Alexa is the personal assistant that Amazon built into the Echo speaker and has since put into a number of other devices like the Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick and more. Alexa, when she first debuted in 2014, was a pretty basic assistant, but now she has grown into something much more. And some people might even say she's better than what Google, Apple and Microsoft have available. There are a lot of hidden commands with Alexa, and hidden skills, so here are some of the best ones available right now.
Find Out How Bad Traffic is on Your Commute to Work
While Google Now will show you when you need to leave your home to make it to work on time. You can also ask Alexa how the traffic is on your way to work or elsewhere. Alexa isn't that useful without setting this up ahead of time, so you'll need to do this in the Amazon Alexa app, which is available for both Android and iOS. To ask Alexa how traffic is just say, "Alexa, how's the traffic?"
Finding A Place to Eat Dinner
So you're heading out with your friends to grab some grub, but you have no idea where to go to eat? Ask Alexa where you should go. You can ask her, "Alexa, Find me Chinese restaurants nearby", and she'll begin listing off different restaurant names. You can then check the Alexa app on your phone for hours of operation and contact information on these restaurants.
Finding Out What Song is Playing
Many of us, when listening to music just listen to a playlist or even a radio station and we may not know what every single song is. Many times we'll wonder what the name of that song is. Well, let's ask Alexa. Just say something like "Alexa, who sings this song?" She'll answer with the title and who the artist is that sings it. You can also ask what the title of the song is and even the genre. She's pretty knowledgeable when it comes to music.
Creating Shopping Lists
Say you're cooking dinner and you notice that you are out of eggs and want to add it to your shopping list? Alexa can help. Just say something like "Alexa, add eggs to my shopping list" and she'll add it to your list. Making it easy to add things to your shopping list, so the next time you are at your local grocery store, you can get everything you need, without forgetting things.
Recipes with Alexa
Speaking of Cooking, with Alexa, you can find all sorts of recipes to use in the kitchen. As long as you have the "AllRecipes" skill enabled, you can ask Alexa for a recipe for chicken, or for really any other food. She'll list some off for you to choose from. She will also walk you through cooking the dish step-by-step. What's even more impressive here is the fact that she can add the ingredients to your shopping list.
Alexa-exclusive Amazon Deals
We all love a good deal right? Well Amazon periodically has sales that are exclusive to Alexa. One of the more popular ones lately has been the Wemo Smart Plug (which works with Alexa) for just $19, when it is typically $49 and had been on sale for $29 without Alexa voice-ordering. You can also order items directly through Alexa, without even needing to open up your browser. Simply say "Alexa, what are you're deals?"
Alexa Can Control Your Smart Home
Something that Amazon has taught us with Alexa and the Amazon Echo, is the fact that a smart speaker is the hub for a smart home. With Alexa, you can control your lights, your thermostat and just about anything else in your home. She works with many ecosystems already, with more coming all the time. If you have Philips Hue lights in your home, you can tell Alexa "Turn on the kitchen lights", she'll reply "OK" and they will turn on instantly.
Tracking Santa Clause on Christmas Eve
This week is Christmas, and if you have kids, you'll want to track Santa to find out when he'll be coming to your home. Well with the Kayak skill, you can do just that. All you need to do is say "Alexa, ask Kayak to track Santa". Now you'll get a few different responses if it's not Christmas Eve, that basically mean that the feature isn't ready yet and will only be ready on Christmas Eve.
Now Amazon does have their own music service in Prime Music, so when telling Alexa to play music, you have to be a bit specific as to what source you want to use. For me, I have to say "Alexa, play [playlist name] playlist from Spotify" and she'll play the requested Spotify playlist for me. If you don't specify the source, she'll play from Prime Music.
With playing music comes media controls, and there are loads of them available with Alexa. You can ask her to pause or resume music, go back to the previous song or skip to the next song. They are simple commands, and it means you can change the song, or even stop your music without having to stop what you're doing. Talk about convenient, especially if you're cooking and have dirty hands.
Asking General Questions
Like Google Now, Siri and Cortana, Alexa too can answer general questions. You can ask her things like "Who is the President of the United States?" You can also continue that conversation by asking things like "how old is he?" or "where was he born?" and she'll be able to figure out that you are still referring to President Obama (or depending on when you're reading this, President Trump). Of course, it doesn't stop with the President. You can ask her about the weather, the score from last night's game and so much more.
Buying an Alexa-enabled Device
As mentioned in the beginning of this post, Alexa is available in many devices right now. Of course, the most common ones are the Echo Dot, Tap and Echo. At the time of writing this, Amazon has all three of these discounted to $39, $89 and $139 respectively. However the Amazon typically sells the Echo Dot for $49, the Amazon Tap for $129 and the Echo for $179. You can also get Alexa through the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV, as well as their lineup of tablets, including the $49 Amazon Fire Tablet (also on sale for $39 right now).