When the Amazon Echo released, it was a major step forward in total home automation. Alexa became a personal companion capable of controlling a room’s lighting, reciting the day’s news, passing the time with a friendly game, or playing ambient sounds to sleep to. The ever-expanding library of skills only further enhances the device’s versatility and the interactivity with its onboard personality, Alexa.
From soothing ambient sounds to a game of Jeopardy, skills developed by independent third parties and larger developers are the key to Echo’s sustainability and entertainment value. If you have an Amazon Echo device in your home, the following ten skills are must-haves to make the most of your artificial assistant.
Ambient Sounds: Thunderstorm Sounds
Anyone that has trouble sleeping or even concentrating in their office, there are few things more relaxing than the distant rolling of thunder. Unless, of course, you’re terrified of it. The Ambient Sounds skill series by Invoked Apps LLC comes in a variety of options including “Rain Sounds” and “Ocean Sounds,” but Thunderstorm Sounds seems to be its most popular with over 5000 reviews and five stars.
Kick back and let the soothing sounds of an approaching thunderstorm ease your mind and drown out the ambient noise of everyday life.
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day
Even if you find your vocabulary on the higher end of average, it doesn’t hurt to wake up to a morning refresher. Added to your daily “Flash Briefing,” the “Word of the Day” skill is a great way to get your gears cranking as you struggle to wake up.
A pleasant soundtrack frames the reading of Merriam-Webster’s chosen word, which goes into great detail about its definition, its part of speech, and its etymology. The skill is ideal for anyone looking to expand their vocabulary or even students working their way to their SATs.
Having food delivered to us is one of the better aspects of the modern age and Alexa’s “Amazon Restaurants” skill only enhances the experience. Amazon Prime members can enjoy the benefit of speaking their order to Alexa without having to call the restaurant.
The skill requires “Amazon Restaurants” to have been used prior to be able to order from your order history, but once it’s set up, using it is a breeze. Currently, “Amazon Restaurants” is available in 24 cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Las Vegas, Tampa, Miami, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles.
NPR Hourly News Summary
It’s difficult to find a news source that isn’t biased in one way or another, but NPR is all about the headlines. To know what’s going on in the world the moment you wake up or get home from work, turn to your Amazon Echo and ask Alexa to open the “NPR Hourly News Summary.”
The skill is updated hourly and offers five minutes of the day’s headlines. Enabling this skill helps you keep on top of the world without the fluff of local news or the scandal of major outlets.
Even the most avid sports fan needs a companion every once in a while to keep up with the latest sports news. The Echo’s “ESPN” skill provides immediate access to multiple ESPN radio stations, including ESPN Radio, ESPN Los Angeles, and ESPN New York.
Enjoy listening to Mike and Mike or Dan Le Batard and Stu Gotz and keep up with the day’s sports headlines with hourly news updates. The “ESPN” skill is a must for all sports fanatics.
The Logitech Harmony remote made controlling your entertainment system a breeze, but there were still improvements to be made. Then comes along the Amazon Echo and the “Harmony” skill, which turns every Harmony remote into the most versatile electronic in the living room.
The “Harmony” skill lets you control your television with your voice, a convenience many have likely been pining for. Turn on the television, change the channel, pause a streaming service, and adjust the volume without literally having to lift a finger.
SmartThings / Samsung Connect
Amazon’s Echo device aims to turn every home into a “smart home,” and with the “SmartThings / Samsung Connect” skill, it’s one step closer to doing so. Of course, the user needs to have SmartThing-enabled thermostats, lights, outlets, and thermostats to work, but properly equipping your home is well worth it.
Imagine being able to turn the lights off without having to get out of bed. Or increase the heat while still under the covers. Or even start the coffee machine from the comfort of your porcelain throne. “SmartThings / Samsung Connect” is a versatile skill capable of adjusting lighting, locking doors, and powering on or off any device plugged into a compatible outlet.
Are you prone to losing your phone? The “TrackR” skill makes it a breeze to find where you may have left it. The skill connects with the “TrackR” app, available on the Apple App and Google Play stores, to ring your device on your command.
If you can’t find it anywhere in your home, the “TrackR” skill can also ping the connected app to determine where the phone was last left. Alexa reads off the address of its last-known location to save you the headache of retracing your steps.
If Spotify is your go-to source for music, Amazon’s Echo allows you to use the service’s “Spotify Connect” in the easiest fashion. Once linked to “Spotify Connect” via your Spotify account, the skill gives you complete control of where your music filters out from.
Changing rooms and want your music to follow? So long as you have a Spotify connected device, your Echo can switch output to your desired location. The only downside is Alexa only responds to the device number, not the chosen name.
Not sure which skills you want to add to your Echo? Would you believe that there’s a skill for that? “Skill Finder” lets users ask Alexa for a list of skill categories and the “Skill of the Day.” Learn about the top skills in Alexa’s catalog of useful skills, the newest skills, and the top-rated skills in a specific category.
It may take some time to go through the entire listing of skills, but it’s an intuitive way to get use out of your Echo while trying to find the be ways to use your Echo.
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