What is Alexa
Amazon Alexa is virtual assistant software released back in 2014 by Amazon’s talented developers. The company now has over 10,000 employees working on Alexa and Alexa powered devices. Using your voice you can have Alexa provide helpful information like the current temperature outside, play music, answer questions and even “talk” with and control other smart devices in your home. Think of your Echo device as Alexa’s home.
She may even help you decide if you’re ready to have kids yet! As Reddit user, u/Peacemaker_58, says:
“You know you’re not emotionally ready to have children if you get upset and yell at Amazon Alexa when you have to ask it more than twice to turn off the lights.”
And speaking of kids, Here’s a little known tip: Put your Echo into Whisper Mode. Handy for new parents trying to keep the little one fast asleep! Enable it in the mobile app under “Alexa Voice Commands” in the settings area.
Additionally, If you find Alexa’s response too quick or too slow, you can adjust the speaking rate. Simply say, “Alexa, speak slower” or “Alexa, speak faster” to customize the response speed to your preference.
What Can You Do With an Amazon Echo
There’s actually quite a bit you can do with these little gadgets, and Amazon’s developers are actively working on new ways that we can use them further.
Use them as little speakers, to play games with, learn from and even for home automation. Keep reading to see what all can be done with Echo and Alexa.
Is Alexa Listening to Me?
Amazon does collect your conversations with Alexa. So anything after your wake-word, which is most likely “Alexa”, is saved on one of Amazon’s many, many cloud servers somewhere in the world. According to Amazon though, your Echo device and Alexa are not listening and recording until you use the wake command.
You can delete this data any time you’d like through the Alexa mobile app. Install the Amazon Alexa app on your phone and go to Settings, and then History, to access your conversations with Alexa.
What to Ask Amazon Alexa & Helpful Voice Commands
Alexa Music Commands
If you’re like us you’ll be using Alexa quite often for playing and controlling your music. Here’s a few commands you’ll certainly be using.
- “Alexa, play music”
- “Alexa, open Spotify”
- “Alexa, next song”
- “Alexa, volume to 7”
- “Alexa, volume 11” (LOUD!)
- “Alexa, turn down volume”
- “Alexa, play my New Wave playlist” (with this one, she’ll try and find this playlist in one of your music apps. To help her out, mention which app this playlist lives in)
- “Alexa, play Maneater by Hall and Oates” (she’ll try and play this on whichever music app is your default)
- “Alexa, play upbeat pop songs from the 90s”
- “Alexa, play that song that goes…”
- “Alexa, play top hits in Canada”
- “Alexa, turn down the bass”
- “Alexa, add this song to my driving playlist”
- “Alexa, what’s playing”
- “Alexa, stop”
- “Alexa, mute”
Tip: At a friends house and want them to hear a new playlist that you just created? If they have an Alexa around you can just say, “Alexa, connect my account”.
You’ll be able to login and access your music playlists.
Love music but not a huge fan of the sound quality from standard Echo devices?
Echo Studio fixes that for you. 5 speakers inside allow for “3d” high quality sound that senses your room’s acoustics and adjusts for optimal music quality.
Questions to Ask Alexa
Of course we could list thousands of different question combinations that you can ask Alexa, but instead of doing that here’s a few base question variations that should help you determine the sorts of things Alexa might understand.
It just might take you a few extra tries if you’re Scottish though. 😉 )
- “Where is the nearest doctor’s office?”
- “Who won the World Series in 1983?”
- “Will it be hot tomorrow?”
- “What’s trending?”
- “What’s the question of the day?”
- “Who has dish duty tonight?”
- “How do you say Hello in French?”
- “How do you spell __?”
- “How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?”
- “What are the odds of the Super Bowl?”
- “What are today’s deals?”
- “What is 13 times 13?”
- “Where is my stuff?”
- “What’s the news?”
Tip: In your Alexa app, go to SETTINGS > FLASH BRIEFING to set a default News source for Alexa to use. Not sure what to use? Here’s a great list to choose from.
Alexa Fun and Games
There’s all sorts of games to play with your Alexa enabled devices. Here’s our list of top Alexa games you should enable now or just say one of the following commands:
- “Give me a tongue twister”
- “Use the force”
- “Let’s play Jeopardy”
- “Let’s play Trivia Hero”
- “Tell me a joke”
- “Open Guess My Name”
- “Never gonna give you up”
- “What is Love?”
- “Surprise me”
- “Open Heads Up”
- “Rock, paper, scissors”
- “Open Categories”
- “Who you gonna call?”
- “Tell me a palindrome”
- “Quiz me on TV show plots”
- “Is this real life?”
- “Open Hide and Seek”
- “Auto tune for me”
- “Open Freeze Dancers”
- “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
- “Where is Chuck Norris?”
- “Open Word Play”
- “Enable Escape The Room”
- “Enable Price Tag”
Roll the Dice: If you ever lose a dice or don’t have one when you need it, Alexa can roll a virtual one for you. You can even specify the number of sides on the dice, making it useful for a wide range of games.
By the way, as Fast Company reported, you may be one of the chosen few who help Amazon with crowd-sourced answers to questions that Alexa gets asked frequently.
Alexa Assistance and Productivity
- “Set an alarm for tomorrow at 7 am”
- “Wake me up everyday at 6am to jazz music”
- “Remind me in 3 hours that I have a meeting”
- “Set a timer for 15 minutes”
- “How much time is left on the timer?”
- “Read my Kindle”
- “Read Faster”
- “Turn on the Coffee Maker”
- “Remind me to change out my tooth brush in 90 days”
- “Open Sleep Sounds”
- “What’s my commute to work look like?”
- “What Thursday Night Football”
- “Add almond butter to my Whole Foods cart”
- “Give me directions to the nearest Starbucks”
- “Order more jerky”
- “Call Hannah on Skype”
- “How many ounces in a pound?”
- “Help me sleep”
Tip: For the ‘Help me Sleep’ command, she should ask you what sort of noise or music you’d like to hear. You can tell her Yes or No until she finds something you’d like to play.
If you’ve got relevant skills added – (see below) – she’ll have more options to present to you.
And speaking of productivity. Get inspired with Ted Talks.
“Alexa, enable Ted Talks”
What Can I Use Alexa With?
Most people interact with Alexa through their Echo devices, but she’s also part of Amazon’s mobile apps.
Alexa is even being integrated in newly built Lennar homes as well as cars from GM, Toyota and Audi.
Control Alexa From Your Phone
Like we mentioned above, it’s as easy as downloading the iOS or Android version of the Alexa app for your phone.
With the drop-in feature you can use multiple Alexa enabled devices as an intercom system inside your home.
So say you have an Echo Dot in your living room and one upstairs in your bedroom.
You can drop in on the one in the living room to talk to or deliver a message to someone downstairs.
This also works for Echo devices that your contacts have in their own homes too.
As mentioned here in Amazon’s blog, families stayed connected during Covid thanks to Echo Dot Show devices and the drop-in feature.
Smart Home Automation
There’s home automation, like Cooking a burrito and then there’s real smart home automation like turning on lights, the tv, and opening blinds when you come home. When it comes to home automation and Alexa, routines will be a major piece to bring it all together, which you can read more about further down below.
For the best automation experience you’ll want to look into a home smart hub to go along with your Alexa powered device. A smart hub will allow your Echo to “talk” with things like motion and window sensors, window blinds, garage doors and much more.
An extremely popular smart hub is this one here from Samsung.
Or Amazon actually integrated a smart hub directly into the Echo Plus!
For those of you who aren’t quite ready to fully dive in yet, you can still start to experiment with home automation with these cool smart plugs from Kasa or Amazon’s own line.
Just plug in a lamp or a tv to it and you’ll be able to turn them on and off with an Alexa command.
Amazon Alexa Routines
If you find yourself giving her the same commands over and over, (and you will), or have to tell her multiple commands to accomplish one goal – then Routines is a feature that you’ll really find useful. This basically means you can tell her less and get more done.
If you’re ready to get started open your Alexa app on your phone, go to MENU, and choose ROUTINES from the menu.
Now hit the “+” symbol and you can create a new routine. You could enter “Alexa, top of the morning” for example, and then enter in what she should do next.
Here’s a few routine ideas that you can try today:
- Wind Down: Lights dimmed 50%, jazz music plays at low volume
- Goodnight: Turn bedroom lights and TV off, Sleep and Relaxation Skill turns on
- Wake Up: bedroom lights on, morning news briefing, Wake Up playlist begins
- Good Morning: bedroom lights on at 50%, morning news briefing, local weather forecast and then your next calendar event coming up
Be sure to utilize wait and stop actions to your routines too.
Apps That Work With Alexa
Apps that work with Alexa will most likely be enabled via something Amazon calls, ‘Skills’. There is now over 80,000 different Skills that you can use!
How to Add Apps to Alexa
You can open the mobile app for Alexa and search for new skills to add to your account.
You can even tell Alexa to learn a new skill.
For example you can say, “Alexa, enable Uber” to download the skill needed for your Echo and the Uber app on your phone to work together.
Our List of Best Amazon Alexa Skills
Our compiled list of tried and true classic skills as well as a few newer skills that we think you should have Alexa learn. Just tell Alexa to “Enable” the following:
- Sleep and Relaxation Sounds: This is one of our favorites. With this skill you can tell Alexa to play rain sounds, thunder sounds, and more recently they’ve added a Guided Sleep mode. Try it, you’ll love it!
- Mastermind: Now a beloved skill that enables Alexa to read and send text messages, make phone calls, send emails and many other helpful things. This skill was built and is maintained by very knowledgeable and reactive developers.
- Big Sky: – Here’s another hugely popular Alexa skill for you weather bugs out there. It’s built on a very accurate system that tracks weather conditions down to your specific address. You can even ask things like, “what will the humidity level be at 2pm today”.
- Our Groceries: Alexa can help you build your grocery list when this skill and the OurGroceries app on your phone syncs up.
- Harry Potter Quiz: Now there’s an official Harry Pottery trivia game. You can return and play each day for more points.
- The Vortex: Super fun, interactive story with enjoyable characters and an engaging storyline.
- Amazon Story Time: A highly reviewed skill for kids. An always changing rotation of children’s stories they can listen to when going to bed.
- Recipe Remix: An audio guide that helps you cook up a tasty meal, where musicians play their music while you cook.
- Song Quiz: Hear audio snippets from the past 60 years. You and friends will guess who the artists are for points. You can even play against other players from around the country!
- Daily Stretch: A simple, yet useful skill where a yoga teacher guides you through important body stretches.
- iRobot Home: Of course an iRobot product is required here but this skill will allow you to control your vacuum by telling it to start cleaning, schedule it to start on it’s own, and on newer iRobot devices you can even tell it specific rooms to clean!
- Mommy-Gram: A great way for families to communicate. Kids (and Adults too of course) can speak directly to Alexa and it’s sent to the recipient of choice as a text message.
- Escape The Room: Escape rooms have certainly taken off in popularity over the last few years, so it’s not surprising that there’s an Alexa version. Listen for clues and tell Alexa which actions to take.
- Kid’s Court: Let her help settle disputes between your children using the laws of the US judicial system.
- Ambient Visuals: Flight Simulator: For those of you with a newer Echo Show you can play this for soothing hum of an airplane complete with video of the sky and clouds.
- Chop Chop: Another skill where an Echo Show is needed. Alexa will show you how to properly chop up different fruits and veggies.
- Curiosity: Fun, easy way to learn about new topics. Every time you ask her to open this skill she’ll ask you to choose from two random topics.
- Guided Meditation: This particular app has been downloaded over 2 million times on the app store for mobile devices. Now it’s available for Alexa to learn as well. Start the day off right with proper breathing and stretching exercises.
- Earplay: A very enjoyable skill that throws you back into the days of old time radio dramas. But now you have control of how the story unfolds!
- Find My Phone: Now you can tell Alexa to find your missing phone and she will call it.
- Get Me Up: Just not feeling like getting out of bed today? Tell Alexa and she’ll help you out.
- Become a Bartender: Not sure how to mix a margarita or a Manhattan? Ask Alexa. With the “Bartender” skill, Alexa can provide recipes for hundreds of different cocktails. It can even give you background information on various types of drinks if you’re curious.
**Looking for more skills? Right over here, we compiled a top 10 list of most searched for Alexa skills.**
More Fun Things You Can Do With Alexa
Turn her into Samuel L Jackson!
“Alexa, Introduce Me To Samuel L. Jackson”
Smart Mirror + Alexa
Smart mirrors have been popular in the maker community for quite some time now, and this guy did an amazing smart mirror build that’s powered by Alexa!
Watch his walkthrough here on Youtube:
And coming soon, it’s Amazon Echo Silver! 😉