your local station. You can even get the estimated time of your drive.
7. Alexa, turn on my humidifier. Or bedroom light. Alexa can connect to any WeMo Switch enabled outlet or Wink Home Hub. Name it according to what’s plugged in there, and Alexa it will turn on and off for you.
8. Alexa, play Bingo. Download some free printable bingo cards, like these at Aspen Jay, and ask Alexa to join you for an easy family fun night. Unfortunately, she won’t pop the popcorn for you. (Unless you have a popcorn popper hooked up to a WeMo, actually.)
9. Alexa, how many calories are in a chocolate covered donut? Ask her questions, but be sure you want to know the answers.
10. Alexa, ask Translator to how to say “please clean your room” in Italian. Ask for translations in 50 languages, and you’ll find the answers in the Alexa app. (Sadly, Alexa’s foreign language speaking skills aren’t existent right now so she won’t repeat them back to you.)
11. Alexa, reorder dog food. When you empty the last bit of puppy chow (or AA batteries or bulk pack of paper towels), just shout out for Alexa to add it to your shopping cart on Amazon. In fact, you can add anything from your recent Prime shopping history, soo, no, your kids can’t sneak and order an Xbox they’ve had their eye on without you knowing.
13. Alexa, what’s on my calendar today? She’ll search through connected calendars (in the app) like Google Calendar, and pull up your day’s activities while you’re making your cup of coffee in the morning. Nice to remember oh, those four hundred things parents have to do every day. You might even remember to sign that permission slip if you ask in the morning.
14. Alexa, add “call the dentist” to my to-do list. Voila, it’s now there in your Alexa app.
15. Alexa, read my book. When Amazon Echo is connected to your Audible account, a number of commands allow you to hear any book read through the speaker, skip chapters, pause, resume, and more. However this week, Amazon Echo added the ability to read back books in your Kindle library. I wouldn’t use it as an alternative to hearing David Sedaris read Me Talk Pretty One Day, but it could be great for certain non-fiction books where tone isn’t essential.
16. Alexa, Simon says… Alexa will repeat whatever you say immediately following “Simon says,” which is a really fun trick to play on your kids if you use the Echo’s remote control from another room and suddenly they hear Alexa say, kids, take the trash out. I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces.
17. Alexa, ask Word Master to play a game. This is like Geography, in which Alexa says a word, then you have to follow with a word that starts with the last letter of the word she said. The longer the word, the more points you get. It’s fun, and a little challenging for the kids.
18. Alexa, start Animal Game/Capital Quiz. Try playing 20 questions with animals or helping kids with geography. There are plenty more but these are great for grade-school aged kids.
19. Alexa, start Star Wars quiz. Like that won’t be hugely popular.
20. Alexa, play Jeopardy. Trivia geeks, like me, will love the 6 game-show style questions Alexa asks each day. Just don’t forget to answer in the form of a question.
21. Alexa, what Indian restaurants are nearby? Date night? Yay, now you can try that new place that opened that you could never get the kids to go to. Or ask whether the local bakery is open right now, for those mornings you totally forgot to grab cupcakes to bring to school for your kid’s birthday.
22. Alexa, tell a Democrat/Republican joke. She’ll tell you one, but we won’t guarantee it will be a good one.
23. Alexa, roll the dice. This is one of my favorite little cool things you can do with Amazon Echo. It’s Perfect for those games that are missing dice, or younger kids who can’t manage to roll them without hitting the floor or all the other game pieces on the board. (And FYI for all you gaming geeks out there, she’ll roll 10-sided, 20-sided, and other dice as well.)
24. Alexa, set the timer for 10 minutes. There, kids. You’ve got 10 more minutes on Playstation now before it’s time to get in PJs and start reading. Alarms and timers are also a huge help for cooking when your fingers are covered in dough and you don’t want to touch your phone.
25. Alexa, ask for a fart. No, we have not told our kids about this one yet.
26. Alexa, trigger find my phone. Another cool thing you can do with Amazon Echo, is if if you’re signed up for IFTTT, link it to your Amazon account and download any of the dozens of recipes for Alexa, like find your iPhone, send a voice email or SMS to someone, or even print your shopping list.
27. Alexa, more cowbell. The same way Siri has fun answers for What does the fox say? And what’s the meaning of life? you can try one of the many, silly Amazon Echo Easter Eggs people have compiled on Reddit. Questions and statements to try include Alexa, to be or not to be? And, Alexa, rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock. There are dozens! For starters, sci-fi fans might try Alexa, do you know Hal?
The list will only continue to grow, so check back there often.
You can buy your own Amazon Echo at Amazon. Be warned that your kids will love it a little too much at first, but we promise, they will settle down after a week or so and you’ll actually enjoy having it in your house.
And just FYI, if you happen to have a family member named Alexa, you can change the command name in your settings to Amazon so it’s not turning on every time you speak to that person. However if you have relatives named both Alexa and Amazon, you’re out of luck.