Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: #27

Keep up with Alexa in learning new things to say and ask each week. Highlighted below are all the new or newly-promoted Alexa commands from Amazon this week. While duds are rare, I weed out the good from the bad, so you don’t have to.

Below covers 21 commands, most of which are new to this series and grow the extensive list of 318 things to ask Alexa on your Echo or other Alexa-enabled devices. Keep scrolling to see the full lineup or use the table of contents to skip to a category that most interests you.

Things to Ask Alexa

New here? Welcome! As a refresher, each week Amazon releases new Alexa commands—whether brand new, newly-updated, or newly-promoted—within its promotional eblasts. But these feeds aren’t for the faint of heart. Amazon skips out on explanations for how to use these commands, and what’s more, occasionally duds and entirely broken commands are added into the mix.

That’s why I created this weekly roundup called “Keeping Up With Alexa.” Every Monday you’ll see the full list of things to ask Alexa from Amazon with added walk-throughs of what to expect from each with added commentary on which are actually worth trying. 

Games

“Alexa, open The Magic Door”

Magic Door Icon

Chances are, if you’ve been following along to these weeklys, you’ll have noticed Amazon is on a Role Playing Game phase with adding a new related command each week. This week is no different with the latest RPG called The Magic Door. This game is very similar to the RPG Starfinder, where you’re an active participant in leading the story. Whereas Starfinder is more battle focused with attacking and healing capabilities, this time with The Magic Door, your main objective is to explore a magical world and complete quests. Whether that be helping a princess find her crown or helping a wizard collect his wand.  

One big benefit that remains between the two games is that they’re both entirely free. No need to worry about microtransactions in the game itself. 

Check out The Magic Door if you’re a fan of fantasy RPGs. Would love to hear of your favorite quest in the comments below. 

“Alexa, open World Detective”

World Detective Icon

This game really reminds me of Where is Carmen Sandiego. Now we have an Alexa version of the same genre.

For those unfamiliar with the type, think of this as an educational game, where your knowledge of geography is tested and you learn a new thing or two in the process.

When I give the command, the game gives a brief overview before immediately starting up. Basically, World Detective is won by figuring out where your target is in the world before your opponent does. You can ask for extra hints along the way.

One of the best elements to this game is its multiplayer component. You won’t find too many other games that are similar in having you compete with another player directly on Alexa. For this reason, I definitely think it’s worth taking for a spin.

“Alexa, visit Jurassic World”

If dinosaurs are more our thing, you’re in luck. With this interactive audio story, you become an adventurer in the Jurassic Park world. Alexa tells a story, while you help make decisions to change what happens. Chapter one is free, while the next five will cost you a few dollars.

Learn more about Jurassic World from my past walk-through here.

Information

“Alexa, help me register to vote”

Given we’re right around the corner from the upcoming election, you’ve likely been bombarded already with registration reminders—and for good reason. No matter your party affiliation, if you’ve haven’t yet registered to vote, please do. 

Fortunately, Alexa is here to help make it even easier. When I use this command, Alexa explains how to register by mail, website, or in-person. Alexa also sends a phone notification which opens the website for voter registration in my state.

“Alexa, how’s traffic to Lake Tahoe?”

Lake Tahoe

You know what, I bet the traffic is decent leading up to Lake Tahoe, and for good reason. Maybe for now, you should stay away from the summer crowds. Just this past week, news broke out of the Bubonic Plague. And just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any crazier!

All joking aside, use this command to get an idea of traffic congestion from where you currently are. When I use this command, Alexa harlously says it will take roughly 2 days and 3,000 miles to get there from my new house. Just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

“Alexa, what’s up?”

This command offers an alternative way to trigger Flash Briefings. 

Learn more about Flash Briefings, or if you want something a bit more substantial, try out Long Form News.

Jokes

“Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson”

Mr. Jackson

Here’s an interesting feature that no other Voice Assistant has pulled off. Amazon recently added Samuel L. Jackson as a voice replacement for Alexa. For instance, when I use this command, Alexa provides a few examples of how the new voice sounds and asks if I want to buy it for $0.99.

What’s really impressive is the latest upgrade to Samuel announced last week. Now you can change the wake word from, “Alexa” to “Hey Samuel.” If you’re tired of using the word Alexa, this is most certainly a change you should check out. Learn more about Wake Words.

That’s a pretty cool addition if you ask me, and it really helps the immersion of having Samuel L. Jackson setting timers and telling you the weather. From an engineering perspective, this is also really impressive. Changing the Wake Word is no small feat, which is why you don’t see Google or Apple adding various options. It’s tough to get one Wake Word right, let alone many.

Personally, I think I’ll be sticking with Alexa. I’m not sure how I’d feel about Samual L Jackson telling me my lights are on and the time. I think I’d scare myself when locking the door at 2am, or having a timer go off for dinner with Mr. Jackson yelling at me, Pulp Fiction style. 

But if you happen to try it out, let me know what you think.

“Alexa, E.T. phone home”

Ever wonder where E.T. is from? Well, wonder no more.

“Alexa, tell me a pirate fun fact”

The worst pirate you’ve ever heard of… or something like that.
The worst pirate you’ve ever heard of… or something like that.

When I use this command, Alexa adds a theory as to why pirates wore eye patches. I won’t spoil it for you—go on and ask Alexa.

After a few attempts, Alexa does indeed give different facts that are pretty interesting or at least chuckle-worthy. If you’re feeling in the Capt’n Jack Sparrow mood, give this command a shot.

“Alexa, tell me a video game joke”

So what makes a joke classified as a video game joke? Let’s find out. When I ask Alexa, I get the following:

Q: How do you deliver a package to a dragon?
A: By Scale mail.

I think this joke qualifies more as a slapstick dad joke. If this is more your speed, why not double down and tell Alexa: “Alexa, tell me a dad joke.” If you do, I’d love to hear which joke you got. 

Music

“Alexa, play Best of What’s New on Amazon Music”

This playlist has been around for years, with some reviews going as far back as 2015. So while it touts it plays newly available music for you, it’s unclear when exactly the playlist is refreshed.

To test this, let’s compare the current roster with my original first look at it. Last time I reviewed the command, the first song was “my future” by Billie Eilish. Now, it’s “One Too Many” by Keith Urban. So the good news is the playlist does indeed change over time. So if you’re looking for a playlist that includes the latest released in Pop, try this command.

Podcasts

“Alexa, play Quick Question with Malcolm Gladwell”

If you know who Malcolm Gladwell is, then you’ll enjoy this podcast. If not, don’t waste your time. For a longer look, keep reading.

“Quick Question” is a show in which Malcolm Gladwll answers questions about his podcast and himself.

When I give the command, Alexa starts the show where Malcom himself answers his “favorite” questions from listeners. He starts off by answering a question related to one of his previous episodes where he took the LSAT. The question was specifically about his score.

I myself have never heard of him or his podcast, so I didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. My interested disappeared fast. I imagine if you don’t already listen to him, you will too.

“Alexa, play Radiolab on Amazon Music”

Now with Amazon Music you have access to Podcasts. No need to link a service like Apple Podcasts to get Podcast support with your Echo anymore. One Podcast that is now available on Amazon Music is Radiolab, one of the largest public radio programs out there (without connecting another streaming service).

When I use this command, Alexa describes the new Podcast feature and then starts the latest episode of Radiolab. Overall, it took less than 15 seconds to get to the latest episode.

One of the nicest benefits of this feature is Alexa Skills that only enable Podcasts should go away, like this one for RadioLab. Now they simply aren’t necessary.

Very cool. If you haven’t started using a different Podcast service now, give Amazon a shot. You can also find this Podcast directly in the Amazon Music web app.

Timers

“Alexa, set a sixty minute study timer”

What’s the differences between a normal timer and a study timer?

Nothing, sadly. When I use this command, Alexa starts a timer for an hour. When the timer is up, I get the normal response from Alexa, indicating time is up with an alarm sound. 

Although this one isn’t really helpful, Alexa supports a bunch of new commands that might be helpful for students.

“Alexa, set a sleep timer for 30 minutes”

Here’s a hidden gem for those looking to improve their Alexa knowledge. With this command, Alexa will turn off anything playing in half an hour.

Another cool feature to know: sleep timers can also extend to Smart Lights.

Everything Else

“Alexa, buy Atomic Habits on Audible”

If you struggle to break out of bad habits, or maybe you want to build new ones instead, this book might be of interest to you. With almost 12K reviews with a 5 out of 5 star rating, it looks very promising. One thing to note: you’ll need an Audible subscription for this command or, if you prefer, you can go and buy the book instead.

For those who’ve read this already, tell me what I’m missing out on in the comments below. I have to admit, this has piqued my curiosity, but I’m also a realist—no reading time for me with a newborn at home! 

“Alexa, announce that dinner’s ready”

If you have multiple Alexa-enabled devices scattered throughout your home, like with having multiple Echos or an Echo Show, this command will save you from yelling to get everyone’s attention.

When I use this command, Alexa wakes up on every Echo I have in my home and says: “dinner’s ready.”

Turns out, Alexa is a good substitute for an in-home intercom system. Give it a shot if you don’t want to yell. Or don’t and keep yelling. Maybe that’s therapeutic for you. 

“Alexa, let’s rate my stuff”

If you’ve ever made a purchasing decision based on Amazon reviews, it’s time to pass the buck. Use this Alexa command to rate items you have recently bought on Amazon. Or in other words, have Alexa help you pay it forward and let others learn from your shopping experience.

Learn more about how the command works from early August’s Shopping commands.

“Alexa, share a photo”

Skip this command. Instead, pull out your phone and share it from there.

Curiosity got the better of you? When given this command on an Echo Show, Alexa simply requests that I scroll through my photos and select one to share. Not very helpful honestly. It’s too cumbersome, and Alexa doesn’t make the actual photo sharing any easier. Instead, just use the photo gallery on your phone, or even better, use the Amazon Photos app directly.

“Alexa, play King of the Hill on Hulu”

If you have a Hulu subscription, check this out. Alexa can open the Hulu app and play a show, all in one command on Fire TV. 

One word of caution, though: the skill itself has questionable quality. Learn more from May 4th’s  Alexa Skills.

“Alexa, play MLB highlights”

Alexa sounds off baseball and basketball highlights for you, providing you have an Alexa-enabled device with a screen, like an Echo Show. Learn more about how it works.

Takeaways

In taking a look at the chart above, you’ll see jokes take the lead this week. If you only have time for one new command to try, I’d recommend checking out the Jokes section and scrolling until you find Samuel L. Jackson. This new feature is unique to Alexa. 

Beyond jokes, Amazon brings us cool interactive games, too. Check out two new additions, as well as an old favorite featuring T-Rex via Games section.

Another big feature Amazon newly announced is the addition of Podcasts in Amazon Music. Now you don’t have to integrate with another service to get Podcasts on your Echo. Check it out in the Podcasts section.

Last but not least, it’s worth calling out last week’s edition. Give the Audible section another peek, especially if you’re a Harry Potter fan, as the exclusive content won’t last past September.

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