Amazon Echo devices can do a lot of cool things out of the box, but if you want to add extra features, you can turn to the Alexa Skills library. These mini-apps allow you to add new voice commands, connect to third-party apps, and even play games. There is only one problem: Many of them are not good. To cut through the bait, we have a list of the best skills that are actually worth activating on your echo.
Finding time to exercise during the day is one of those tasks that can feel more overwhelming than it really is. 7-minute training helps you solve this problem by starting a short, guided training with a single voice command. Say to Alexa “Start a 7-minute workout”
Headspace: Guided meditation
Meditation can have a big impact on your health, but it is not easy for most people to do alone. This is where guided meditation apps come in handy that Headspace. Tell Alexa that you are ready to meditate, and the service begins to guide you through how to relax, focus, and center yourself. You must have a Headspace account in the regular app, but once it’s set up, you can start a meditation session without touching the phone.
Smart speakers and screens are excellent companions, as they can guide you through creating a recipe. Which makes AllRecipes one of the most useful skills you can activate. This skill will guide you through recipes it finds online or those you have stored in your personal cookbook.
The OurGroceries skill is a useful companion app for AllRecipes, and lets you keep track of groceries you have in your pantry, add items to your shopping list and remove items when you use them. If you already use Alexa to help you keep track of your recipes and cooking, it’s not too far out of the way to also track your groceries, and then you never have to wonder if you have milk in the fridge.
If you want to put together a cocktail, but are not sure what you can make with what you have in stock, Mixologist can help. It can find cocktails by name, search for drinks that use a specific ingredient you have (such as rum or tequila), or find a random drink you may not have tried before. It is a convenient way to branch out with the drinks menu without too much effort.
Uber / Lift
When you are getting ready to leave the house and need to make a call, Alexa can get you an Uber or Lift with a single command. Both apps allow users to request different types of tours (including budget or premium tours) or check your tour status. With Lift, you can even rank your driver after they release you. Just make sure Alexa hears the five star rating correctly.
Ask my friend
Alexa is equipped with commands that allow you to send messages or call people, but they can be tricky. It’s fine for everyday communication, but Ask My Buddy is designed to simplify things for a single purpose: emergency messaging. You can set up this skill to send a text message or call a specific person when you say “Alexa, ask my friend to send help.” This is useful if you have someone who is having trouble getting around the home and may just be able to call for help but not reach a phone.
Hue / LIFX
One of the most convenient uses for a smart speaker is to be able to control your lights with your voice. With smart lighting skills like those for Philips Hue or LIFX, you can set brightness levels, change colors and turn lights on and off with voice commands. When you turn off your bedroom from comfortable under the covers, it’s hard to go back to anything else.
Sleep and relaxation sounds
If you have a Spotify or Amazon Music account, you may already have access to a library of white noises that you can play in the background or while trying to sleep. However, you do not have to pay for a separate service. Sleep & Relaxation Sounds comes with a library of ambient sounds like precipitation, cicadas, train rides or a variety of other sounds you can turn on with a command.
One of the most popular game shows in TV history, Jeopardy has its own Alexa skill that you can use to play along with the episode currently being aired. Each weekday, the skill offers accompanying questions that accompany the categories in the episode, so you can play along.
Skyrim Very Special Edition
In a similar category of fun Alexa skills, Skyrim Very Special Edition is a version of the popular fantasy RPG game that everyone thought was a joke, until it was not. You can activate your skills and follow missions, fight and explore the land of Skyrim, all using voice commands and verbal descriptions. It has the feel of one of the old school text adventure games, with a modern twist.
More great WIRED stories