Amazon’s Alexa is by far the most ubiquitous of the voice-activated digital virtual assistants. Most commonly accessed via an Amazon Echo, Alexa has more than 45,000 skills and can connect with and control more than 13,000 smart-home devices. With so many to choose from, it’s hard to know what’s worth your while—which is why AD rounded up five of Alexa’s top functions that actually make your life easier.
Alexa Can Turn On Your Lights
Whether you live in an old house with wonky wiring, have too many light switches to remember which controls what, or simply want a more sophisticated version of the Clapper, smart light bulbs brighten your home with a simple voice command. Alexa can activate lights independently or in groups regardless of which physical switch they are connected to as well as manage dimming routines and color settings. Smart bulbs are also a safety feature, as you’ll never have to arrive to a dark home or stumble blindly to the bathroom late at night. While there are many smart bulbs on the market, Philips Hue frequently gets high marks and integrates easily with Alexa via either the Philips Hue skill or an IFTTT configuration.
Alexa Can Manage Your Shopping List
If you’ve ever been elbow-deep in scrubbing your toilet and discovered you’re out of paper towels, or started a diaper change only to realize your hamper is empty, you can appreciate the convenience of a hands-free shopping list. Add items and to-dos while you’re cooking, cleaning, or carrying your toddler using Alexa’s Any.do skill, or simply ask her to place an order directly from Amazon.
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Alexa Amplifies Your Voice
Gone are the days of shouting across the house to call your spouse to dinner, remind your kids to clean their rooms, or wake up your sleepy teenager. Alexa’s Announcements function broadcasts your voice messages to all connected Echo devices in your home, so you can be just like the virtual mom in Disney Channel’s Smart House. There’s also no need to carry your smartphone around or type out texts to family and friends. With Alexa-to-Alexa calling and messaging, call contacts and send voice messages hands-free directly from your Echo. Drop In even lets you connect instantly to devices outside your home if your family and friends have also enabled the feature.
Alexa Can Turn Up the Heat
Smart thermostats are among the top five most popular smart-home devices sold on Amazon, and with good reason. These gadgets learn users’ habits and manage heating and air accordingly to save both energy and money. Nest is consistently one of the top-rated smart thermostats on the market—use Alexa’s Nest skill to adjust your home’s temperature with a single phrase.
Alexa Is Your Personal DJ
Set mood music, request a dinner soundtrack, and skip the traditional alarm with Alexa’s music-streaming connections. Amazon recently added the ability to request a specific playlist or track at a specific time, and Alexa supports many popular music services, including Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, and iHeartRadio. Users can simply link their accounts and set a default player using the Alexa app without downloading a separate skill.