This post has been updated for 2017
I received an Amazon Echo for Christmas this past 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.
But with kids running around (and pets too), I always on the lookout for ways I can keep my Amazon Echo a whole lot safer. And that’s something our sponsor Sanus knows a whole lot about.
Their new bumper guards and mounts made specifically for the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot will increase the stability of your gadgets, and allow you to enjoy everything you love about them without having to worry they’re going to get knocked over or damaged.
And if you’re using an Echo as much as I am, then you know that keeping your beloved device in one piece is important.
So, on their behalf, we’re sharing 44 cool things you can do with the Amazon Echo just by asking Alexa. Hooray for technology!
This post has been updated from the original to include even more cool commands. 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 which year Cleopatra was 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 offer simple exercises like jumping jacks and sit ups, but maybe this Echo command 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 ten 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, is it going to rain today? This is a favorite of ours, especially with the weather as wonky as its been.
11. Alexa, I need a chocolate-covered donut recipe. Alexa will provide measurement conversions (Alexa, how many cups are in a pint?) and even give you step-by-step recipes through AllRecipes. You can even tell her to set your SousVide machine to a certain temperature if it’s smart-connected.
12. Alexa, what wine goes with a chocolate covered donut? Yes, you can get wine pairings using MySomm skill.
13. Alexa, forget wine. Order me some coffee from Starbucks. Using Starbucks Reorder skill, you can open up your last 10 locations you’ve visited and choose from 5 previous order, just run in the shop and pick it up.
14. 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.)
15. Alexa, check my credit card balance. Capital One Skill does this if you have a Capital One card, and even lets you go ahead and make payment.
16. Alexa, what are your deals? Get special deals from Amazon, just for Alexa users. Just be sure that if you turned Voice Purchasing off, you’ve got it turned back on if you want to shop.
17. 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, so no, your kids can’t order an Xbox without you knowing.
19. 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 400 things parents have to do every day. You might even remember to sign that permission slip if you ask in the morning.
20. Alexa, add “call the dentist” to my to-do list. Voila, it’s now there in your Alexa app.
21. Alexa, read my book. When Amazon Echo is connected to your Audible account, a number of commands allow you to hear any book read to you through the speaker, plus you can 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.
22. Alexa, Simon says… Alexa will repeat whatever you say immediately following “Simon says,” which is a really fun trick to play on your kids. Especially 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.
About our sponsor
We know how much the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot can do, but with kids, and pets, and well, life, keeping it on your kitchen counter, your coffee table, or next to your bed might not be the safest option. That’s where the new bumper guards and mounts from Sanus can save the day.
They’re designed to look like an extension of your Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, and won’t interfere with the sound quality.
Get this: the Sanus Amazon Echo bumper guards increase the stability of your Echo by a full 25%, and they can fit horizontally, in case you want to get it up and out of the way. And the Echo Dot mount (shown here) has a special press-fit design with a hidden 3M command strip tab, which makes it super easy to install — and re-install.
(Because we know how that goes.)
Just pop it under a desk, on the back of your nightstand, or high up on the side of a cabinet so your Amazon Echo or Echo Dot can do its job without any interference from humans. Especially the little ones.
23. 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 begins with her word’s last letter. The longer the word, the more points you get. It’s fun, and even a little challenging for the kids.
24. Alexa, start Animal Game/Capital Quiz. Try playing 20 questions (all animals, no minerals thankfully!) or helping kids with geography. There are plenty more games and quizzes, but these two in particular great for kids in grade school.
25. Alexa, start Star Wars quiz. Like that won’t your favorite thing ever.
26. Alexa, play Jeopardy. Trivia geeks, like me, will love the six Jeopardy style questions that Alexa asks each day. Just don’t forget to answer in the form of a question!
27. Alexa, what happened on this day in history? How cool is this? The This Day in History (by A&E) skill will tell you exactly what happened on this day in history. There’s also This Day in Disney History for the kids.
28. Alexa, what Indian restaurants are nearby? Date night? Yay, now you can try that new restaurant in your neighborhood that you keep forgetting to go to when you get the chance. Or, ask whether the local bakery is open right now. (In my world, that means those mornings I totally forgot to grab cupcakes to bring to school for my kid’s birthday.)
30. Alexa, tell a Democrat/Republican joke. She’ll tell you one, but we won’t guarantee it will be a good one.
31. Alexa, roll the dice. This is one of my favorite cool little things you can do with Amazon Echo. It’s perfect for those games that are missing dice, or for younger kids who can’t manage to roll dice without them knocking over all the game pieces on the board. (And FYI for all you gamer geeks out there, she’ll roll 10-sided, 20-sided, and other dice too!)
32. Alexa, set the timer for 10 minutes. There, kids; you’ve got 10 more minutes now on your Nintendo DS before it’s time to get in PJs and start reading. Alarms and timers are also a huge help for cooking by the way, like when your fingers are covered in dough and you don’t want to touch your phone.
33. Alexa, read us a bedtime story. Use the Short Bedtime Story skill to tell your kids a bedtime story — you can even customize the names so they match your kids. Of course it’s no substitute for you telling your kids a story, but it is a pretty cool think that Alexa can do.
34. Alexa, I need some white noise. Start a white noise machine. Try Sleep Sounds: Ocean Sounds which is a favorite for me, though there are also options like a fireplace, rainstorm, and babbling brook. And if it takes you a while to fall asleep, say, “Alex, ask Ocean Sounds to loop.”
35. Alexa, ask for a fart. No, we have not told our kids about this one yet. But then, they probably knew it before you did.
36. Alexa, trigger find my phone. Another cool thing you can do with Amazon Echo if you’re signed up for IFTTT, is to link it to your Amazon account and download any of the dozens of recipes for Alexa. That includes find your iPhone, send a voice email or SMS to someone, or print your shopping list.
37. Alexa, send a text for me. Upload the Molly skill then say “Alexa, ask SMS with Molly to send ‘see you Friday’ to Kristen.” Done!
38. Alexa, make a phone call. Use Alexa to make a phone call, or call other Alexas or Dots around your house so you can use it like an intercom system.
39. 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?
40. Alexa, we need a dinner conversation topic. Need something new to discuss at family dinner? Try a few rounds of Would You Rather?
41. Alexa, open up The Magic Door. Try this choose-your-own adventure as you journey through fantasy worlds filled with gnomes, princesses, wise wizards and witches.
42. Alexa, I want to play Earplay. These are interactive story-based games for adults and teens (think film-noir mystery) that let you also choose your own adventure as the story progresses.
43. Alexa, help me plan my vacation. If you have a Kayak account, you can say “Alexa, where can I go for $300?” and she’ll give you options.
44. Alexa, I need to meditate. You can use Alexa to access Guided Meditation. That’s something we could all use more of these days.
FYI, if you happen to have a family member named Alexa — like, say, you happen to be reading, Billy Joel or Christie Brinkley — you can change the command name in your settings to Amazon so your Alexi is not turning on everytime you speak to a living, breathing Alexa However if you have relatives named both Alexa and Amazon, you’re out of luck.
Thanks to our sponsor Sanus for helping us keep our Amazon Echos and Amazon Dots a whole lot safer so we can use them a whole lot longer!
Editor’s note: This post has been updated since it was originally posted in January 2016.