Amazon recently announced that the Alexa AI powering its Echo and other hardware has now learned 1,000 “skills” (up from just 135 in January). In case you’re not up to speed with all the new tricks, we’ve picked out 40 of our favourites — you can discover the other 960 yourself.
Our previous Echo guide focused on some of the built-in voice commands you can use with your hardware. Here, we’re looking at the various third-party plug-ins (known officially as skills) added to Alexa — to get them working, install the Alexa app for Android or iOS and open the Skills menu.
Ask an 8-ball
Install the Magic 8-Ball skill on your Echo then ask it anything: “Alexa, ask Magic 8-Ball if I’m going to be rich,” say, or whatever else you want a mystic (random) answer to.
Call a cab
Uber integration is perhaps one of the most well-known Echo features — say “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride” and a taxi will be on its way to your location in minutes.
Cash in on daily deals
Woot can bring the best daily deals straight to your Echo: say “Alexa, ask Woot what the daily deal is” or specify a certain product category in your query like electronics or shirts.
Change the temperature
As you might expect, the Amazon Echo works with the Nest smart thermostat, so you just need to say “Alexa, cool down the living room” to start lowering the temperature.
Control your SmartThings
Samsung’s SmartThings works seamlessly with the Echo and Alexa. Once you’ve got the skill installed and ready you can say “Alexa, dim bedroom light to 60 per cent” and so on.
Check the air quality
With the Air Quality Report skill you can look up the current air quality in any 5-digit US ZIP code — just say “Alexa, ask Air Quality Report for zip code…” and then the code you want.
Check your account balance
Stay on top of your finances, if you use Capital One. Tell Alexa to “open Capital One” then say something like “what’s my account balance?” or “make a credit card payment.”
Find a handyman
Your Echo can find you a handyman through the magic of HomeAdvisor, enabling commands like “Alexa, ask HomeAdvisor to find me a plumber” or whatever you need.
Find a trip that fits your budget
Search tool Kayak is available as a skill, with queries like “Alexa, ask Kayak where I can go for 500 dollars” and “Alexa, ask Kayak how much it costs to fly from New York to Boston.”
Find decent movies
Are there any current films worth watching? Get the Movie Score skill on your Echo then hit it with something along the lines of “Alexa, ask Movie Score for top box office movies.”
Find local events
Ticketing service StubHub and your Amazon Echo can help you uncover interesting gigs and events nearby via “Alexa, ask StubHub what’s going on tonight” or any other night.
Find out where you left your car
Your Echo plays nicely with car monitoring platform Automatic. “Alexa, ask Automatic where my car is” and “Alexa, ask Automatic if I need gas” are two queries that work.
Find the distance between two places
Add the Distance Between skill to your Echo, then try “Alexa, ask Distance Between” followed by your two places of choice and the mode of transportation you’re using.
Get golf scores
The PGA Tour skill lets you track golfers and tournaments, anything from “Alexa, ask PGA Tour how Jordan Spieth is doing” to “Alexa, ask PGA Tour for the leaderboard.”
Get product reviews
If Gizmodo’s reviews don’t satisfy you, try the ones from PCMag — say “Alexa, ask PCMag what’s the best cell phone,” for example, to hear the number one smartphone pick.
Hear a market report
If you’ve got an account on Fidelity Investments, add the relevant skill to the Amazon Echo and then say “Alexa, ask Fidelity to get me the market update” or ask for specific quotes.
Hear the Hacker News headlines
There’s a skill for Hacker News ready and waiting to be installed on your Echo. Try “Alexa, tell Hacker News to read new headlines” or “Alexa, ask Hacker news for top stories.”
Hear your horoscope
One of the Amazon Echo skills is regularly updated horoscopes from Elle and the Astro Twins. To get at them, say “Alexa, ask horoscope for…” followed by your star sign of choice.
Improve your spelling
With the Spelling Bee skill installed you can improve your spelling whenever you’re close to your Echo. Say “Alexa, launch Spelling Bee” and then speak out the word to spell.
Know the tide times
If you’ve got the TideGuide skill installed on your Echo then you can check the tide times for any location with an NOAA station. Use “Alexa, ask Tide Guide for the tides in….”
Learn from history
Get your “on this day” fix from your Amazon Echo with the help of the History Bot skill and a spoken query such as “Alexa, ask History Bot what happened today” (or any other date).
Listen to a Bible verse
Get a random verse read out to you from the NIV Bible with the Bible Verse skill. “Alexa, ask Bible Verse to tell me a verse” is the voice command you can subsequently use.
Locate family and friends
If you’ve signed up for Glympse then you can use the Glympse skill to keep tabs on family and friends via the voice command “Alexa, ask Glympse where is…” followed by a name.
Look up more skills
With more than 1,000 Alexa skills to keep on top of now, finding new ones isn’t always easy, so install the Skill Finder skill and say “Alexa, ask Skill Finder what are the top skills.”
Mix a cocktail
The Bartender skill gives you instant access to more than 12,000 cocktail recipes and instructions. Say “Alexa, ask The Bartender what’s in a…” then the cocktail of your choice.
Open the garage door
If you’ve added some extra smarts to your garage with Garageio then the Echo and Alexa can take care of that too with a command like “Alexa, tell Garageio to close my door.”
Order a pizza
Domino’s is on Echo, though it works best if you set up your orders beforehand in the Domino’s app. After that, “Alexa, open Domino’s and place my Easy Order” should work.
Culinary site Campbell’s Kitchen works with the Echo, and you can make the most of it with commands such as “Alexa, ask Campbell’s Kitchen for today’s top five recipes.”
Your Echo can play games too, including Jeopardy! — install the app as a skill then tell your Echo “Alexa, play Jeopardy!” when you’re in the mood for testing your trivia knowledge.
Protect your property
Got a Scout Alarm system set up at your home? Use your Amazon Echo to control it with “Alexa, ask Scout to arm home mode,” “Alexa, ask Scout to get activity feed” and so on.
Pull up your fitness stats
You can integrate your Fitbit account with your Echo. Say “Alexa, ask Fitbit how I’m doing today” or “Alexa, ask Fitbit how I slept last night” to have your stats read out for you.
Search for flights
Skyscanner can be plugged right into the Echo if you want to be able to search for flights, though you can’t actually book. Try saying “Alexa, ask Skyscanner for a flight to….”
See how the subway is running
If you’re in NYC, you can ask your Echo whether it’s worth trying to get around on the subway. “Alexa, ask subway for the status of all lines” is perhaps the most useful query.
See what’s on the box
Get details of TV shows… if they’re on Syfy. Your queries can be quite detailed as well: “Alexa, ask Syfy what happened on the latest episode of The Magicians” for example.
Start a conversation
So you’re sat around with your dinner guests stuck for something to say: install Conversation Starter then say to your Echo “Alexa, ask Conversation Starter for a topic.”
Start a workout
If you can’t afford a personal trainer then your Echo can stand in. Say “Alexa, start seven minute workout” and you’ll be guided through the scientifically proven set of exercises.
Track your eating
Food-tracking service Nutritionix is present and correct on the Amazon Echo and a command like “Alexa, tell food tracker to log a glass of milk” will add to your record.
Translates words and phrases
Get the My Translator skill set up on your Echo and you need never be stuck for a word again — say “Alexa, ask My Translator to translate…” then a phrase and a foreign language.
Tune your ukulele
Not getting quite the right sounds out of your ukulele any more? Say “Alexa, ask Ukulele Tuner to start tuning” (once you’ve installed the Ukulele Tuner skill of course).
Water the garden
If you’ve got a Rachio smart sprinkler set up, your Echo can control it. Something along the lines of “Alexa, ask Rachio to start Zone One for six minutes” should do the job.