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We live in an era of smart devices. With smart homes going mainstream, speakers and smart displays are becoming the hubs for our new smart lives. The great thing is that these speakers can do much more than just turn your lights on. One such smart speaker is the Amazon Echo.
Amazon Echo may seem like a run-of-the-mill smart speaker, but it has a lot of tricks up its sleeves. There are many great Amazon Echo features, but most people use only a few. The secret to these features is Amazon’s digital voice assistant, Alexa, which powers these devices. Amazon bundles Alexa with a whole bunch of "skills." Think of these as the links between a voice command and an action the smart speaker can carry out. Additionally, there are a lot of skills that have been made by users, adding even more functionality to the Amazon Echo. Here are the Amazon Echo features you probably didn’t know existed.
Scheduling an Uber or Lyft
The great thing about having an app for everything is that you can often make these apps talk to each other. A great example is getting your Amazon Echo to talk to ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Running late and don’t have enough time to pick up your phone? No worries, you can just ask Amazon Echo to hail you a ride. It’s a great timesaver if you’re a busy person. It’ll save you a couple of minutes as you rush to get ready.
As explained by CNET, you can tell your Amazon Echo to book you a ride with Uber or Lyft. Both services have their skills for the Echo. You can find it in the Skills & Games section of your Amazon Alexa app. You will have to add Uber and Lyft accounts to your Echo as you enable these skills. After that, it’s one voice command to fetch a ride. You can also use voice commands on your Amazon Echo to check ride status, tip, rate your driver, or cancel your ride.
Paying your credit card bill
Credit cards can be quite a hassle, especially if you’ve got a lot of them. Keeping track of payments is tough, but you can get your Amazon Echo to help you out here. It can pay your credit card bill for you with a voice command. Unfortunately, not every credit card provider has support for this, but there are a few popular credit issuers that will let you pay your credit card bills with a voice command.
As How to Geek explains, you can manage your credit card with your Amazon Echo. You’ll need to search for the skill for your credit card provider and go through a secure setup process to link it to your Echo. Your credit card may be supported, and a simple search in the Skills & Games section will help you find the skill for it, if available. The major credit cards with that work with this Amazon Echo feature include American Express and Capital One. If the skill supports it, you can do everything from paying the bill with a voice command to checking payment status, available credit limit, and even card offers.
Making a choice? Flip a coin
It’s not just the more complicated tasks you can offload to your smart devices, but even the simplest ones. Flipping a coin, for example. If you want to make a simple choice between two options and can’t find a coin (let’s face it, that happens quite often), you can just ask your Amazon Echo to flip a coin for you instead.
The Flip A Coin skill is simple to add and use. Just search for the skill and add it. You can then ask your Amazon Echo to flip a coin by saying, "Alexa, flip a coin," and it will respond with "heads" or "tails." This is a super nifty Amazon Echo feature for when you want to make a 50-50 choice. Of course, if you want to choose between more than two options, you can also ask Alexa to roll a die, or even a 20-sided die if you’ve got a big choice to make.
Getting fit with seven-minute workouts
Fitness is essential, but not everybody has the time to run or go to a gym. That’s why seven-minute workouts have become popular in recent times, making their way into some of the best workout apps. Of course, there’s no personal trainer at home, but you can just ask your Amazon Echo to step in and take over that role. Using the 7-Minute workout skill, as demonstrated by PCMag, you can get in some quick activity going. Just call out to your Amazon Echo and say, "Alexa, start seven-minute workout." to begin.
Spoon University reports that your Echo will even compliment you at the end of each workout to keep you motivated. It will guide you through the exercises and keep the time, which is the next best thing to having a personal trainer at your home. Your Echo will also introduce every workout so you get a better understanding of it, but you can skip it if needed or ask for more help. You can even pick your soundtrack to accompany your exercise, making this skill the complete package for short, at-home workouts.
Get reminders to take your medication
Reminders have been one of digital assistants’ most popular and staple features, but now they’re smarter and more accommodating of individual needs. A great example is the medication management that Amazon added to its smart devices. This Amazon Echo feature will keep track of your medications and send you reminders about taking them on time. This skill will need you to be a Giant Eagle pharmacy customer. You will need to add your account with the pharmacy to your Amazon Echo.
That unlocks the full length of this skill. Not only will you get medication reminders, but you can also request prescription refills. Once you’ve linked your account, just say "Alexa, manage my medication" and set up your reminders. As CNET notes, this feature is safe, too, as it works based on your voice profile and will ask you for your passcode to verify your identity, making this convenient feature tough to misuse.
Finding your phone
Who among us hasn’t lost their phone in the cracks of their couches? It happens to the best of us, and often the only thing you can do is ask someone else to call your phone, so you can follow the sound and find it. If you have an Echo, you don’t need someone else to call your phone. There’s a skill for that! The Find My Phone will call your phone up with one voice command, but you’ll need to set up Alexa calling before it can do that.
Alexa Calling is the Echo feature that lets you call and message people. As Pocket Lint explains, you don’t need a dedicated voice or data plan either, as this works over Wi-Fi. You will need to enable Alexa Calling for your phone number and voice profile. Once done, you can simply ask your Amazon Echo to call or find your phone. It’ll give your phone a ring and help you locate it. If your phone is on silent, this feature won’t help, but that’s also the case with asking a friend to call you, so think of this as a quicker alternative, if not better.
Sending a virtual hug
The last couple of years have been tough, and most of us haven’t been able to go out and meet our friends and family members the same way we used to. Being away from your loved ones can be difficult, and you may not always have time for a call or a text. Even if you have the time, the person on the other end may not have the time or the mental space. So what do you do? You can send a virtual hug straight from your smart device.
Amazon Echo lets you send a virtual hug, a small but significant gesture to let someone know you’re thinking about them without taking up too much of their time. You will need to sync your phone’s contacts with Alexa, as CNET breaks it down, which is a bit of a hassle. However, once you’ve set it up, you can just ask your Echo to send a hug to a contact. Amazon Echo will send a relatively low-key virtual hug to the person.
Getting recipe suggestions (and critique from Gordon Ramsey)
Cooking can be tedious at times, especially if you’re making the same thing over and over. It’s even more tedious if you have to eat alone afterward. Thankfully, your Echo can help you out on both those fronts. It can be your cooking buddy, and you can ask it to suggest recipes according to your needs. This is possible using the Allrecipes skill, which brings a great collection of recipes onto your device. You can ask it to give you a recipe for a specific dish or one with particular ingredients. It’s easy to navigate with voice commands as well, and if you want to take a better look at it, you can also have it sent to your phone.
If you want to have a bit more fun with it, you can summon celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay to critique your food once you’re done cooking it. The Gordon Ramsay skill lets you ask your Echo what he thinks of your dish, and then you get a response in Gordon’s voice. It’s an excellent way to add some zest to your cooking process!
Listen to a bedtime story
Bedtime stories are classic entertainment, but what if you don’t have the time to read one out to your kids or want one to be read out loud to you? One of Amazon Echo’s lesser-known features includes a bedtime story reader. As PCMag explains, you can say, "Alexa, tell me a story" to get your Amazon Echo started with a story. If you don’t like the story, you can say, "Alexa, tell me a different story," to skip to the next one. This skill picks up a story at random, but there are a ton of other skills that can get you specific kinds of stories.
For example, the Story Teller skill can tell stories by genre, the Short Bedtime Story can tell personalized bedtime stories, and Amazon Storytime taps into the Amazon Rapids library and Audible for stories. There are a lot of other bedtime story skills, so you should be able to find one that is perfectly suited to your needs.
Getting ahead of the traffic
We’ve been using technology to get around road traffic for a while. Now, however, you can stay updated on it before your commute begins, and that too with just a voice command. The Amazon Echo has a complete system to set up traffic alerts for daily commutes as well as other routes you may take. You can set your default commute addresses in the Alexa apps. To get the traffic update for your daily commute, just ask, "Alexa, what’s the traffic?"
If you want to get traffic info for other destinations, you can ask your Echo about traffic information to it. Voicebrew notes that you can also add a traffic update to your morning Alexa Routine, which is another Amazon Echo feature that you should enable. That will catch you up on the traffic early in the morning, so you get a headstart on any potential delays right as you’re starting your day.
Becoming a trivia machine with Jeopardy!
Game shows are fun, and in addition to making it a storyteller and a workout coach, you can turn your Amazon Echo into a game show host too! If you’re just bored or want to brush up on your general knowledge skills, you can play Jeopardy! with your Amazon Echo. Echo has an official Jeopardy! skill that feels quite like you’re playing the real deal.
There are a lot of questions available, and they’re updated regularly. You even get a bit of a nostalgia kick as the skill has Johnny Gilbert’s voice announcing the game and bits of Alex Trebek’s voice blended into the game. It’s a great way to play a game show, kill some time, and feel like you’re on TV. If you run out of Jeopardy! questions, you can find a ton of other game show skills, including unofficial versions of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and Deal or No Deal.
Talking to your pets
Pets need attention, but it may not always be possible for you to give it to them. For example, when you have to leave the house without your pet, it’s natural to be anxious about how they’ll do when you’re away, even if you’re going to be out for a little while. So if you’re one of those pet owners, you can enlist the help of your Amazon Echo to talk to your pets while you’re away. It has a couple of skills to talk to your pets.
The Alexa Routine for your Dog will let you set up a routine that triggers when your dog barks, allowing you to set up to 20 actions, including playing voice notes to your pup. Cats aren’t left out, either. The Meow skill will meow back at your cat (or you). Just be careful with these features, though, and check how your pets respond to them before leaving them alone with your Amazon Echo making cat/dog noises.