Amazon’s 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 let you add new voice commands, connect to third-party apps, and even play games. There’s just one problem: A lot of them aren’t great. To cut through the chaff, we’ve got a list of the best skills that are actually worth enabling on your Echo.
Finding time to work out during the day is one of those tasks that can feel more overwhelming than it really is. 7-Minute Workout helps fix this problem by starting a short, guided workout with a single voice command. Tell Alexa “Start a 7-minute workout” and it will walk you through a few simple workouts that will take no time to finish.
Headspace: Guided Meditation
Meditation can have a profound impact on your health, but it’s not easy for most people to do on their own. That’s where guided meditation apps like Headspace come in handy. Tell Alexa you’re ready to meditate, and the service will start walking you through how to relax, focus, and center yourself. You’ll need to have a Headspace account in the usual app, but once it’s all set up, you can start a meditation session without touching your phone.
Smart speakers and displays are excellent cooking companions, since they can walk you through cooking a recipe. Which makes AllRecipes one of the most useful skills you can enable. This skill will walk you through recipes it finds online or ones you have saved in your personal cookbook.
A useful companion app to AllRecipes, the OurGroceries skill lets you keep track of the groceries you currently have in your pantry, add items to your shopping list, and remove things as you use them. If you’re already using Alexa to help you keep track of your recipes and cooking, it’s not too far out of your way to also track your groceries, and then you’ll never need to wonder if you have milk in the fridge.
If you want to put together a cocktail, but you’re 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 (like rum or tequila), or find a random drink you might not have tried before. It’s a handy way to branch out with your drink menu without too much effort.
When you’re getting ready to leave the house and need to call a ride, Alexa can get you an Uber or Lyft with a single command. Both apps allow users to ask for different types of rides (including budget or premium rides) or check your ride status. Lyft even lets you rate your driver after they drop you off. Just make sure Alexa hears that five-star rating correctly.
Ask My Buddy
Alexa is equipped with commands that let you message or call people, but they can be finicky. That’s fine for day-to-day communication, but Ask My Buddy is designed to simplify things for one simple purpose: emergency messages. You can set up this skill to text or call a specific person when you say, “Alexa, ask my buddy to send help.” This is useful if you have someone who has trouble getting around in the home and might only be able to call out for help but not reach a phone.
One of the most convenient use cases for a smart speaker is being able to control your lights with your voice. With smart light skills like those for Philips Hue or LIFX, you can set light brightness levels, change colors, and turn lights on and off with voice commands. Once you turn your bedroom lights off from comfy-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 might already have access to a library of white noise sounds that you can play in the background or as you try to sleep. However, you don’t need to pay for a separate service. Sleep & Relaxation Sounds comes with a library of ambient noises like rainfall, cicadas, train rides, or a variety of other soundscapes you can put on with a command.
One of the most popular game shows in the history of television, Jeopardy has its own Alexa skill that you can use to play along with the episode that’s currently airing. Every weekday, the skill offers companion questions that go along with the categories on 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 wasn’t. You can activate the skill and follow quests, do battle, and explore the land of Skyrim, all using voice commands and verbal descriptions. It has a feel of one of those old-school text adventure games, with a modern twist.
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