It’s only been a few short years since Amazon’s Alexa came into our lives, and we’ve got to say a lot has changed. Not only are we interacting with our tech in brand new ways, but Alexa also triggered a boom in smart home products and accessories.
In fact, one could say Alexa and Amazon’s family of Echo products helped make smart home technology mainstream. CES 2020 dedicated tons of showroom real estate to all kinds of smart home goods. Tap or click to see what products were on display at CES this year.
There’s more to Alexa than flicking a light switch, though. The virtual assistant is packed full of unique insights and handy features to help you get more out of the tech you use every day. Here are some of our favorite Amazon Echo features we think you’ll love to use.
1. Create geofences and used Location-based routines to automate your home
One of the Echo’s most brilliant features is its ability to interact with your smart home products. But what you might not know is that you can automate many of these interactions to make your home even smarter. Location-based routines and triggers are the easiest ways to do this.
Here’s how it works: You set up a specific location and range for Alexa to detect your presence — this is usually done by detecting your smartphone’s location. Then, you set up specific actions to occur when you enter this area.
For example, Alexa can be set to turn the lights on when you step through the front door. You can also have your alarm automatically set when you get into the bedroom. It all depends on what parameters you choose. Tap or click here to learn more about routines.
To enable location-based routines, open the Alexa app and tap the menu button in the upper-left corner. Then, select Routines and allow Alexa to access your location. Tap the + button in the upper right corner to add a new routine.
When you select When this happens, you’ll see all the trigger options to set your routine — which can be time, location or voice-based. Once you’ve chosen your trigger, choose Add action to select Alexa’s response.
Location-based routines are available on all Echo devices, including the newly released 3rd Gen Echo Dot with clock. It’s perfect for alarm and time-based routines. Don’t have an Echo, but like these options? Try the Echo (3rd Gen) Smart Speaker or the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) with clock.
2. Tell Alexa to fire up the engine
Did you know Alexa can interact with your car? Depending on your make and model, your Echo device can access an Alexa skill that can let you remotely start your vehicle’s engine, play music and more just by using your voice. Some skills will even help you set up maintenance appointments.
Right now, the following manufacturers offer compatible Alexa skills to use with their vehicles: Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Genesis, GMC, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo.
Keep in mind you’ll need to install the Alexa app on your smartphone to take advantage of these features. For more information on compatible models, including models with built-in Alexa and Echo services, tap or click here.
3. Even if you’re not on the list, you can still take Alexa on the road
If you’re feeling blue after reading the list above and not seeing your car, don’t despair: Amazon has you covered. The company recently released a new device called Echo Auto that smoothly synchronizes your vehicle and smartphone in perfect harmony.
Now, you won’t run the risk of getting a ticket when you want to change tracks or get directions. Just ask Alexa to do those things for you.
4. Fill your entire home with music, thanks to multi-room music groups
Got more than one Echo device? Then it’s time to teach them to play nice with each other. Your Echo speakers can actually work in tandem to deliver music and audio content, which means you can fill every room in your home with the same song or podcast.
To enable multi-room music groups, open the Alexa app and select Devices on the bottom right. Tap the + button in the top right, and choose Set Up Multi-Room Music.
You’ll be prompted to create a group of speakers, which can make it easier to specify certain regions of your home like “upstairs” or “the backyard.” Once you’ve created your group, you can choose your devices and complete the setup.
And if you’re running multiple speakers in tandem, it’s a great opportunity to set up Amazon’s selection of high-definition Echo devices. This includes the high-fidelity Echo Studio, the bass-heavy Echo Sub and the powerful Echo Plus smart home hub to keep them all running smoothly.
5. Watch videos, take conference calls and more with Echo Show
Alexa is typically seen as a “screenless” way to interact with your tech, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Amazon offers its Echo Show family of products to give users the benefits of a screen with the full power of Alexa.
It’s handy for getting recipes right in the kitchen, as well as for calling family members by voice. It also makes fine-tuning Alexa’s settings even easier. There are several different Echo show devices, depending on how big of a screen you want, so make sure to choose one that fits your needs.
The second-generation Echo Show features a larger screen and louder speakers, and works great as a standalone device. The Echo Show 8 and the Echo Show 5 feature smaller screens and speakers, and work better with your existing Alexa and Echo setup.
6. Keep things on the lighter side with Alexa’s sense of humor
Leave it to the clever software engineers at Amazon to pack Alexa full of witty humor and off-color jokes. Just like Apple’s Siri, you can ask Alexa a variety of unorthodox questions to get some equally silly answers.
For example, try asking Alexa to “Open the pod bay door,” or ask if it knows what the answer is to “Life, the universe and everything.” And if you can’t think of anything to ask, feel free to put Alexa on the spot and have it tell you a joke.
Our favorite thing to ask Alexa is the value of Pi, which it gives accurately, but will drone on about for far too long.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit mum if you ask about some of Amazon’s less-than-ideal privacy issues. But that’s nothing a few quick settings adjustments won’t fix. Tap or click here to find out how to stop Alexa from spying on you.
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