Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: June 15th

If you’re looking for the latest commands to give Alexa, you’ve come to the right place. This weekly series explores the new or newly-promoted voice commands Amazon releases for its Voice Assistant. And while duds are rare, I take the guesswork out of learning which commands are actually useful by reviewing them all. So whether you have an Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, or other Alexa-enabled device, get the most out of your device by trying the capabilities below.

Today’s post covers 20 commands Amazon released this week for Alexa, 9 of which are new to this series and serve to add to the extensive list of Alexa tips and tricks. Keep scrolling to see the full lineup or use the table of contents to skip to a category that most interests you.

Keeping Up with Alexa

Welcome to the third newsletter of June. As a refresher, Amazon releases each week a list of Alexa commands—whether new, newly-updated, or newly-promoted—within its promotional feeds. But using these eblasts isn’t for the faint of heart, as Amazon doesn’t provide explanations of the commands or offer any tips for how to get the most out of each category. That’s where this series comes in. 

Each week, you’ll see not only the full list of Alexa commands that Amazon releases, but also a walk-through of how each works with added commentary from me on its overall usefulness. In case you missed it, June 8th featured Alexa voice commands related to podcast integrations and recommendations, trivia games, and Science Fiction stories.

What Can Alexa Do

Editor’s Note: Why all the links? If I’ve previously tested a command from a previous newsletter, I’ll include a link to the original review so you can quickly jump to it. Otherwise, all other Alexa commands Amazon releases this week will be covered directly within this post.

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, ask Headspace for today’s meditation”

See the command’s breakdown from May 4th’s Alexa Skills Section.

“Alexa, let’s chat”
Amazon Alexa Prize Skill Logo

When I use this command, Alexa opens the skill Alexa Prize Socialbots and briefly describes a competition taking place where teams duke it out in creating better conversation AIs or chatbots. 

Once this intro is out of the way, I’m then put into a conversation with one. The chatbot asks for my name, then asks if we have talked before. Then, the chatbox asks me what I’d like to talk about, listing out popular topics we can talk about.  

When I use the command “Alexa, exit,” I’m asked to rate the conversation and encouraged to provide any extra feedback for the creators. I’m also told that I can use the command “Alexa, let’s chat” again to try out a different chatbot.

This is my favorite command this week. Amazon’s competition, called Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge, is currently underway where teams are competing for some serious cash. What’s cool is that we can help out with the judging. We—as Alexa users—get to be front and center to help improve AI conversation systems for everyone, just by having and rating conversations with Alexa.

If you have a few minutes and want to converse with Alexa, give this command a try. I bet it’ll be more fun than you expected trying to trip up Alexa in conversation; and at the same time, you’ll be helping Alexa get smarter.

“Alexa, open Meditation Timer”

See the command’s breakdown from May 4th’s Alexa Skills Section.

“Alexa, turn on Song ID”

Song ID is an Alexa Skill by Amazon that aims to identify music information for a current song you’re listening to. The Alexa Skill, Music Song ID, has been around for a few months. Last time we looked at it, the reviews weren’t great. Now with only seven total reviews and a 2.7 out of 5 star rating, things don’t seem to have improved. But let’s give this command a shot. 

When I use this command, Alexa immediately tells me that “for now, Song ID is only available for Amazon Music.” Disappointing.

When I instead try the command “what song is this?” with a song playing in the background on a seperate device, Alexa responds with an incorrect artist and song title.

My guess is Alexa is simply checking to see what’s playing on Amazon Music, rather than listening and identifying the music you’re listening to, like with Apple’s Shazam

If you’re a heavy user of Amazon Music, this command is for you. Otherwise, I’d recommend skipping this command entirely. Let’s hope Amazon builds a true “Shazam” feature for Alexa in the near future.

Audible

“Alexa, read me a bedtime story from Audible”

See the command’s breakdown from April 10th’s Audible Section.

“Alexa, what’s free from Audible?”

While this command isn’t new, the free story that Audible offers is new. This month Amazon’s newest free item from Audible is called The Swimmer. Here’s the description, taken straight from Audible:

“At the age of 64, legendary athlete Diana Nyad inspired the world when she walked onto the shores of Key West after “crossing the Mt. Everest of the earth’s oceans,” becoming the first person in history to make the 111-mile swim from Cuba to Florida without the assistance of a shark cage. In her riveting new play The Swimmer, recorded live at the Minetta Lane Theatre, Nyad shares the heartbreaking setbacks, brushes with death, and the victories that kept her going, plunging the audience into the depths of her extraordinary journey. Written by Nyad, directed by Emmy Award winner Jane Anderson, and featuring her longtime friend and coach Bonnie Stoll, Nyad makes her New York stage debut in this powerful true story of passion and resilience.”

When I use this command, Alexa gives a description of Pride Month and notes the reason why this story was chosen. After a short upsell of Audible, the story then begins playing.

Communication

“Alexa, send a hug”

See the command’s breakdown from April 24th.

Information

“Alexa, how can I support Black Lives Matter?”
Black Lives Matters from Amazon at blog.aboutamazon.com

Along with posting the above banner on its website, Amazon shows support for Black Lives Matter with this new Alexa command. 

When I give this command, Alexa provides a quick description of what the BLM movement is, how I can offer support at a high-level, and points to several websites where I can find more information:

To learn more about Amazon’s efforts, view this post

“Alexa, how far is London from Paris?”

Alexa knows distances between cities. While this particular command first appeared on May 4th, I decided to test out another example to see how Alexa answers. 

“Alexa, how far is New York City from San Francisco?”

Interestingly, when I give this command on an Echo Show, Alexa provides more than just distance. She also notes the roads I can take and the duration it would take to drive it.

City distance via Echo Show
City distance via Echo Show

Pretty cool! But I don’t think I’d drive almost two days nonstop—that sounds painful.

“Alexa, tell me a quote by Fred Rogers”

See this command’s breakdown and the list of Fred Rogers’ quotes from April 17th.

Jokes

“Alexa, sing a Thank You song”

When I use this command, Alexa herself starts singing a song with, as you’d expect, plenty of Thank Yous.

Alexa has quite a few of these types of commands where Alexa sings a song using her own voice. For instance, this command is very similar to last week’s “sing a song about science.”

Music

“Alexa, play the Black Music Month playlist on Amazon Music”
Black Music Month Playlist

This week, Amazon promotes a new playlist to celebrate Black Music Month, which is an annual celebration of African-American music in the U.S. that was first initiated in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. 

In this playlist, you’ll find the likes of Stevie Wonder, Prince, Bob Marley, Billie Holiday, and many other greats from the past 50+ years. Check out the full song list on Amazon.

“Alexa, turn up the bass”

See the command’s tutorial from April 4th.

Productivity

“Alexa, join my meeting”

See the command’s breakdown from May 4th.

Smart Home

“Alexa, add the lamp to the living room group”

See the command’s walk-through from May 11th.

“Alexa, show my photos”

For this command, you need an Alexa device with a screen, like an Echo Show or a Fire TV.

When I use this command on an Echo Show, Alexa starts a slideshow with my default photos provider, which is Amazon Photos. Alexa cycles through these photos with a new photo shown every five seconds.

Beyond this week’s command, Alexa has more commands that start up a slideshow with your photos (here, here). Alexa can also filter the photos in the slideshow. For instance, one of my favorite commands from past newsletters is “Alexa, show photos from last year,” which highlights the ability to start a slideshow with photos from certain time periods.

“Alexa, talk to the front door”

To use this command to its fullest, you need a Ring Doorbell or Camera and an Echo Show. Alexa can open video and audio channels to your Ring devices. This command is one way you can see and hear what’s going on with your front door camera via your Echo Show.

This command highlights Amazon’s integration of Alexa with Ring. For those of you who don’t know, Ring is a security camera company that Amazon bought a few years back. Because Amazon owns Ring, you can expect to see deep integrations like this one with Ring cameras and Alexa-enabled devices. 

“Alexa, what am I holding?”

See the command’s breakdown from May 4th.

Timers

“Alexa, cancel my 10 minute timer”

See the command’s breakdown from April 3rd.

“Alexa, restart my timer”

See the command’s breakdown from May 4th.

Takeaways

Command Category Breakdown

This week Amazon continues its efforts in supporting Black Lives Matter by highlighting a new Alexa command via Information Section and providing a playlist for Black Music Month via the Music Section.

If you’re short on time and wanting a bit of fun, Alexa Skills section is for you. Amazon highlights a new competition going on where contestants battle to create the best chatbot out there—and best of all, you get to be the judge.

What’s also notable to mention from this week’s list of commands is Audible has a new, free audiobook to celebrate Pride Month. Check it out in the Audible Section

Beyond these commands, Amazon also announced a new event for Alexa Developers that’s happening in late July called Alexa Live 2020. I hope to hear of upcoming Alexa features and new Alexa Skills. Either way, I’ll keep you posted.

That’s a wrap! See you next week as I continue to explore the latest Alexa commands you can do with your Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and other Alexa-enabled devices.

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