Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: June 8th

If you’re looking for the latest things to say or ask Alexa, you’ve come to the right place. This weekly series explores the new or newly-promoted commands Amazon releases for its Voice Assistant. I then test each command to weed out the good from the bad (and rarely ugly), so you don’t have to. And whether you have an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show, these commands work on all Alexa-enabled devices. 

Today’s post covers 20 total Alexa commands Amazon released, nine of which are new to this series and serve to grow the extensive list of tips and tricks you can do. 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 second newsletter of June. Go ahead and grab your Alexa-enabled device, and let’s explore more capabilities of Amazon’s Voice Assistant. And as always, I’ve included a final summary within the takeaway section. 

In case you missed it, June 1st featured 21 voice commands ranging from new music features to AAA game skills. But if that roundup doesn’t quite hit the spot, you can view the exhaustive list of Alexa commands via weekly roundups here

What Can Alexa Do

Editor’s Note: While they’re likely new to you, the 20 Alexa commands listed below are not all brand new. Amazon promotes a mix of new and newly-promoted commands that are older but still not well known or used by Alexa users. All of this to say: if I’ve previously analyzed a command, I’ll include a link to the original post so you can quickly jump to it. Otherwise, all new commands are covered directly here.  

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, open Seaside Sounds”

If you, like many others, are missing out on your summer vacation (thanks to Coronavirus), you can still relax at the beach. No travel required. Simply use this command for Alexa to bring the beach to you. When given this command, Alexa plays sounds of waves crashing along the seashore. 

Sleep Sounds: Seaside Sounds is a popular Alexa Skill with 780 total reviews and a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. Like other ambient sound commands from Voice Apps, the sound quality is high but it usually stops after a few minutes unless you upgrade to their premium version for longer loops. Instead of upgrading to premium, I recommend building your own ambient sound instead

“Alexa, play ocean sounds” 

See the command’s breakdown from April 10th.

“Alexa, show me featured shows on Red Bull TV”

See the command’s breakdown from April 24th.

“Alexa, start Question of the Day”
Question of the Day Alexa Skill Icon

This is my favorite command for the week, and the Alexa Skill is well built. So if you’re a fan of trivia games, definitely give Question of the Day a shot. 

When I use this command, Alexa explains a game in which I’ll get a question each day. If I get the question right, I’ll earn points to unlock other features later on. Once explaining this, Alexa then gets started in asking me trivia questions with multiple choice answers. Alexa simply speaks the question, and I’m shown the question on an Echo Show. 

After going through a practice question, and the actual question of the day itself, Alexa then provides me stats on how well I’m doing, which is a pretty cool feature. At this point, Alexa immediately jumps into a related podcast that’s separate from the game. This ending is mildly annoying, but fortunately you can quickly tell Alexa to stop. 

In looking at the recent reviews, users are concerned with the same abrupt ending I stumbled on with podcasts auto-playing after trivia. Other concerns are related to monthly subscription charges and unwanted newsletter signups. This skill has a rating of Guidance Suggested, as well, meaning the skill has access to your personal information when you use it. 

Unfortunately, while these concerns are valid, I’m not surprised to hear of them. This skill is made by Matchbox.io, a developer I’ve had some problems with in the past with their skill called “Find My Phone.” That said, however, I do think this skill is still worth its salt for those who love Trivia. The daily questions are presented well, and the stats feature at the end is a fun way to track yourself over time. 

So go ahead, give this one a whirl and let’s compare stats in the comments below. 

Audible

“Alexa, read me a Science Fiction from Audible”

What’s a Science Fiction? This phrase seems to be missing a word or too. But although this command is off-putting to say, you’ll love the result if you’re a fan of Science Fiction.

When I use this command, Alexa starts playing an audiobook called The Monsters of Morley Manor. This book is mainly targeted toward kids, and has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating.

And in case you missed last week’s discovery, you have the ability to stop and resume the audiobook at any time with Alexa. For instance, try saying “Alexa, resume my audiobook” to pick up where you left off.

Donations

“Alexa, make a donation to the United Nations Foundation”

See the command’s breakdown from April 24th.

Information

“Alexa, give me a quote”

See the command’s breakdown from April 24th.

Jokes

“Alexa, fire photon torpedoes”

See the command’s breakdown from April 24th.

“Alexa, sing a song about science”

Here’s a small Easter Egg. Any guesses on how Alexa will handle this command?

When I use this command, Alexa raps (in her own voice) a song called “Give It Up For Science.” While I’ve never stumbled on this command before, it looks to have been around since 2018. Pretty cool. 

Music

“Alexa, pair my phone”

See the command’s breakdown from April 10th.

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

See the command’s breakdown from June 1st.

Podcasts

“Alexa, play an inspirational podcast”

When I use this command, Alexa starts telling me about a podcast, including the title and a description of the show itself. For instance, Alexa recommended the podcast Conscious Creators and asked if I’d like to listen. By saying yes, Alexa then plays the show via Apple Podcasts.

At this point you might be wondering, what’s a podcast? A podcast is roughly within the same realm as a radio talk show. The only difference is podcasts are usually recorded beforehand, instead of featuring live readings on-air. And there are thousands of podcasts available on just about any topic you can think of.

Alexa doesn’t have its own podcast system; instead, the Voice Assistant pulls from third-parties to bring podcasts to you. For instance, you can enable Apple Podcasts via Alexa. I’ve previously linked Apple to my Alexa account using the Apple Podcasts Skill. This causes Alexa to set the default of what third-party it relies on for podcast requests. 

“Alexa, recommend a podcast”

I find this command has a better shot of recommending a podcast you’ll want to listen to versus the previous command. For what does Alexa consider “inspirational,” anyway? It’s tough to define for everyone.

So if you’re not sure what sort of podcast you’re itching for, give this more generalized command a shot. Alexa simply recommends podcasts tailored to your profile. 

For instance, when I use this command, I get the recommendation for Up First, a news podcast by NPR. 

Productivity

“Alexa, delete my meeting tomorrow”

See the command’s breakdown from April 24th.

“Alexa, make a note”

If you’re needing a personal assistant to jot down things for you, you’re in luck. Alexa can take notes for you. It’s a pretty handy feature when you have your hands full, but what’s really impressive is Alexa understands what your notes mean.

When I use this command, Alexa asks me “What should I note?” After I give Alexa my note, like “buy dental floss,” Alexa then adds it to the notes tab in the Alexa App.

Settings

“Alexa, switch the temperature units to Celsius”

Don’t fancy the Imperial system? No problem. This command switches the format of temperature to degrees Celsius. 

Easily switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius, or miles to kilometers in the Alexa App.

“Alexa, what is Brief Mode?”

See the command’s breakdown from April 10th.

Smart Home

“Alexa, play a slideshow”

To get the most out of this command, you’ll first need either an Echo Show or a Fire TV (i.e. a screen-enabled device). Personally, I think it’s best to use an Echo Show, and this ability is my favorite use for the device, especially with using Amazon Photos.

When I use this command on an Echo Show, Alexa starts panning through photos I have in Amazon Photos. From what I can tell, the photos aren’t in any particular order, but you’re also able to filter which photos you want to see in your slideshow. Give this follow-up command a shot: “Alexa, show photos from last year.” I covered that command a few weeks back.

Timers

“Alexa, cancel my Bedroom Echo timer”

See the command’s breakdown from May 4th.

“Alexa, set a 30 minute sleep timer with bedroom light”

See the command’s breakdown from April 10th.

Takeaways

Command Category Breakdown

What shines the brightest this week is Alexa’s recommendation capabilities with podcasts. 

Amazon releases two commands that’ll make any podcast fan happy in the Podcasts Section. What’s especially handy for Apple Users is you can link your Apple Podcasts account with Alexa. But if you aren’t, there are plenty of Podcast services to choose from.

But if you only have time for one command this week–and are willing to take a bet on my tastes, jump to the Alexa Skills Section instead for your “Question of the Day.” It’s a fun trivia game that tracks your stats.

You might also be wondering about the growing list of ambient sounds developed by third-parties in the Alexa Skill Store. Ambient sound skills are starting to resemble the cereal aisle at your local grocery store, so many options! Check out this week’s selection in the Alexa Skills as well. 

See you next week as I highlight more things you can do with Alexa. 

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