If you don’t already have a preferred digital assistant yet like Siri for iPhone users or Google Assistant for Android users, allow me to make a case for adopting Alexa, the digital assistant and interface for Amazon Echo smart speakers and displays.
I have an Amazon Echo Show in my kitchen that I use throughout the day to do all sorts of useful things, and I thought I’d share some of those useful features with you here today. Once you see all the ways that an Amazon Echo speaker (and, by extension, Alexa) can make your life easier, you’ll wonder why you haven’t gotten one already!
6 Ways Your Amazon Echo Can Make Your Life Easier
1. Plan Your Day
- Check the weather, in your own area or somewhere else!
- Ask about the day’s top news stories.
- Start the day by checking your calendar. Alexa will tell you what appointments you have coming up that day, and you can tell her to add new appointments as you make them. (You can also manage your appointments manually in the Alexa app.)
- Ask Alexa what traffic is like when you’re getting ready to leave. If traffic is heavy, she’ll give you a heads up so you know to leave a few minutes early.
- Ask about nearby restaurants, coffee shops, pharmacies, banks, etc. Alexa can access all the information you need about the businesses in your area, including hours, addresses, phone numbers, and more. Ask “Alexa, what time does Taco Bell close?” or “Alexa, where is the nearest Wendy’s?”
- Ask about showtimes and tickets at movie theaters near you.
- Add to lists or create new ones. Alexa can keep track of your shopping list for you, and then you can pull the list up in the Alexa app when you’re at the store. You can create as many custom lists as you want, so you could have one for groceries you need, one for bills that need to be paid, one for chores, etc.
- Set an alarm. Whether you’re getting into bed or nodding off on the couch, you can tell Alexa to set an alarm to wake you up right on time.
2. Entertain Yourself
- Learn something new—if you’re curious about the distance from the earth to the moon, or wondering about what events led to the War of 1812, just ask Alexa.
- Listen to an audiobook or podcast. Not only can you tell Alexa to start or stop your audiobook or podcast, you can also pause, skip to a certain spot or chapter, and even set a sleep timer.
- Check up on what’s happening with your favorite sports teams. Alexa can tell you sports standings, or results from specific games or matches. You can also get the scoop on your favorite teams by opening the Alexa app, going to Settings > Sports Update, and saving your favorite NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB, NHL, WNBA, and NCAA teams. Once you’ve done that, you can get all the latest updates on your teams by saying “Alexa, give me my sports update.”
- Play music. This is the function I probably use most—all I have to do is ask Alexa to play whatever album or playlist I want to listen to. (I also like to ask Alexa to play songs that are mentioned in books that I’m reading—it takes the reading experience to a whole new level!)
- Play games with Alexa—apparently she has over 5,000 of them! Play group games like Song Quiz, Escape the Room, or Common Knowledge, or challenge yourself to solo games like Akinator and Twenty Questions.
3. Get Help
- Get notified about suspicious or alarming sounds. Alexa Guard can use the microphone in your Amazon Echo speaker to let you know when she hears breaking glass or a smoke alarm in your home. (Alexa Guard Plus, a beefier version of the feature, can both alert you and your local emergency services for just $50/year—which is a great annual price for a monitoring service.)
- Get help for your pet. If your pet is sick or acting strangely, the MyPetDoc skill can help you determine what’s wrong and what steps to take. If Alexa doesn’t know what’s wrong, she’ll forward your conversation and phone number to a veterinarian who will contact you shortly. (Just remember that while Alexa can give you guidance, she’s not a substitute for a real vet!)
- Get first aid tips. The Mayo Clinic skill can give you basic first aid instructions for everything from minor scratches to CPR. (This skill is for instructional purposed only—if you’re in a life-threatening or emergency situation, call for help.)
- Get help in emergencies with the Ask My Buddy skill. It can send a text, SMS, or phone call to a preselected emergency contact if you’re in need of help and can’t reach your phone.
4. Keep In Touch
- Send a hug. Let your friends and family know you’re thinking about them by sending a hug through Alexa. Just say, “Alexa, send a hug” to deliver a virtual hug to any of your Alexa contacts.
- Call a loved one with an Alexa-enabled device. Use your Amazon Echo to make voice calls (or your Echo Show to make video calls) to and from other Alexa-enabled devices. Alexa looks through your phone’s address book to find contacts who have the Alexa app or an Echo device, and then gives you the option of calling them. You can also use Drop In to speak through other Alexa-enabled devices in your home—learn more about that here.
5. Shop Online
- Quickly and easily re-order an item on Amazon. If you notice you’re out of paper towels, just ask Alexa to order some more.
- Get exclusive deals by asking “Alexa, what are your deals?” She’ll tell you about exclusive deals that you need an Alexa-enabled device to take advantage of.
6. Control Your Smart Devices
- Turn your smart lights (or regular lights connected to a smart plug) on or off. Learn how to connect Alexa to your Philips Hue lights, or look for Alexa Skills for other smart home platforms and devices.
- Control your smart thermostat. Several smart thermostats can be connected to Alexa, allowing you to adjust the temperature with voice commands. Some smart thermostats, like the ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control, even have Alexa built in.
- Start your car. A number of car makers have Alexa Skills that allow you to start your car remotely, lock and unlock doors, and more via Alexa. To find out if your car can be controlled remotely with an Alexa Skill, click here and scroll down to the “Connected Car Alexa Skills.”
Which of the features available through Alexa do you currently use most, or which one would you use most if you had an Alexa-enabled device?
See how to give Alexa a makeover in this video!
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