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Every smart home needs a smart assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa is at the head of the pack. Acting as a central pillar to your smart home How Amazon Echo Can Make Your Home A Smart Home How Amazon Echo Can Make Your Home A Smart Home Smart home tech is still in its early days, but a new product from Amazon called "Echo" may help bring it into the mainstream. Read More , Alexa can play music All the Ways to Play Music Using Your Amazon Echo All the Ways to Play Music Using Your Amazon Echo The Amazon Echo is capable of doing a lot of different things, but its most obvious skill is playing music. Here are all the ways to listen to music through your Amazon Echo. Read More , control your lights, and order food — using only the sound of your voice.

Alexa can do a lot of out the box, but the Echo really shines when you add new skills. Since developers release new abilities regularly, we’re going to round up our recent favorites.

Big News on the Skills Front

While new skills are making their way to the Echo, there are exciting developments on the technical end, too. Amazon recently published an article explaining big updates to Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML). Like HTML for website text 17 Simple HTML Code Examples You Can Learn in 10 Minutes 17 Simple HTML Code Examples You Can Learn in 10 Minutes If you know the following 17 HTML tags (and the extra few that go with them), you'll be able to create a basic webpage from scratch or tweak the code created by an app like... Read More , SSML is a language that controls how speech on devices like the Echo sounds.

These new voice abilities include whispers, expletive beeping, emphasis, and more. As these and similar updates make SSML better, so will smart speakers gain more abilities. When speakers have more speech patterns available, they’ll speak more clearly and naturally when performing specific skills.

A Refresher on Skills

After you set up your Echo with your Amazon account, it can do a few cool tricks. You can ask it to look up facts for you, play music from your Amazon library, or set timers and alarms. But thanks to skilled developers, the Echo can do so much more. The Skills marketplace is full of extra abilities you can add to your Echo for more functionality.

You can find new skills by browsing the Alexa Skills page on Amazon, or by opening the Alexa app on your phone and choosing Skills from the left menu. Just choose a skill and click Enable to add it to your Echo. It might take a few minutes before it’s available.

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Start With These Amazon Alexa Skills

Which skills should you add? We searched through the Alexa skill page and found 18 new skills that range from useful to ridiculous and everywhere in between. Sure, some of the skills might seem useless 20 Echo Skills That Show Alexa's Not Always So Smart 20 Echo Skills That Show Alexa's Not Always So Smart Despite all the things that you can do with Alexa out of the box, its extensibility via Skills is far more intriguing. Here are 20 Echo Skills that may surprise you! Read More , but others may quickly become a part of your daily routine.

It’s always a good idea to review the description of a skill before you add it. That way, you know its purpose, and what to say to Alexa to activate it. We’ll mention a few keywords to control each skill, but please check the linked pages for full details.

1. Time Tone

Alexa already has a basic timer, but it only beeps after a set amount of minutes. Time Tone expands this ability by making a sound every second so you can keep track of how much time has elapsed.

This skill provides two modes. The first beeps every second and announces the time elapsed every ten seconds. Mode two makes a water droplet sound every second and thunder on every tenth second. While the first mode runs for five minutes, the second runs for an hour. This makes the first useful for time-specific tasks like a quick workout Get Fit at Your Desk With These Quick Exercises Get Fit at Your Desk With These Quick Exercises With so many easy office workouts and fitness apps available today, not exercising is no longer an excuse. Get fit while you're at work with these tips. Read More , while the second can provide background noise while helping you keep track of time.

Say: “Alexa, ask time tone to play” or “Alexa, ask time tone for second”

2. Ambient Noise

Ever have trouble falling asleep How to Fall Asleep Fast With Drowsy Android Apps How to Fall Asleep Fast With Drowsy Android Apps If you have trouble sleeping, these apps can help you out. Read More ? This skill can help. It creates background noise so you can relax or fall asleep more easily.

Saying stop in an hour will set a timer instead of playing the noise indefinitely. The developer is regularly adding new sounds, so shoot him an email if you’d like to see a new one.

Say: “Alexa, open ocean sounds” or “Alexa, start city sounds”

3. Fish Jokes

Like jokes? Prefer them to only be about marine creatures? This is the skill for you. Ask Alexa for some jokes, and you’ll get some knee-slappers about marine life. Don’t be shellfish; share them with your friends.

Say: “Alexa, ask fish jokes to tell me a joke”

4. Translated

Whether you’re working on learning a new language How I Finally Learned a Different Language. And You Can Too. How I Finally Learned a Different Language. And You Can Too. No single language learning app is the magic wand. The secret to learning a new language is a blended solution. With desire and motivation you too can learn any foreign language. Read More or just want to pick up a few words for fun, Translated is a great Echo companion.

This skill can translate words or short sentences from English into more than 30 other languages. After getting a translation, you can say slow down to hear it in more detail. If you speak a language other than English, this app unfortunately won’t work.

Using Translated, you can hear translations into German, Greek, Spanish, Polish, Chinese, and more.

Say: “Alexa, ask Translated how to say ‘Good Morning’ in Italian” or “Alexa, ask Translated what is hungry in Spanish?”

5. Remember the Keys

This one is a good idea, but its implementation falls short. Asking your Echo if you’re ready to go results in this skill giving you a checklist of reminders, such as grabbing your keys and wallet. The problem is that if you forget to ask the app for a reminder, you’re out of luck. It would be more useful if it automatically reminded you to grab everything at a set time.

Say: “Alexa, ask Remember Your Keys if I am ready to go”

6. Daily Affirmation

Positive thinking is key 12 Powerful Self-Affirmation Tools to Boost Your Motivation Daily 12 Powerful Self-Affirmation Tools to Boost Your Motivation Daily Self-affirmations are powerful psychological tricks that help overcome negative thoughts. Self-affirmations can help people perform better at work. These apps and websites will help you start with meaningful positive statements. Read More to having a positive attitude. This skill helps you in your endeavor by giving you a quick uplifting thought to dwell on during the day.

Repeating these thoughts will help you to keep a positive mindset, which will make you more productive, happy, and energetic.

Ask Alexa for a refresher if you need to hear the day’s affirmation again, and get into the habit of beginning your day with positive words.

Say: “Alexa, open Daily Affirmation”

7. TryPod

Podcasts are a great alternative to music that provide background noise, help you learn about new topics, and are usually entertaining. We’ve recommended some great podcasts The 12 Best Podcasts of 2016 You Need to Hear The 12 Best Podcasts of 2016 You Need to Hear In this article we share the 12 best podcasts 2016, all of which we thoroughly recommend you hear. Whether you’re looking for inspiration, to discover something new, or simply need to be entertained. Read More in the past, but how do you find brand-new ones?

TryPod has an answer. Just ask Alexa to try a new podcast, and the speaker will start playing the latest episode of something that’s likely new to you.

This skill makes it easy to discover something fresh without endlessly browsing through descriptions. And you can specify a genre, too.

Say: “Alexa, ask TryPod to play a technology podcast” or “Alexa, ask TryPod to list genres”

8. Gettysburg Address

Fans of Abraham Lincoln will love this oddly specific skill. Launch it, and Alexa will read Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. We can’t think of too many uses for this one unless you’re trying to memorize the address, but why not give it a listen?

Say: “Alexa, Gettysburg Address”

9. Memory Blast

Want to improve your memory in just a few minutes? Memory Blast is a simple skill that plays a list of single-digit numbers, then asks you to repeat them. If you perform well, the list gets tougher, with a similar adjustment if you have trouble.

It’s a basic app, but using it a few times a day just might help you forget less often How to Remember What You Read Using Simple Tools How to Remember What You Read Using Simple Tools Reading more won't do you any good if you can't retain anything that you read. Use these tips when you find it difficult to remember what you read. Read More .

Say: “Alexa, play Memory Blast”

10. Go Green

Want to work on conserving energy 7 Energy Saving Technologies to Lower Your Home's Carbon Footprint 7 Energy Saving Technologies to Lower Your Home's Carbon Footprint The following energy saving technologies can be introduced into our homes to reduce our environmental impact. Not all will be affordable just yet, but hopefully they will all become the norm in the near future. Read More and resources in your everyday life? This skill can help. Enable Go Green, and you can ask your Echo to share a tip on how to help out the planet.

Say: “Alexa, ask go green for a random tip” or “Alexa, ask go green for a tip on saving energy”

11. Time Machine

Time Machine lets you step back into history — not literally, but through news headlines. Ask your Echo to start it, and it will pick out today’s date at a random year as far back as 1851. Then, you’ll get to hear news headlines from that day (provided by The New York Times) like they’re happening right now. It’s a neat way to learn what happened on a particular day of history, and a nice break from the current depressing news. cycle

Say: “Alexa, open Time Machine”

12. Medical Assistant

Ever have a funny feeling and think something might be wrong with you? Medical Assistant can give you an idea of what’s going on with your health. The skill provides you with a diagnosis Where Can You Find Reliable Medical Advice Online? Where Can You Find Reliable Medical Advice Online? Read More if you share a symptom you’re feeling, and can also share general advice about certain diseases.

Of course, web advice is not a substitute for seeing a real medical professional The Dangers Of Searching For Medical Information Online The Dangers Of Searching For Medical Information Online Searching for and relying on online medical information to diagnose/treat yourself, someone you know, or even a pet, can prove costlier than you think. Here's why... Read More . Talk to a doctor about serious medical questions, and call 911 for emergencies. This app is for informational purposes only!

Say: “Alexa, ask Medical Assistant what to do in case of malaria” or “Alexa, ask Medical Assistant to give me my diagnosis”

13. Who Is Right?

Alexa doesn’t just fetch information for you — she can back you up if you’re feeling unsure of yourself. With this skill, your Echo will provide reassurance that you’re correct about anything. We can’t recommend basing decisions on the universal approval of a robot, but if you need that extra push, we won’t judge you.

Say: “Alexa, am I right?”

14. Just The Temperature

While Time Tone builds on a basic Echo ability, Just The Temperature scales one back. By default, when you ask for the temperature Alexa spouts off the high/low and weather conditions for the day. If this takes too long for you, use this skill instead, and you’ll get a quick response with only the temperature.

Say: “Alexa, open just the temperature”

15. Overwatch Facts

Overwatch is (rightfully) one of the most popular shooters available today. While it’s an online-only game, there’s plenty of lore contained in the game’s backstory.

If you love the game and want to learn more about your favorite characters, install this skill and go to town. Make sure to review our Overwatch beginner tips 7 Overwatch Tips for the Complete Beginner 7 Overwatch Tips for the Complete Beginner You've seen the gorgeous cinematic trailers on YouTube and you've decided to buy Overwatch. There's one problem, though: You don't have any idea how to play! Here's how. Read More if you’re new!

Say: “Alexa, open Overwatch Facts”

16. Animal Finder

Learning about animals is easy with Animal Finder. While it won’t help you locate your lost dog, it will tell you basic statistics about any species on Earth. Say the name of an animal, and you’ll learn its Latin name, current population size, and endangered status.

Say: “Alexa, open Animal Finder” or “The species is a snow leopard”

17. SillyWords

Silly is right in the name of this skill. If you want to learn some strange-sounding words, this is the place. It might be worth a download just to hear Alexa botch the pronunciations.

Say: “Alexa, open Silly Words”

18. Jason Finder

We don’t know who Jason is, but if you do, this skill will help you find him.

Say: “Alexa, ask Jason Finder where is Jason” or “Alexa, ask Jason Finder is Jason in Cleveland?”

What Skills Do You Use Most?

We’ve checked out some recent Alexa skills, both useful and dumb. This list shows that even if you don’t have other Smart Home devices, the Echo is still powerful (and fun!) when used solo. Many of these skills are more useful than a smartphone app, and even the dumb ones have some use.

Don’t believe those who say that Alexa is stupid Let's Face It: Amazon Echo's Alexa Is Stupid Let's Face It: Amazon Echo's Alexa Is Stupid There's no doubt voice-controlled assistants are the future, but is Alexa the solution? Perhaps not. In this article, I'm going to argue Alexa is actually rather stupid. Read More !

Now we want to hear from you, Echo owners. Which Alexa skills are you digging? Are there any stupid ones that made you chuckle? Add to our list by leaving a comment!

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  1. likefunbutnot
    May 15, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    You can use Alexa to control Plex (which is a supported skill anyone can use) or, if you know a tiny bit about networking and are willing to register as an Amazon developer, you can set up Alexa to control Kodi.

    Unfortunately, they're both error prone and more than a little aggravating, but it's still kind of cool that it works at all.