Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: May 25th

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 20 commands sprawled out in 10 different categories. So go ahead, 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

Happy Memorial Day! If you’re needing a break from grilling burgers, why not learn something new you can say or ask Alexa. See below for the entire list of this week’s commands, which also happens to be the last from May.

In case you missed it, May 18th featured voice commands related to poetry, music, and Disney stories. But if that doesn’t 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 20 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 by Alexa users. All of this to say, I’ll do my best to add commentary on when a command is or isn’t new to Amazon’s platform.

Alexa Skills

“Alexa, ask Translated to say ‘hello’ in Japanese”

You may recall this command was covered back on April 10th. And from the looks of it, nothing new has been added since. That’s not to say it’s not worth your time, as the Alexa Skill Translated is pretty great, supporting over 37 languages. If you’re looking for translation help, give this command and Translated a shot.

As a parting note: I fully expect to see an update of this skill in the near future. Some of the missing languages, according to the comments, are Latin and Veitnamese. 

“Alexa, open 63rd and Wallace”

Here’s a pretty cool Alexa Skill. 63rd and Wallace is part game, part horror story. When you activate this skill, Alexa reads a story to you and asks you to solve puzzles to move the story along. It reminds me of some of the early role-playing games that were text-based, called MUDs.

The ratings are decent, but I don’t think they tell the full story. The negative reviews aren’t about the quality of the skill itself, but instead, you see frustrated users who want more content. That’s actually a good problem to have.

But I have bad news: this skill isn’t working right now. When I test this command on an Echo Show, the Alexa App, and an Echo Dot, I get no response. Alexa either sits in silence or says something to the effect of “sorry, I’m having trouble accessing your 63 and Wallace skill right now.” Sadly the skill is broken.

If you’re genuinely disappointed like me, hang tight. I’ve reached out to Amazon to notify them the error is with the third-party skill itself. Stay tuned for an update on when this skill is back up and running again. 

“Alexa, open Freeze Dancers”

When you were a kid, did you ever play the game Musical Chairs? Well, Freeze Dancers is a Kid Skill that brings a similar experience to Alexa. You essentially dance while the music plays and stop when the music stops.

When I use this command, Alexa gives a quick description of the skill, and then starts playing music. After a few moments, Alexa cuts the music off and asks, “who moved?” Then Alexa plays another song, but this time asks for specific dance moves, such as “hop like a bunny.”

Reviews for the skill are pretty good with 165 in total and a 3.5 star rating out of 5 stars. While there appeared to be a bug in late 2019 where the music never actually stopped, I didn’t come across it during testing. What’s more–I’m not able to find any in-skill ads. 

Overall, this is a solid Kid Skill to try out. So if your littles ones are getting restless during their Memorial Day break, give this command a shot. 

“Alexa, open Sleep Sounds”

Sleep Sounds is a very regular command that Amazon promotes within its newsletters. If you recall, I spent time looking into all the facets of Sleep Sounds and some other ambient sounds in April.

Overall, If you’re looking for a white noise machine to help you sleep, I recommend my go-to command: “Alexa, open rain sounds.” If that doesn’t soothe you, open Sleep Sounds for further ambient noise options.

“Alexa, show me featured movies on Tubi”

Tubi is a free streaming platform for video content. I also reviewed Tubi back in April, and since then, Tubi has five new positive ratings. 

If you’re in the market for another free streaming platform, give Alexa this command.

Communication

“Alexa, ‘Drop In’ on all devices”

Drop In allows you to talk to another Echo device in your account. For example, if you’re in the bedroom and want to talk to someone in your kitchen, you use this command, much like a Walkie Talkie.

When I give this command, the Echo I’m using plays a tone indicating a Drop In has occurred on all my other Echo devices, and then I’m able to essentially broadcast my message throughout the house where I have multiple Echo Dots. 

In April, Amazon first mentioned the ability to Drop In on a single device. Now, you can Drop In on multiple devices at once or all devices in your account. Pretty cool. But as I mentioned before, I wouldn’t bother with this command–or the Drop In feature–unless you have a large house with multiple devices. Otherwise the command competes with good, old fashion yelling.

Cooking

“Alexa, what can I make with spinach?”

Amazon–much like Popeye–is a big fan of spinach, often suggesting recipes with the favored vegetable in each week’s promotional feeds. While before it was spinach and chicken, this week Alexa suggests the recipe called “Claire’s Spinach Carbonara.” 

As with all cooking-related Alexa commands, I highly recommend using an Echo Show (or other screen-enabled device) to get the most out of them as you’re able to follow along to the recipes better. 

Donations

“Alexa, make a donation to American Red Cross”

According to Alexa’s charity list, you can also use the name “American National Red Cross.” Chances are, you’ve heard of the American Red Cross, as it’s one of the most prolific charities in the U.S.. With this command, Alexa gives you the ability to donate directly to the charity. 

Like all donations Amazon recommends, it’s tough to know exactly where your money goes, especially for larger organizations like this one. With that in mind, perhaps the best thing to do instead is answer their call of donating blood. It always goes directly to those in need. 

Information

“Alexa, what is FreeTime?”

When I use this command, I get a long-winded description of all of the features of FreeTime. FreeTime is the name for Amazon’s parental control system. Essentially, you use it to manage how your kids use Amazon devices, including Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo Dot Kids Edition. 

The command doesn’t tell you how to actually enable FreeTime on Alexa, though, which is surprisingly hard to find. So let me show you below on how to enable FreeTime on any Echo device.

  1. Open the Alexa App
  2. Tap on Devices
  3. Tap on the Echo device you’d like your kids to use
  4. Tap on FreeTime

You should see a screen like this:

FreeTime Settings
FreeTime Settings

When you toggle the control to enable (via yellow circle above), Amazon guides you through setting up FreeTime, including setting up a profile for your child.

As you run through the setup, you’ll also see Amazon mention their subscription service called “Amazon FreeTime Unlimited.” Don’t be fooled–you don’t need to sign up for this. The premium service simply gives you access to additional content for kids, easier controls for you as the parent, and a different list of Alexa Kid Skills you can use.

My advice? Don’t rush into Unlimited. Set up and try FreeTime for free before you commit to the subscription. You might just find FreeTime by itself is all you really need. 

“Alexa, who are your role models?”

Initially, I wasn’t sure if this command would give me real answers or a joke. But as it turns out, the command indeed works where Alexa provides the name of an admirable person and a short description of the person’s impact on history. And whether intentional or not, all role models Alexa listed for me were women: 

  • Jane Goodal: Known for extensive research into chimpanzees
  • Marie Curie: Paved the way on our knowledge of radioactivity
  • Amelia Earhart: First female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean 

I’m a fan of this command. You get a quick description of influential people who helped shape history. And if you find someone who really interests you, you can always dig a bit deeper than what Alexa provides.

But the real question is: who’s my role model? I know you’re just dying to know, right? If I had to pick one from these three, it would be Marie Curie. Her advances in science are beyond impressive. Who’s yours? 

Jokes

“Alexa, open the pod bay doors”

An oldie but goodie. It seems for Amazon, you can’t make a Voice Assistant without a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey. That would just be a missed opportunity. 

For those who aren’t aware, this joke gets used often. But joke’s on Amazon, as the company definitely doesn’t want Alexa to be compared to Hale.

Music

“Alexa, play Long Weekend Country from Amazon Music”

Here’s a command that’s just in time for Memorial Day. When I use this command, Alexa plays the Amazon Playlist Long Weekend: Country. It’s 19 songs in total and free if you’re already a Prime member.

“Alexa, follow Future on Amazon Music”

This command speaks to some cool integration Alexa has with Amazon Music. When I use this command, Alexa let’s me know that I’ll receive notifications when the artist Future has something new.

But sadly, the integration isn’t very deep yet, as managing who you’re following via Alexa doesn’t work well. For example, the command “Alexa, who am I following on Amazon Music” doesn’t work. 

Instead, you can find who you’re following in the Amazon Music App. Click on the profile icon in the top right, and you’ll see something like this:

Amazon Music Profile
Amazon Music Profile

You can also confirm if you’re following an artist by looking at their page:

Artist Profile in Amazon Music
Artist Profile in Amazon Music
“Alexa, sing the National Anthem”
Happy Memorial Day from Smart Home Explained
Happy Memorial Day from Smart Home Explained 

Happy Memorial Day to all my U.S. readers! Amazon provides a hat tip to this National holiday with promoting this command. When I give this command, Alexa starts singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” bringing me right back to grade school and sporting events. 

The most impressive thing about this command is Alexa sings the song in her own voice. Alexa does a pretty good job with it, too.

Productivity

“Alexa, check my email”

If you remember, I covered a similar command back in April that was “Alexa, what are my emails?” Turns out, this new command performs the same way. That is, Alexa reads the subject line from the latest email in my inbox.

This command highlights the ability for Alexa to understand multiple commands–or really, multiple phrases–that do the same functionality. I’m a big fan of these additions from Amazon. Not everyone says or asks something in the same way, so it’s important for a Voice Assistant like Alexa to recognize natural variations of a request instead of expecting the user to memorize commands. 

“Alexa, what’s on my To-Do list?”

This command was also extensively covered back in April. The main gist? Make sure you have items on your To-Do list before taking this command for a spin.

Shopping

“Alexa, recommend me a book”

Although the command first appeared back in April, there are recent changes. Amazon’s skill no longer exists. Now, Alexa handles this command directly without seeking a third-party skill to do the same functionality. 

When I use this command, Alexa pauses for a moment and then reads me a book recommendation by listing off the title and a description. Alexa then asks if I want to buy the book or get another recommendation.

My interactions with Alexa through this command aren’t great, though. If I tell Alexa to “buy it,” Alexa simply stops responding instead of giving me the price of the book.

Overall, don’t bother with this command. Instead, check out something like GoodReads for better book recommendations. 

Smart Home

“Alexa, set the background to my photos”

An old command, but a good one. I use this on my Fire TV and Echo Show.

“Alexa, show photos from last year”

Did you know this command existed? I didn’t! This command is really nice. But before I get into it, note that there are some prerequisites, such as you need a device with a screen, like an Echo Show or a Fire TV. You also need to have photos uploaded to Amazon Photos. 

My family takes a ton of photos, and we do use Amazon Photos to store them. So this command really comes in handy. For instance, when I use this command on an Echo Show, Alexa starts a slideshow of all pictures I’ve uploaded from last year. Alexa also lets me know that I can share photos with my contacts.

This command also works with a Fire TV. When I ask Alexa to carry out the command, the Photos App launches on my Fire TV with a grid containing all of my photos from last year. Next, I click Play on the Fire TV remote to start a slideshow, just like with the Echo Show.

Very cool. If you use Amazon for Photos–which I recommend you do if you’re already using Prime–then this command helps you get the most out of your photos via Alexa.

Timers

“Alexa, set a sleep timer for 30 minutes”

When you use this command, you can configure Alexa to take a few delayed actions for you, like with turning off the music or lights. The idea is you set a sleep timer and then things turn off 30 minutes later without you having to send another command. 

If you’d like more of a walk-through, I spent some time talking about Sleep Timers last month.

Takeaways

Command Category Breakdown

If you’re seeing red, white, and blue after reading this newsletter, you’re not alone. Amazon celebrates Memorial Day with highlighting Alexa capabilities of both singing The National Anthem as well as offering you country music that gets you right in the feels for America. To listen again, jump to the Music Section.

Perhaps more of an indirect nod to what the holiday is all about–Amazon also promotes the ability for Alexa to share memories with you. For instance, my favorite command this week is one related to showcasing last year’s photos on your Fire TV and Echo Show–presumably highlighting last year’s family BBQ and so much more. Read the full how-to in the Smart Home Section

In the same vein, Amazon encourages family fun today with adding another kid game you can do with Alexa. So go ahead, grab your little ones and bust a move with Freeze Dance (more in Alexa Skills Section).

Additionally, regardless of your nationality and if you celebrate Memorial Day today or not, Amazon honors historic moments and people with a new Information Section command. Alexa lists a handful of role models that have helped shape history and benefited all of humankind.

But if I’m being honest on what I had expected to be my favorite command from this week, it’d be the command that opens 63rd and Wallace. Unfortunately, this skill is currently broken (read more in the Alexa Skills Section). I’m currently working with Amazon to alert the skill’s owner. I’ll update this post once resolved. 

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *