If you're like most of my friends, you probably wound up with an Amazon Echo as a gift last year. A tech gadget that's only been gaining popularity, it's a clever device that is vastly underutilized. My husband bought one and we already had two, and to be honest, we mostly use it as a speaker for music and a timer.
But that's a shame, because the Echo — or as it is fondly known, Alexa — is actually pretty handy. Here are just a few things it's able to do to make your life easier.
Install a Nest thermostat in your home and control it with an Alexa skill set.
All you need are some smart light bulbs, like the Philips smart bulb, and you have your own upgraded version of the clapper light. Or try the TP Link dimmable multicolor bulbs, and you can change your light color to fit your mood.
If you have a Fire TV, you can sync the two systems and you can say, “Alexa, watch Stranger Things on Netflix” and it will pop up. Some smart remotes, like the Logitech Harmony Elite, allow you to do the same thing.
If you’re running an Airbnb or frequently have guests over or even if you are constantly losing your keys, consider a smart lock that connects to Alexa and allows you to lock and unlock doors with your voice or through your phone as well as give pass codes to visitors.
With certain GE appliances, you can tell Alexa to preheat the oven or heat water for your coffee. Allrecipes has an Alexa skill that will walk you through any of their thousands of recipes. You can also ask Alexa for help with dinner ideas, like asking, “What can I make with potatoes and bacon?”
Alexa has several party-equipped games to play. Song Quiz plays a snippet of different music from the last 60 years. Millionaire Quiz is Amazon’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? It even has its own Would You Rather game — and a family-friendly version as well. Having a big party? True or False can be played with up to 20 people.
Always intending to meditate but never making the time? If you always intend to start meditating but never make the time, there’s an Alexa skill for that. Install Guided Meditation and have three- to eight-minute meditations at your voice command at all times.
Just say, “Alexa, what’s my horoscope?” to get your daily horoscope from Elle by the AstroTwins.
Just say, “Alexa, play NPR,” or “Alexa, play BBC2,” and it will start playing the station via TuneIn. Or if you prefer a little laughter with your news, say, “Alexa, play The Daily Show Flash Briefing.”
Alexa has several options for white noise, from rain sounds to beach sounds to fan sounds, to help you drown out the world and fall into slumber. Just say, "Alexa, help me fall asleep."
And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .
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