There’s no doubt that an Alexa-powered smart speaker is useful. After all, the ability to control your smart home, play games, and choose music with your voice is phenomenal — but did you know there are a lot of abilities that go overlooked?
Alexa is jam-packed with features that don’t get as much time in the limelight. Some will keep you entertained, while others can help you give back to the world around you.
If there’s one thing the past year has made abundantly clear, it’s the importance of looking out for one another. Alexa can simplify that by making charity donations for you — just say, “Alexa, I want to make a donation.”
The voice assistant will then ask what charity you wish to donate to. While every charity is not available, there are hundreds that are. Say the name of the charity and confirm the action, and Alexa will automatically debit the funds from your account. Just make sure you have Amazon Pay set up first.
Alexa’s ability to walk users step-by-step through a recipe is well-known; after all, Alexa could practically have her own cooking show on the Food Network based on all the features aimed at the kitchen. But did you know she can actually suggest recipes for you based on the ingredients you have?
The Allrecipes Skill allows you to ask, “Alexa, ask Allrecipes what I can make with eggs and rice” (or whatever ingredients you happen to have in the pantry.) Alexa will then suggest recipes for you that incorporate those ingredients. It’s a great skill for when you’re hungry but are also in need of a grocery run.
For as much as we love our four-legged friends, you never quite know what they will get into while you’re away from home. The good news is that Alexa can help try to keep them out of trouble, although a determined pup won’t be stopped.
There are two Alexa skills that can help: Woof! for dogs, and Meow! for cats. All you have to do is say, “Alexa, enable Meow or Bark.” Then, whenever your pet makes a noise, Alexa will respond and initiate a sort of conversation with your pet. You can also just use the drop-in or broadcast feature to speak to your pets. Maybe shout, “Get off the couch!” throughout the day just for good measure.
Everyone wants to sleep better at night, and for some people that means using a white noise machine. There’s no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated device, though — not when Alexa can do the same thing. You can play white noise straight from your Alexa smart speaker through several different methods.
The first is Amazon Prime Music, the in-house music service included as part of your Prime subscription. Just ask Alexa to play white noise through Prime Music and you’ll hear thunderstorms, ambient sounds, and more. (Or you might hear the Josh Turner album if you don’t specify.)
You can do the same thing through Spotify if you aren’t a Prime subscriber. If neither of those options work for you, there are dedicated Amazon Skills for ambient noise that include sounds like babbling brooks, birds, crickets, and more.
On those nights when you really don’t want to cook, order a pizza! Rather than picking up your phone or going to the website, let Alexa order for you. You’ll first need to enable the relevant Skill, though — Domino’s, Pizza Hut, or Papa John’s. Or enable all three if you want options!
After you’ve done this, all you have to do is say, “Alexa, order a pizza,” or “Alexa, order a pizza from (specify a location.)” Each Skill has different options, but the easiest by far is Domino’s. Save an “Easy Order” and ask Alexa to order it. It’s the fastest way to get food to you when you’re too hungry to drag yourself into the kitchen.
Do you find yourself trying to quietly issue commands to Alexa at night while your spouse sleeps beside you? The last thing you want to do is wake them up. The good news is that Alexa’s Whisper Mode allows Alexa to respond with a whisper, too.
Just go into your Alexa app, open Settings > Voice Responses, and turn on Whisper Mode. When you speak in a normal voice, Alexa will respond at a normal volume — but when you whisper a command, she will answer with a whisper, too.
Your home security uses motion sensors and a variety of other tools to watch out for illicit activity, but Alexa can act as the first line of defense by listening for the sound of breaking glass through Alexa Guard.
Alexa Guard offers both a free version and a paid version. When enabled, it listens for the sounds of breaking glass, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and more. You can even use smart lights with Alexa Guard to simulate the presence of someone in the home so that your house doesn’t look deserted.
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