This Christmas I found myself asking Santa for a new Alexa enabled speaker. I was pretty open the new Amazon Echo, the new Echo Plus, or the first gen Amazon Tap as either option would fit the bill. What started as an odd experiment or maybe more accurately a peculiar novelty two years ago has become a routine everyday tool in our home.
It started pretty simply. We positioned our Amazon Dot in the kitchen and started identifying what this gadget could do.
First was the music. Being able to play music from a variety of sources like Spotify and Pandora while cleaning the kitchen just by asking Alexa to play some music was a nifty trick! Even better (multitasking) is being able to listen to your books on your Audible account while doing the dishes!
The big kids were not the only ones getting some entrainment out of this new novelty. "Alexa, tell me a joke!" has provided a least a few hundred hours of entertainment in our home!
Weather & Scores & More
Soon it did not feel so silly to ask this tiny little Alexa Dot other questions. Alexa, what is the weather going to be like today? Alexa, what was the score of the OKC Thunder game last night? Alexa whats playing at the movies? Alexa, what is 98 kgs in lbs?
Part of The Routine
Later we received a second Eco Dot as a gift. That is when we really started integrating the capabilities of this device into our everyday.
The Kids: Can we wear shorts? Parents: Did Alexa say it would be greater than 60 outside today?
- Alexa, what is the weather going to be like?
- Alexa, what is on my calendar today?
- Alexa, what is my Flash Briefing?
- Alexa, what is on my calendar tomorrow? (If I remember!)
- Alexa, open sleep sounds. Play Oceans!
- Alexa set the sleep timer for 1 hour!
- Alexa add "this item" to my to-do list.
- Alexa add this item to my shopping list.
- Alexa remind me to put my clothes in the dryer in an hour.
I have only mentioned the everyday day in and day out stuff. There are still a lot of other features and skills available for exploration. I look forward to some more home automation experiments via smart plugs in the future. Santa came thru this year so I can have three rooms in the house with intercom capabilities!
Alexa also allows you to automate your routine tasks!
Article: Learn how to set up an Alexa routine
1. The ability to listen to Spotify or Audible.
This is a native feature of Amazon Alexa and just needs to be set up during setup. This one is pretty straightforward.
2. Flash News Briefing
CNN, NPR & BBC (most major news sources have something) all offer a quick daily digest of top headlines for the day. This helps pass the time while I am brushing my teeth, ironing or etc...and helps me get a little more connected with major events before I head out the door.
Initiate skill by saying: "Alexa, what's in the news?" or "Alexa, what's my Flash Briefing?"
3. Calendar Integration
Not sure if you have an 8 AM or 7 AM meeting that morning? Or worse yet your not sure you wake up in the middle of the night freaking out that the random semi-important 7 AM meeting might be tomorrow? No need to pull out your phone or worse if you're still in the dark ages your laptop to figure it out. Alexa will give you a rundown of your first 5 meetings (and more if needed more) just by asking.
This is a built-in skill that requires some setup, but it works Gmail, Outlook.com, Office 365, iCloud and Exchange. Once activated you not only can get a rundown of your schedule for the day and a few other gems that might come in handy.
Try the following:
- "Alexa, Hows my day look?"
- "Alexa, Add a 2:00 pm meeting to my calendar"
- "Alexa, Whats my next appointment?"
Support Link: How to Connect Your Calendar to Alexa
4. Sleep and Relaxation Sounds
This app provides white noise. I suspect most of the 6500 plus reviewers use the skill prior to sleeping. This is a great app for easy to access white noise when you are ready to go to sleep. It has a multitude of options. I am partial to "oceans". A disclaimer is that this app now has a premium version which is advertised in the free version at times. Not too annoying, but when you are ready to go to sleep your ready to go to sleep!
Initiate skill by saying: "Alexa open Sleep Sounds"
5. Sleep Timer
Whether I am listening to music or white noise prior to falling asleep I do not care much for either if I wake up in the middle of the night. The sleep timer is a built-in skill from Alexa that will shut down any audio (and I suspect any video) within a specified amount of time.
Initiate this skill by saying: "Alexa set sleep timer for 1 hour"
Alexa has a host of timers and reminders that can be helpful throughout the day!