20 Echo Skills That Show Alexa’s Not Always So Smart
Amazon’s Echo has become quite a phenomenon. Despite all the things that you can do with Alexa out of the box, its extensibility via Skills is far more intriguing. Skills allow people to connect the Echo to various smart home devices, as well as web services.
We aren’t here to talk about those useful skills. Instead, this is a look at the sillier or downright pointless skills for the Echo. Not all of these are bad, per se, but they aren’t the first thing you’d think of when using your Echo.
1. Distance Between
Have you ever wondered how far it is between two places? Now you can ask Alexa with Distance Between. You Ask, “Alexa, Ask distance between Paris, France, and Berlin, Germany.” You can ask about driving, biking, or walking distances. With those, you get a time estimate, as well the miles between the two cities.
You don’t get any route details. Beyond the time estimate, there isn’t much you can do with the data.
2. Musixmatch Lyrics
We’ve all wanted to know the lyrics to songs before, and apps like Musixmatch come in handy to get them. On the Echo, Musixmatch lets you find out what would happen if your favorite song was performed by a robotic voice. It’s at least worth installing just to make Alex read the lyrics to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.
What is pretty useful is that you can ask, “Alexa ask Lyrics what song contains ‘There was no help, no help from you.'” You can get random quotes from a band as well.
3. Game Dice
Alex can already flip a coin for you, but Game Dice will allow you to roll dice–including RPG dice like 4, 10, or 20 siders. If you want to say “Alexa roll two d20” during your next campaign, you deserve whatever the DM throws at you.
4. Conversation Starter
Have you run out of things to talk about around the dinner table? Don’t worry; Alexa can save your dinner party with random questions from the Conversation Starter skill.
An example topic is “Have you ever saved an animal’s life? What about a human’s?” Who knows, maybe a robot moderator could break the ice at your next awkward dinner party.
5. Zip Code
This one might be the silliest Skill on this list. Have you ever seen a zip code and wanted to know which city it’s from? Well, this skill will let you find out.
“Alexa, ask Zip Code what city is zip code 60696.” Alexa will tell you that it’s Chicago, IL. You can’t ask for the zip code of an address or city; you can only find out the city that corresponds to a zip code.
Milo is Can I Steam It for the Echo, but it’s limited to finding out where movies are streaming. There’s not much you can do with the info once you have it, but you can find out where movies are streaming via subscription or rental.
You say, “Alexa, ask Milo to find Kill Bill Part One.” You’ll then get a list of sites broken down by the types of service.
7. TV Shows
TV Shows is a skill that allows for you to ask the air date for the next episode of your favorite show. This is triggered with, “Alexa ask TV Shows when the next Doctor Who is on.”
The skill will let you know the date and title of the next episode for that show. If this season is over, you’ll get the title and air date of the last aired episode. Since you’re going to have to do the search on your DVR to schedule a recording, I’m not sure how much time this skill saves.
Now, if one of the cable companies partnered with these guys for an Echo skill for their DVR, that would be amazing.
8. Jeopardy J6
Jeopardy is a beloved game show. Most people end up playing along shouting answers at the TV. If you feel that, Alexa will do better than Alex Trebeck; the Jeopardy J6 skill is for you. The premise is that there are additional questions in every category. You get to tackle six of them, just remember to answer in the form of a question!
9. 7-Minute Workout
There are precedents for robot-led seven-minute workouts, but they tend to have more personality than Alexa.
When you start this skill, you’ll get a series of high-intensity exercises. If you want visual guides, you’ll need to look at the Alexa app on your phone. But, within the time you take to grab your phone, you probably could have downloaded a free app with video guides for those workouts.
10. Powerball Number Generator
If you want to play the Powerball, you’re going to need some numbers. So why not let Alexa draw up your next ticket?
When you want your numbers just say, “Alexa, ask Powerball Helper for a good selection for Powerball.” You can also get the last set of winning numbers . I suppose you can pick up a number and bring it to the store with you when buying tickets, just ignore the weird looks from the clerk.
11. Cat Facts
If you’re curious about your Cat, you can turn to the Cat Facts skill. Just say, “Alexa, open Cat Facts.” You’ll get a random fact about cats in return. You can get up to a hundred different random facts about cats. You can also ask Alexa to meow for you. This is just more proof that cats run the internet.
12. Meal Ideas
If you have ever wondered what to eat for dinner, you can use Meal Ideas to find something to eat using common items found in your pantry. Say, “Alexa, ask Meal Ideas to give me a meal idea.” It will read you a recipe using a random ingredient like a vegetable egg scramble or roasted carrots. Sometimes the idea comes with a detailed recipe, and sometimes not. If it does, you can see it in the Alexa app.
13. Reddit Shower Thoughts
Reddit is full of off-kilter forums created by users. One of those is Shower Thoughts. It’s a collection of random thoughts and ideas. There you can find posts like: “What point do boneless chicken wings become chicken nuggets.” or “The past is read-only and the future is ‘write-only.'”
With the Reddit Shower Thoughts skill, you can get the current top post or the most recently submitted on the forum of your choice.
14. Skills Finder
If you want to find the skills, the Alexa app and website are both excellent ways to browse. If browsing through lists or searching isn’t your thing, you can enable the Skills skill and have Alexa read top skills to you.
This is a bit more useful now that you can enable skills via voice command. If you say, “Alexa open Skill Finder.” you will get a new skill each day. If you want to dig further, you can find top skills by category.
15. Event Guide
Want to know what’s going on in town? Just say, “Alexa, Ask Event Guide what’s going on today in Chicago.” You’ll get a list of the events read out in small sets by Alexa in alphabetical order, providing your town is in the database. The skill gets its data from the site Band is in Town. You can search different dates, but you’ll need your phone or laptop to redo the search to buy tickets. You can’t even follow a link from the Alexa app.
16. Food Nutrition Lookup
Food Nutrition Lookup can tell you the calorie count and basic nutrition of generic foods, like peanuts. If you start trying brand name or packaged foods, the skill can’t help. But if you stick in generic terms like butter or steak, you can find info using this skill.
17. Magic Eight Ball
If you grew up before the internet, there was a toy — the Magic Eight Ball. It was a giant plastic pool ball filled with liquid and a die with answers written on it. You asked it a question, shake the ball, and then flip it over for your answer.
Answers were usually things like, “Signs point to yes” or “Reply hazy, try again.”
If you want to recreate the experience on the Echo, install the Magic Eight Ball skill. Then ask the question, “Alexa, ask Magic Eight Ball if I have too much time on my hands.”
At some point when Alexa and other AI assistants have a more interactive and robust interface, Cookbook apps will make sense. Until then, they’re pointless.
You say, “Alexa, ask Cookbook for a salad recipe.” You’ll then get what seems like a random recipe, and the steps to cook it.” The skill doesn’t allow you to step through the instructions as you cook, nor can you easily refer to it later. You’re just going to need to pull up a recipe on your phone or tablet anyhow.
19. Pokemon Type Master
We’re all talking about Pokemon Go right now, which might give it the most relevance since the original Game Boy days. Even before this resurgence, someone created a Skill that’s a guide to Pokemon types. Namely, you can find out the strengths and weaknesses of each type.
Just say, “Alexa, Ask Type Master what’s effective against Water-types.” You’ll find out that you should use Electric or Grass types to attack.
20. Flight Search
Searching for flights is a cottage industry on the internet, with some fierce competition. You can ask Alexa for a flight, including round trip or one way, and various destinations. You’ll then get a list of flights and prices from various airlines. If you want to book your flight, you’ll need to grab your phone or laptop to search for the flight again.
These Skills Don’t Seem Useful
I’m sure some of these Skills were just coding exercises, but others seem too optimistic about what you’re able to do using just your voice.
Do you have a favorite goofy skill for Alexa? Let us know in the comments.