Order a pizza, check your car's gas tank and more
The Amazon Echo is much more than just a connected speaker. Paired with its Alexa voice-enabled assistant, the cylinder of sound is a new platform on which people can access cutting edge products and services like Uber and Spotify.
But like most tech, you only get out of the Echo it what you put into it. These 10 Echo “skills” (Amazon’s name for Echo apps) will turn your Echo from a headline-reading automaton into a true digital assistant, capable of informing, entertaining, informing, and even challenging you. You can add them to your Echo via Amazon’s Alexa companion smartphone app.
Most of these killer skills will require no additional hardware, but this integration is too clever not to mention. Owners of the Automatic smart car adapter can link their account to the Alexa app and ask the Echo all sorts of question about the state of their automobile.
For instance, you can say to the Echo, “Ask Automatic how much I drove yesterday.” Wondering where the kids took your car? Have the Echo “ask Automatic, where’s my car?.” And then there’s the ever-helpful: “Ask Automatic what’s my fuel level,” which is perfect for planning ahead.
With the help of the capabilities that Capital One brings to the Echo, Alexa literally has the skills to pay the bills. Once you link your Capital One credit or debit card account to the Alexa app, you’re able to ask for all sorts of updates, like your card balance, how much money is in your checking account, or a list of recent transactions. And according to Capital One, there’s more to come, including the ability to transfer money.
The epitome of convenience, the Echo’s Domino’s skill can turn your wish into a very tasty reality — so long as your wish is pizza. A simple link between the Alexa app and a user’s Domino’s account makes it possible to request delivery on a whim.
To get your favorite pie hot and at your door, all you have to do is say “Open Dominos and place my Easy Order,” and the wheels of cheese are in motion. And if you’re getting impatient, you can also ask the Echo to give you a status update.
One of the more delightful surprises baked into the Echo, the Jeopardy! skill lets users play everyone’s favorite gameshow. With six new questions per day (in multiple categories, of course), it’s a fun way to flex your knowledge. But don’t forget to answer in the form of a question — Alex Trebek may be a stickler, but the Echo is even worse.
Adding events to your Google Calendar may be a whiz on your iPhone or Android handset because of their touchscreens. But Quick Events tries to take the tapping and swiping out of the equation with an intuitive scheduling skill. Allowing you to enter all the information at once (“Alexa, tell Quick Events to add go to the store tomorrow at 11 a.m.”) or prompting you with more questions until the appointment is locked in, this skill a great way to keep up with your calendar while your hands are full with your busy life.
Election talk is all the rage at the moment — and that’ll be the case until the ballots are cast in November. The NBC News skill puts that talk within voice’s reach. Providing polling data, primary results, trivia, and the latest headlines, it’s like having a team of pundits in your kitchen (or wherever you put your Echo), only you don’t have to feed them.
One of the most clever uses of the Echo’s intellect is the Spelling Bee. As simple as it sounds, the skill recites fifth grade-level words that the user needs to spell aloud. The Echo knows how these words are spelled, and serves as the referee. Great for a quick hit of mental calisthenics or for getting ready for the Scripps-Howard competition, it’s a fun way to pass the time.
The Wayne Investigation
Whether you like Batman or not, activate this skill for a peek at the full potential of the Echo platform. A high-quality, audio-based, choose-your-own-adventure game, The Wayne Investigation was developed by Warner Brothers to promote its upcoming Batman vs. Superman. In it, you assume the role of an investigator tasked with finding the truth about the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. With a narrator who sounds remarkably like Alec Baldwin and excellent sound effects, it’s a great way to explore Gotham in a whole new way.
A set of exercises scientifically proven to make people healthy, this routine takes almost no time at all, and with the Echo as a trainer, it even takes the counting out of the equation. Just connect the skill to the Alexa app and start it by saying “Start seven minute workout.”
From there, the speaker takes control. But not to worry, the Echo isn’t a drill sergeant. The skill lets you take breaks, and after future updates it will even track statistic and offer more difficult exercises.
Like a good personal assistant, the Echo can even fetch you a car. To have your Echo hail you a ride, just enable the Uber skill in the Alexa app and log in with your credentials. Next — and this is an important detail — add your Echo’s location to the Alexa app, so your driver knows where to pick you up. Then, once your ready, tell the Echo: “Ask Uber to get me a car.”
If you’d rather ride with UberX or UberBlack, or any of the ride-hailing company’s other specialty services, just clearly ask for your preference when making your request. And if there’s traffic, you can also ask for the status of your ride, or request to cancel the car — no smartphone necessary.