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.
1. Control your thermostat
Install a Nest thermostat in your home and control it with an Alexa skill set.
2. Turn down the lights
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.
3. Watch TV
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.
4. Lock & unlock your door
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.
5. Help you cook
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?”
6. Get a ride
Uber and Lyft both have Amazon skills that allow you to order a car to your door. Just say, “Alexa, ask Uber to call me an UberX from work” or “Alexa, ask Lyft for a ride.”
7. Find your phone
8. Entertain party guests
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.
9. Get in a quick workout
10. Gain inner wisdom
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.
11. Get guidance from the stars
Just say, “Alexa, what’s my horoscope?” to get your daily horoscope from Elle by the AstroTwins.
12. Listen to the radio from around the world
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.”
13. Get help falling asleep
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.”