Amazon’s voice controlled assistant, Alexa, allows people to perform thousands of tasks with a simple voice command or voice search. Combined with the Alexa Amazon app, users can customize and expand Alexa’s capabilities for even more usability. Alexa was released in late 2014 for use on Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot. Through the devices, Alexa can respond to many requests such as reporting the news, playing music, or answering basic questions. The assistant can currently respond to and speak in two languages (English and German). Here, we will give an overview of Alexa Amazon and the virtual assistant’s capabilities.
Amazon is pushing to integrate Alexa into a variety of different devices. The voice assistant is ready to listen on the Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV, Fire Tablet, and Fire TV stick, among many others. Recently, Amazon announced new devices for Alexa to be heard on. These include the Amazon Echo Spot, Echo Plus, and an updated Fire TV, all coming to market in late 2017. Regardless of which device Alexa is on, users can ask a variety of questions and give commands, like the ones listed below.
What Can Alexa Do?
Alexa is equipped to help users in many ways, and can be customized to expand her capabilities. Commands can be mundane or complicated. Alexa is learning new commands everyday, so users should make sure to check Amazon’s website for new things to ask Alexa.
Common Commands and Questions
Here are some common things users ask Alexa to help them with.
Simply say, “Alexa, what’s the weather like today?” for today’s forecast. Users can also ask, “Alexa, will it rain today?” or “Alexa, do I need an umbrella today?” To get the future forecast, just ask, “Alexa, what will the weather be like this weekend?”
Alexa is probably best known for her ability to play music. Depending on how many extravagant a user’s speaker system is, Alexa can play music in multiple rooms or change rooms depending on where the user wants to hear the song. Alexa can also play audiobooks and “thumbs up or down” songs on Pandora. Some basic commands include, “Alexa, play some music”, “Alexa, play Spotify”, and “Alexa, play rock music.”
To set a timer for cookies, a workout, or pretty much anything, users can say, “Alexa, set a timer for 30 minutes.” Users can also set an alarm at a certain time, cancel alarms and timers, or check to see how much time is on a timer.
If Alexa doesn’t know the answer to something (like how old the Statue of Liberty is), users can ask her to search the web for the answer. Users can also ask Alexa to specifically search Wikipedia for the answer, rather than the web in general.
Other Commands and Questions
Alexa is equipped to help users in ways that they may not even know about. Here are some useful commands and questions that are used less often than basic commands.
For people with additional technologies integrated into a smart home, Alexa can help users seamlessly integrate the technologies using voice commands. The number of smart home platforms is rapidly expanding, and includes SmartThings, Belkin WeMo, and Philips Hue. If Alexa is granted control of smart lights, users can say “Alexa, dim the lights” or “Alexa, turn on kitchen lights.” With smart thermostats like Nest, Alexa can check or adjust the temperature for users.
Users looking for some entertainment will be pleased to learn that Alexa has a few jokes up her sleeves. Users can say, “Alexa tell me a joke” or “Alexa, give me an Easter egg” for a fun surprise. There are many more specific commands that will give funny responses, like “Alexa, beam me up” or “Alexa, my name is Inigo Montoya.”
Alexa Amazon now comes with new skills she can learn. The skills are created by third-party developers and range from the scientific (NASA) to the hungry (Domino’s). To open a skill, say “Amazon, open Domino’s”. The specific commands within skills may vary, so users should check with skill guides to maximize Alexa’s capabilities. Users can also search and activate skills through the Alexa Amazon app.