Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: June 22nd

Having trouble thinking of new things to say or ask Alexa? Getting the most out of your Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and other Alexa-enabled devices requires learning voice commands, but discovering what new capabilities Alexa has to offer is often challenging. That’s where this weekly series comes in. I review all new or newly-promoted voice commands Amazon releases for Alexa and note which are actually worth using.

Today’s post outlines 20 commands Amazon released this week for Alexa, 10 of which are new to this series and serve to grow the extensive database 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 fourth newsletter of June. As a refresher, each week Amazon releases Alexa commands—whether new, newly-updated, or newly-promoted—within its promotional eblasts. But these feeds aren’t for the faint of heart, as Amazon doesn’t provide explanations of these voice commands or offer any tips for how to get the most out of each category. What’s more—there are sometimes duds or broken commands thrown into the mix that are likely to trip you up. 

Fortunately, that’s where this series comes in. Every Monday, 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 what’s good, bad, and rarely ugly. 

Learn anything new with Alexa this week? Or perhaps Alexa surprised you with a new response? Don’t keep it to yourself! Drop a comment at the end of this post and let’s discuss.

In case you missed it, June 15th featured Alexa voice commands related to Black Lives Matter, Amazon’s global university competition, and a new audiobook to celebrate Pride Month.

What Can Alexa Do

Editor’s Note: If I’ve already 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.

Now with introductions out of the way, let’s dive in. 

Alarms

“Alexa, wake me up to happy music” 

See the command’s breakdown from April 3rd’s Alarms Section.

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, ask NASA Mars for a Curiosity Rover update”

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

What’s the rover up to these days? A June 15th update shows Curiosity snapped a cool picture of Earth and Venus in the same frame.

NASA Rover Image
Source: NASA

What a perspective from Mars. Absolutely mind boggling to me. Did you ever think you’d see an image of two planets from that far away, with one being Earth?

Too bad the image is only black and white. I’d love to see some color, although we’d probably just get more of that red dust from Mars.

“Alexa, open Big Sky”

No updates to Big Sky from what I can tell. See the command’s original breakdown and learn more about where Big Sky gets its weather data from via the Alexa Skills Section from April 24th.

“Alexa, tell me a Pride fact”
Glamazon Alexa Skill Logo

Amazon continues its support of Pride Month by offering another related command this week. This command opens the Alexa Skill, Glamazon Pride Facts, by Amazon. The skill has a 4.3 out of 5 star rating and just over 400 reviews—some dating back to May 2018, so the skill isn’t new.

When I use this command, Alexa provides the fact that there are 31 states that are missing protections for the LGBTQ community, noting the source is from The Human Rights Campaign. Alexa then explains the Equality Act that serves to bring these protections.

You can also modify the command slightly to include a specific year or decade. So if you’re looking for bite-sized information on LGBTQ facts, give this command a try. 

Audible

“Alexa, read Audible everywhere”

See the command’s breakdown from May 18th’s Audible Section

Alexa also understands groups, so you’re able to tweak this command slightly to play an audiobook from all your smart speakers in a specific area. For instance: “Alexa, read Audible downstairs.”

My take? I’m not a huge fan of this capability as I just don’t see the value in it. Playing an audiobook everyone in my house would just annoy everyone else. But that said, do you find value in this command? Share in the comments below.

“Alexa, start my free Audible trial”

Nothing new to report. See the original breakdown from May 4th’s Audible Section.

Communication

“Alexa, announce that dinner is ready”

Do you have a large house with family spread out? This command might help—or at least save your throat from yelling. See the original review from April 24th’s Communication Section.

Cooking

“Alexa, how do I make chicken stock?”

This command is particularly handy to try on an Echo Show. Check out the command’s breakdown from May 11th’s Cooking Section.

Donations

“Alexa, make a donation to Save the Children”

See this command’s breakdown from April 3rd’s Donation Section

You can also see the full list of charities that accept voice donations from Alexa via this Amazon list

Games

“Alexa, test how smart I am”

This command unfortunately falls into the dud category for me. To see the full bait and switch review, check out May 4th’s Games Section.

Information

“Alexa, give me a quote”

While the command itself is not new (see April 24th’s Information Section), the results certainly may be new to you, as Alexa shares a different quote each time you ask. 

For instance, when I use this command, Alexa shares the below quote from Abraham Lincoln. 

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”

What’s funny—and new from last time—is that Alexa reads the above quote in an old-timey voice. Perhaps the idea is to sound more like Lincoln? If Alexa also gives you a bit of voice acting along with a quote, share in the comments below. I wonder if this experience is unique to Abe. 

“Alexa, how much caffeine is in coffee?”

See the original walk-through of this command from April 24th’s Information Section.

My wife doesn’t agree with Alexa’s answer, by the way. Although Alexa gives you a straight-forward number, caffeine content largely depends on the type of coffee and amount you consume. This is especially important to note if you’re needing a specific tracker, like in my wife’s case since she’s pregnant. 

“Alexa, tell me the news”

When I use this command, Alexa begins playing my Flash Briefing. A Flash Briefing is a collection of audio updates from a list of news sources. What’s nice is by using the Alexa App, you can configure which news sources—and how many—you’d like to hear from when you give this command. 

Just how many different news sources are available, you ask? As of this writing, Alexa has over 11,500 Flash Briefing Skills. 

Flash Briefing Alexa Skills
Flash Briefing Alexa Skills

To find which Flash Briefing sources you have turned on or to make changes:

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Tap Flash Briefing

Here’s some advice to get the most out of Flash Briefings. It’s called flash for a reason. Don’t go overboard. Speaking from experience, it’s easy to add too many sources to your Flash Briefing. Keep it at 3 or 4 at most—prune out everything but the sources you really want to listen to. Also, it’s worth noting that many major sources duplicate stories, which creates a boring and unhelpful listening experience. 

Are you a pro at melding together Flash Briefing sources? If you’ve found some tricks for getting the most out of Flash Briefings, let everyone know in the comments below.

And if you’re surprised to note that Flash Briefings are actually skills, learn more about Alexa Skills here.

“Alexa, what can you do?”

See this command’s breakdown from May 18th’s Information Section

My advice? Instead of relying on this command, stick with this weekly series for a more thorough roundup of what’s new with Alexa. 

“Alexa, what is Juneteenth?”

When I use this command, Alexa reads the first paragraph of the Juneteenth Wikipedia page

If you’d rather read the excerpt instead of asking Alexa, here it is from Wikipedia:

“Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June and nineteenth; also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day) is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. Originating in Texas, it is now celebrated annually on the 19th of June throughout the United States, with varying official recognition. Specifically, it commemorates Union army general Gordon Granger announcing federal orders in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all slaves in Texas were free.”

This command also has strong ties with the command “Alexa, how can I support Black Lives Matter?” Find out more in last week’s Information Section.

Jokes

“Alexa, can you talk like Yoda?”

When given this command, Alexa answers: “strong with the force Alexa is.”

Yoda
Who is Yoda?

If you’re asking yourself who’s Yoda, you just made 10-year-old Isaac sad and mad at the same time. Nice Job. 

Instead of explaining Yoda, you should just go watch Star Wars. No, not the sequels, or the prequels. Go back and watch the movies from the 70s and 80s first.

And don’t even think about sending Memes that confuse Star Wars with Star Trek. You’ve been warned! 

Music

“Alexa, play the playlist Cardio Dance Workout on Amazon Music”

When I use this command, Alexa plays music from this playlist created by Amazon.

The playlist contains 16 upbeat Pop songs, like “One Kiss” by Calvin Harris. If you listen to popular hits on the radio, you’ve definitely heard of these songs before. 

Podcasts

“Alexa, play the podcast The Daily Dad”

What a timely command—if you’ve been following along to this series, you’ll know my first child is on the way. So when I’m not testing voice commands, you can find me reading any parenting books I can get my hands on, putting together nursery furniture, and taking care of my very pregnant wife. Let’s see how this command can help.

When I give this command, Alexa starts the podcast The Daily Dad from Apple Podcasts. 

Alexa begins with the most recent episode, “It’s An Honor to Do This.” Instead of being about advice, this podcast is more geared toward inspiring listeners to be better dads. Each episode is a quick two minute story about what it means to be a good dad.

Not surprising, this command is my favorite from this week. If you’re a dad and would like to help me out with suggesting other helpful resources for me to check out, share in the comments below. I could use all the help I can get!

And if you’re curious how I got Apple Podcasts to work with Alexa, check out the Podcast Section from June 8th.

Shopping

“Alexa, remove chicken wings from my shopping list”

See this command’s breakdown from May 11th’s Shopping Section. This makes two commands related to chicken from this week. Maybe Alexa is hungry?

“Alexa, scan this to my shopping list”

Check out this command’s breakdown from April 24th’s Shopping Section.

Takeaways

Command Category Breakdown

My favorite command this week is easily from the Podcasts Section. Whether you’re a veteran dad or a soon-to-be father, like myself, this podcast is sure to inspire.

What’s also notable to mention from this week’s list of commands is Amazon’s effort to save you time in learning new things. For instance, you can quickly learn bite-sized facts regarding Pride in the Alexa Skills section or hear an excerpt of the definition of Juneteenth in the Info section. What’s more—you can listen to quick news stories from multiple sources via Flash Briefings, which I find to be one of the most useful abilities Alexa supports. Check it out in the Information section

Beyond these Alexa commands, it’s also worth menting next month is Alexa Live 2020. Stay tuned for what I hope to be new updates for Alexa off the back of this conference. 

That’s a wrap! Learn anything new with Alexa this week? Or did Alexa respond in a strange way? Don’t keep it to yourself—leave a comment below.  

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