7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa
You’ve seen the ads starring Alec Baldwin, but you’re still not sure what Amazon Echo does or whether you need one in your home. What makes this speaker better than others on the market? We’re about to find out.
What’s Amazon Echo?
First launched in late 2014, Amazon Echo is a 9.25-inch hands-free wireless speaker you control with your voice. Thanks to voice command technology called “Alexa,” what’s inside Amazon Echo is now available on other devices, including the Amazon Fire TV and upcoming Amazon Echo Dot and Amazon Tap.
Note: While this post is about Amazon Echo, most of the tips can also work on the other devices.
Alright Then, What Is Alexa?
What became Alexa first launched in 2010 at Amazon’s Lab126 offices in Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Massachusetts. The technology, codenamed “Doppler” or “Project D,” was part of Amazon’s first attempts to expand its device portfolio beyond the original Kindle e-reader.
Alexa runs on Amazon Web Services and requires a Wi-Fi Internet connection to work. To initiate a command, Alexa must hear a “wake word.” The default word is “Alexa,” although you can change this to “Amazon” through the free Amazon Alexa app.
With Alexa, a compatible device can play music, answer questions, control the lights, and much more. Since its launch, Alexa has added over 100 new features and skills.
Not surprisingly, the Amazon Echo is great at playing music and is compatible with Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. You cannot yet control Apple Music through the Alexa app. However, because Amazon Echo also serves as a Bluetooth speaker, you can use it with Apple Music.
In this example, we’ll add Pandora to our list of music services on Amazon Echo. From within the Alexa app, tap the three-bar menu button on the top left, and then click on “Pandora.” Next, link your Pandora account. Yes, it’s that simple.
Try the following music commands:
- Alexa, What’s playing?
- Alexa, turn it up
- Alexa, next song
- Alex, stop playing music in 30 minutes
We all like to know how our favorite sports teams are doing. With Amazon Echo, you can hear details such as scores and upcoming schedules for the NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB, NHL, WNBA, NCAA, and other American sports. All you need to do is say “Alexa, give me my sports update.”
To set up your favorite teams in the Alexa app, go to the menu and select Settings, followed by Sports Update. From here, add your favorite teams.
Control Your Smart Things
You can use Alexa to control cloud-based devices on other services, including Insteon, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Wink, TP-LINK Kasa, Sensi, and ecobee.
You must set up these devices under the Connect Home section on the Alexa app, located directly under Settings. The easiest way to attach your Amazon Echo to another service is by selecting Discover devices under the Devices section on this page. Alexa searches for compatible devices on the same Wi-Fi network.
We love IFTTT and how it connects to smart devices such as Amazon Echo. IFTTT, or “If This Then That,” is a free web-based service where everyday users can create chains of statements, called “recipes.” There is an extensive library of Alexa commands in IFTTT.
Check here to find a complete list of the smart home devices that are compatible with Echo.
All About Shopping
Amazon.com is the largest online store on the planet. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise then to learn that Amazon Echo does an excellent job of helping you make shopping lists and spend your money.
With Amazon Echo, you can ask Alexa to add items to your to-do or shopping list. Both lists are already available through the Alexa app.
For example, the command, “Alexa, add granola bars” adds this item to your shopping list. Conversely, “Alexa, add ‘working from home’ to to-do list” adds that item to your to-do list. Each item may be checked off via the app. You can also access your lists from Amazon.com.
One may purchase items on a shopping list via Amazon.com, or you can search for the item via Bing through the Alexa app. You can also tell Alexa to buy a product using your 1-click settings and preferred shipping address on file.
Ordering products through Alexa is an interesting process. Depending on the item you want, Alexa will first look at your order history for a similar product. It will also make suggestions.
Don’t worry: Alexa will prompt you before processing an order.
Unless you work from home, traffic conditions to your place of business is an important detail to know each day. Luckily, Alexa can help you avoid traffic jams thanks to its partnership with HERE, a Nokia company.
To get started, be sure that Alexa knows your home and work addresses. Under the Alexa app’s Settings menu, select Traffic under Accounts. Add both of your addresses and any stops you wish to make. Each address must include street number and name, city, and state.
Once adding these addresses, you can say, “Alexa, what’s my commute?” or “Alexa, what’s the traffic right now?” HERE isn’t available in all locations, so please keep this in mind.
Domino’s Pizza now makes it possible to order food simply by sending a tweet. Thanks to IFTTT, this feature has been further automated so that you can order pizza with your voice. To do so, you must use IFTTT and have a Twitter account.
To get started, visit Dominos.com and sign into your profile. Under the Pizza Profile page, select the box next to “sign up for Tweet ordering,” and connect your Twitter account. Finally, from the Domino’s home page, look at previous orders and click “Save as easy order.”
Next, you’ll need to select the IFTTT recipe, “If You say ‘Alexa trigger order pizza,’ then tweet to order Domino pizza” from the IF app. You’ll be asked to connect your Twitter account to IFTTT if you haven’t already done so.
The next time you say “Alexa, trigger order pizza,” Alexa will send a tweet to Dominos that says #easyorder. A direct message will confirm your order.
Get a Ride
Yes, you can order on Uber using your Amazon Echo. To do so, you’ll need to add the capabilities through the Alexa app. Select Skills under the main menu in the app. Find “Uber,” and then select “Enable skill.” You must “Agree & Enable,” which allows Uber to access your device location.
Once completing setup, you can offer Alexa the following commands: “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride,” “Alexa, ask Uber to request an Uber X,” or “Alexa, ask Uber to get me a car.”
Where Will Alexa Take You?
These are just a few of the creative ways you can use Amazon Echo with Alexa, and with skills there’s no limit to the different things you can do—like play games using your Amazon Echo. As you can see, it’s much more than a speaker.
How do you use your Amazon Echo? Share with us in the comments section below!
Image Credit: SB Wan via Shutterstock.com