When Amazon first announced its Echo smartspeaker with Alexa, a lot of people weren’t sure of what it was all about. After a couple of years on the market, it has become quite popular after the addition of new abilities and new form factors including the Echo Dot and Tap. Here’s a look at some cool things you can set up to get more from Alexa on your Amazon Echo device.
Configure Alexa’s Flash Briefing
One of the more touted features of the first generation echo was Alexa’s Flash Briefing. At the time, it featured the latest news headlines from NPR as well as your local weather forecast. Over the past two years, it has gained a ton of new sources for all sorts of topics. For more on getting your news fix read our article on how to setup and customize Alexa Flash Briefings.
Make Alexa Read Books to You
You already know that Alexa can read Audiobooks from Audible (an Amazon company). But another interesting thing you might not be aware of is it can read Kindle eBooks aloud, too. You probably already have some eBooks in your library that Alexa can read already. But, when you’re shopping for eBooks, look out for books that are Whispersync for Voice-ready enabled as well as Narration Ready labels.
Once you have a few Kindle eBooks in your collection, open the Alexa app on your mobile device. Then head to Settings > Music & Books > Books Alexa can read. For in-depth details read: How to Find Kindle eBooks Alexa Can Read to You.
Make Echo Smarter Out of the Box
Alexa gets smarter over time as you use it (just like other digital assistants are designed to do). However, there are a few things you can do right away to get Alexa smarter out-of-the-box. Some things to configure are voice training, providing feedback, and adding Skills. For more, check out our article: How to Make the Amazon Echo Smarter.
Integrate Your Google or Outlook.com Calendar
Alexa has been able to manage your Google Calendar for several years already. After linking it with Alexa, you can use voice commands to add events to your calendar as well as find out what is coming up. For more details read: How to Connect Your Google Calendar with Alexa.
And, if you mainly work in the Microsoft ecosystem of services, you’ll be happy know Amazon recently added the ability to connect your Outlook.com Calendar as well. Just like with Google Calendar, you can use similar voice commands to add events and find out what is coming up. For more on linking calendars read: How to Connect Your Outlook.com Calendar with Alexa.
Add Skills to Alexa
When we first took a look at how to add Skills to your Echo, only a handful of them were available. But just last month the company boasted there are now over 10,000 available. Since this is still a new and upcoming technology, there are only a handful of Skills that are truly useful there are plenty for you to play with. What are some of your favorite Alexa Skills? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Listening to Music on Amazon Echo
Secure Your Amazon Purchases
One of the benefits is the ability to purchase products from Amazon with your voice. While that is handy and convenient, it can also mean the potential for unwanted items being ordered and costing you a lot of money. A popular example of this was the story of a 6-year-old who girl who ordered a $170 dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies. To stop something similar from happening to you, turn off Voice Purchasing and set a passcode for purchases. Read our article on how to prevent Alexa from making accidental purchases.
Manage Alexa’s Voice and Wake Word
You can customize and personalize Alexa and your Echo. If you aren’t a fan of the default sound of Alexa’s voice and you’re in the U.S. you can give it a British accent or speak in German.
You can also change the wake word for the device. It’s “Alexa” by default, but depending on where your Echo is located, you might find it going off a lot while watching TV or playing podcasts (especially tech shows). At the time of this writing, you can change it to Echo, Amazon, or Computer (perfect for fans of Star Trek).
Have Fun with Alexa Easter Eggs
While Alexa can do a ton of things from playing music, controlling your smart home, and order flowers, there are also fun Easter Eggs you can access. You can have fun speaking with Alexa about Star Trek, popular movies, other tech companies and more. Note that these work with the Echo and Fire TV.
Whether you have an Amazon Echo or other devices that come with Alexa, leave a comment below and tell us about your favorite features.