Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: June 1st

Wondering what new things to ask Alexa? Explore the new commands Amazon’s Voice Assistant can do in this series. 

Every week I collect all the new–or newly promoted–Alexa commands that Amazon releases in its promotional feeds. I then tryout each command to weigh its usefulness so you don’t have to. So if you’re looking to get the most out of your Alexa-enabled devices, look no further. 

Today’s post covers 21 commands sprawled out in 11 different categories. Keep scrolling to see the full lineup or use the table of contents to jump to a category that most interests you.

Keeping Up with Alexa

Did you get a chance to see the historic launch on Saturday? Wow, that was fun to watch! Welcome to the first newsletter in June. It’s time to learn something new you can say or ask Alexa. See below for the entire list of this week’s commands. Like always, I’ll wrap up with a final summary after the in-depth breakdown of each command.

In case you missed it, May 25th featured voice commands related to the National Anthem, kid games, and photos. I also finished up the May roundup. If you’re really light on time, I’d suggest starting there to get the highlights. But if that doesn’t quite hit the spot, check out May’s other weekly roundups here.

What Can Alexa Do

Editor’s Note: While they’re likely new to you, the 21 Alexa commands listed below are not all brand new. Amazon promotes a mix of new, recently updated, or newly promoted commands that are older but still not well known or used by Alexa users.

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, open Batman Adventures”

This Alexa Skill has decent reviews, with 90 reviews in total and a 3.5 out of 5 star rating. The negative reviews are from frustrated users that didn’t instead enable this Kid Skill themselves. Although that is frustrating, it’s most likely not related to the skill itself. Reviews date back to late 2018, so it has been around for awhile.

The skill has In-Skill Purchases. The skill description mentions one free story, with three additional for purchase, although the price is mentioned.

When I use this command, Alexa explains the skill and then begins a “tutorial” to show me how to use the skill. But really, it doesn’t feel like a tutorial to me. Instead, Alexa begins telling me a story about Batman.

The skill description mentions that the story is interactive, where kids can help Batman with simple voice commands. But sadly I didn’t get any chance to interact during the story. Instead, it felt more like an audiobook than anything else.

Once the intro story finished, the Alexa skill then crashed. From my experience, the skill definitely needs some work. This skill has some real potential. But with bugs and a questionable interaction system, it’s not worth you or your kid’s time.

“Alexa, open the Division Network”

Here’s a really interesting skill, especially if you’re into Tom Clancy or console gaming with XBox or Playstation.

Division Network 2 is a video game released in March 2019. Interestingly, Ubisoft also added this skill around that time, as a way to provide more story elements for the game.

The skill seems to hit the mark, with a huge number of 727 reviews and a 4.7 out of 5 star rating, it’s pretty close to perfect. The skill is rated “Mature,” which makes sense given the game we’re talking about, and the skill also has the ability to send notifications to your Alexa device. Everything looks solid according to the skill page.

When I use this command, Alexa first confirms that you’re OK with the mature rating before going forward. Next, you’re pulled into the plot of the game, where someone is reading a top secret message back to you.

When I attempt to close the skill, Alexa asks me if I’d like to hear about the game or if I want to enable notifications.

The skill does a good job giving users another way of interacting with the game word. Pretty cool. If you’re interested in the game, or you want to hear some intense storytelling, give a shot.

“Alexa, play the Daily Music Pick”

Unless you have a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited, I suggest skipping this command. Daily Music Pick was covered on May 18th. It’s a new skill from Amazon that lets you list to playlists curated specifically by artists themselves. Sadly the promotion going on last month, which gave you some free time to use it, has expired.

Audible

“Alexa, read me a mystery”

My wife is a huge fan of mystery novels. I’ve lost count of the number of murder mysteries we have around the house. This command is right up her alley.

When I use this command, Alexa starts playing a story from Audible called, “Murder at Midnight” by Jeff Woodman.No ads from Amazon about what Audible is, or asking if I want to buy a subscription. It just starts the story. Pretty nice. Here’s why this is my favorite command this week.

After the story is playing, there are a few other commands that work, too.

“Alexa, stop”

This command stops the story, just as you’d expect.

“Alexa, resume my mystery”

This is really my favorite command this week. Alexa knows what the most recent mystery story you were listening to is, and resumes it at the last stop.

Sadly, it isn’t perfect. Alexa treats the original command, “read me a mystery”, the same way. Alexa also resumes the story you already started. Adding words like “new” or “different” don’t have an impact. So at this point, it’s unclear how many mystery stories are available or if Alexa only provides one.

Overall, it’s pretty nice. The story itself sounds interesting as well. My wife approves. Try this command out if you’re looking for a new, and free without hassle, story to listen to.

Donations

“Alexa, make a donation to Coronavirus Relief”

This command was covered back in April. Nothing new to see here.

Information

“Alexa, good morning”

You might already use this command with Alexa. In my experience, I find that many people use this command on various Voice Assistants. But, each Voice Assistant has a different take on what to do. What does Alexa do? Let’s find out.

When I use this command, Alexa gives me a historical fact that occurred on this date in the past. As of this writing (on May 29th), Alexa mentions the first Space Shuttle flight that docks with the International Space Station happened on May 29th, 1999. Not what I expected, but pretty nice. I’ll take a random historic factoid in the morning. Truthfully, I expected Amazon to trigger a flash new briefing.

Here’s a quick tip for the Smart Home enthusiasts out there, this is a good command phrase to use for Routines. For example, name a routine “Good Morning” and have it turn on your lights, open the blinds, and tell you the news, and give you this fact.

“Alexa, how do you protect my privacy?”

Don’t expect much from this command. When I use it, Alexa gives me a summary of things Amazon does to protect your privacy with Alexa, but ultimately I’m told to go to Alexa Privacy for more info.

Privacy and security with Alexa and Voice Assistants is a hot topic issue, and a much bigger topic than I’m able to cover here. In a broader sense, Privacy and Security extend further Smart Home space. Do you think Amazon does enough to protect your privacy? Are you comfortable using Alexa?

Jokes

“Alexa, E.T. phone home”
Is E.T happy? Confused? I don’t know.

Where is home for E.T.? According to Mental Floss, just a small place called Brodo Asogi. It might be a few more years until we can use Alexa to call him. Maybe one day.

Music

“Alexa, play ’80s Pop on Amazon Music”

Finally a playlist from Amazon I can get behind. A quick look at this playlist reveals two songs everyone needs to know. Michael Jackon’s Thriller and Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger… and Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams. OK sorry that’s three, not two.

Aren’t you Thrilled?

When I use this command, Alexa starts playing the playlist, right from the top. Take a look and skip around for those three songs at least. The playlist is free if you’re already an Amazon Prime member.

“Alexa, what’s Halsey’s Thought of the Day?”
“Alexa, what’s Marshmello’s Thought of the Day?”

Here are two new commands for Alexa this week. These commands show off some creative ways artists can use Alexa to highlight some of their new music, while giving users a bit more insight into the artists themselves. Both artists are currently promoting a new song called “Be Kind.”

When I use this command, I get a short monologue from the artist. Alexa then tells me I can ask again tomorrow to get a different update from the artist. Both artists have their own monologues, which are updated daily.

Want more context? Here’s the artist himself talking about the command:

You’d better hurry if you want to try these out. They might disappear on June 2.

Productivity

“Alexa, create a list”

Here’s another command we covered a while back. This time, in mid-April. Nothing new to mention here.

“Alexa, make a note… My driver’s license expires on December 3rd, 2020”

I also saw this command in mid-April. That said, it’s still a favorite of mine. Take a look at the writeup and try it out when you get the chance. It shows off some deep text understanding that Amazon is able to do, and it translates to more than just remembering drivers license numbers.

“Alexa, what are my emails?”

See the writeup for this command from early April’s Productivity Commands. Need some help setting up email with Alexa? Let me know.

Settings

“Alexa, speak faster”

This command was covered in April 17th’s Settings Commands. Did you know you can also do the inverse? “Alexa, speak slower,” will cause Alexa to slow down.

This feels similar to the options you see in Podcast and Audiobook apps that allow you to speed things up. How useful is this? I’m not sure. If you find yourself annoyed at Alexa for talking too much, give this command a shot. 

“Alexa, switch the distance units to kilometers”

This command lets you change the default unit setting for your Echo device. If you’re outside the U.S and using Alexa, expect to use this command if you want Alexa to use units you’re likely more familiar with.

When I use this command, Alexa replies with, “distant units set to kilometers.” Simple and to the point.

There is one gotcha related to this setting. It isn’t global to all Alexa devices in your account. Rather, it changes the distance units on the Alexa device you gave the command to.

So unless you’re looking to confuse everyone in your house by having different Echos using different units, you should change units on all your devices. That’s annoying to do, given you have to go and ask each device, which proves difficult to do when you have a bunch of echo devices.

If you have more than a few to update, I suggest using the Alexa App instead. Here’s how you can find the setting:

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap Devices (bottom right)
  3. Tap Echo & Alexa
  4. Tap on the Alexa device you want to change

From there, you should look for the Measurement Units option:

Alexa Device Settings
Alexa Device Settings

Next, you’ll see something like this:

Measurement Unit Settings
Measurement Unit Settings

And just for fun, I checked to see if Alexa supports the ability to change the distance setting, as well. She does! Just try, “Alexa, switch the temperature unit to Celsius.”

“Alexa, turn on Follow-Up Mode”

Follow-Up Mode was first covered back in April 17th’s Settings Commands.

I do recommend turning on Follow Up mode if you haven’t already. It saves you from having to use your wake word over and over again. I use Follow Up mode pretty often, for example, at night when turning off my lights and checking my door status.

Shopping

“Alexa, where’s my stuff”

This shopping command was covered in late April’s Shopping Commands. It’s a pretty solid command that gives you some insight into where your incoming Amazon packages are. If you find yourself using this command often, you can save yourself some time by checking out notifications. Personally, I got to the point where I stopped using this command altogether, and now I wait for notifications to tell me when packages arrive.

Smart Home

“Alexa, open Photo Booth”

This command has shown up previously, but I haven’t done it justice. Now that I have an Echo Show, let’s see what this command really does.

When I use this command, Echo Show gives me a new UI with three buttons. Each button gives you a different camera mode. I can choose from Single Shot, Video Mode, or Four Shot. 

From here, I select “Four Shot.” Then, Alexa shows me the front facing camera and a countdown timer, before taking a photo. After following that pattern three times, Alexa shows me a picture containing all 4 shots combined into one grid picture. Alexa tells me my photo is uploaded to Amazon Photos.

Not bad! It could be a fun command to use with Kids, just don’t expect steller photos. The quality is pretty low coming from an Echo Show.

Timers

“Alexa, help me get started with timers”
“Alexa, pause my timer”

Both of these commands were covered in the Timer Section on April 24th. Although these commands are really core to mastering Alexa, there isn’t anything new here. Take a look if you’re new to using Timers.

Takeaways

This week, the Music Section takes the show, with Audible and Alexa Skills cleaning up the rest. Amazon gives us a few new ways to interact with artists. You can now use Alexa to get some insights from Marshmallow. More impressively, Amazon gives us a solid playlist from the 80s. I think it jives with the new artist info, on some level at least.

My favorite command from this week is surprisingly in the Audible Section. If you’re a fan of mystery stories, Alexa has you covered. You can find a good one using Alexa, and the best part, it’s free.

Finally, Alexa shows off some of its content for gamers in the Alexa Skills Section. Alexa has a nice tie-in for the game, Division Network 2. Check it out if you’re a fan of the shooter genre.

And that’s a wrap! See you next week for the second round of June commands as I highlight more things you can do with Alexa. 

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