Keeping Up With Alexa Commands

Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: October 2020

Welcome back and Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Keep up with Alexa in learning new things to ask Alexa. Each week, Amazon tells us about 20 or so commands in their newsletter. However, many of those commands are duplicates, old commands, or just simply not interesting. Finding the diamonds in the rough is time consuming, especially if you keep up every week. But who has time for that?

I do. 

After years of working on Alexa and Siri, I love keeping up with the latest features these voice assistants can do.

This newsletter, I’ve picked out the most interesting commands from the 101 commands Amazon gave us in October. Out of that 101, there are a ton of duplicates are commands that just aren’t interesting to test. I did, however, find 15 commands. 15 interesting commands that I believe could be worth your time.

If you’re new to this series, check out the 327 things to ask Alexa on your Echo or other Alexa-enabled devices from previous newsletters. If you want to stay up to date, sign up for the newsletter and I’ll let you know when the next post goes live.

If you have been following along

For everyone keeping up, sorry for the radio silence over the last few weeks. My new daughter is keeping my wife and I running, literally around the clock. Even though we missed the weekly updates for October, condensing everything into just a few commands that are truly useful seems like a better way to go I think. This style lets me cut a bunch of commands that frankly aren’t interesting or have been duplicated way too many times. Let me know if you disagree.

Things to Ask Alexa

With the introductions out of the way, let’s check out the most interesting commands from October.

“Alexa, show me cooking classes”

Amazon is working hard to give Alexa some interesting Cooking-related abilities. If you spend a bunch of time cooking, especially for Thanksgiving, check out this command and grab an Echo Show for your kitchen. Don’t bother trying this one on an Echo Dot. This command needs a device with a screen.

When I use this command on an Echo Show, I’m given  different categories to dive into, each with various videos that teach specific recipes.

But sadly, sitting hunched over an Echo Show isn’t a great way to learn a recipe. The screen isn’t large enough to spend a bunch of time browsing. Still, it’s a decent way to get some new inspiration for cooking dinner tonight.

“Alexa, give me some bad poetry”

I do love me some bad poetry. Although this command gets duplicated often, I’m happy to try this command out each time just to see happens. Usually Alexa’s poetry isn’t half bad. Honestly, it’s pretty good. This time, here’s what Alexa says:

Earth,
Explorer of the great expanse
of space
A small blue orb at the edge
of the milky way
Revolving around
and chasing after the sun
traveling 67000 miles in every hour
and yet here together we share this tiny moment. Now.

I like it, although I’m a sucker for things Space related. What do you think?

Elon Musk
I’m sure Elon would approve.

“Alexa, open Bamboo Luminaries”

Bamboo Alexa Skill Icon

Here’s a new skill for history buffs. If you love learning about history, try this command out. Just don’t expect too much.

Bamboo Luminaries is a skill that contains some interesting information about famous people from history, like Augustus and Marie Curie. In addition to giving you some info about historical figures, you can quiz that will test your knowledge of their accomplishments.

But sadly the skill does need a bit of work. After reading the description, I thought the skill had a “luminary of the day”, where the skill would give me some interesting facts about someone from history. Sounds pretty cool to me, but sadly that’s not the case. When I use this command, Alexa asks me if I want to take a quiz or explore the list of luminaries the skill supports. No daily updates.

Really I’d rather have the skill give me a “luminary of the day” to start out, and if I want, to dive in deeper. The skill requires a bit too much to get started though. But I’ll check back later. Baybe the “luminary of the day” will eventually become a thing.

“Alexa, navigate to the closest open pharmacy in San Jose”

Did you know that Alexa has map support? Using Yelp and your phone, Alexa does a decent job of sending directions to your registered device. Give it a shot.

“Alexa, how do I share my Routines?”

I’m excited for this new feature (not so much the command itself). Alexa Routines are one of the power user features for Alexa Home Automation. Routines themselves can get really complicated too, with all sorts of different steps intertwined.

Often online I’ve seen users taking screenshots of their routines just to let other people copy. Now there’s an easier way. To share a routine, open up the Alexa App, navigate to the routine itself, and click on the option button in the top right. You’ll see a share button. Here’s what Alexa has to say about sharing in the Alexa App.

Routine Sharing in the Alexa App

Amazon also has a few routines that you can add to your Echos. Check them out at the bottom of this page. 

Very cool! Let me know if you find an interesting routine that users are sharing.

“Alexa, tell me a spooky limerick”

Happy (late) Halloween! Let Alexa help get you in the mood, even if it’s after Halloween already.

Try out this command to get a halloween themes poem/limerick. Personally, I’m not impressed. Pass.

“Alexa, what is the S&P average today?”

Within the last month or so, Alexa finally added a few commands to give you some basic stock market information. One of the most useful I’ve seen so far is  this command. With it, Alexa will provide some basic information about the largest indices.

But really, if you find yourself using this command often, you’re probably checking the start market too often. Instead of using this command, maybe just take the day off. Fishing perhaps? It’s not my cup of tea… but that’s better than checking the index all the time.

“Alexa, ask Jurassic Bark to bark”

Jurassic Bark Alexa Skill Icon

Jurassic Bark? What? Alright this command intrigued me. I had to see what this command does.

But sadly, what it does isn’t nearly as great as the skill name. When I used this command, a dinosaur didn’t bark at me. Instead, Alexa plays a video (on Echo Show) with a short video of a dog dancing and barking.

That’s it. Then I’m told I can get other kinds of barks, like a “spooky bark”.

No thanks. Skip this one.

“Alexa, flip a coin”

Why flip a real coin, when you can ask Alexa to instead. Such a simple, but unknown, command but that’s why I like it. Add this one to your list of Alexa commands. Save yourself a coin flip by using Alexa instead.

When I use this command, Alexa responds with “you got heads/tails”. That’s it! Super simple and to the point. Flipping a real coin is now old news.

“Alexa, tell me a coffee joke”

Does a coffee joke refer to too much caffeine, or not being awake in the morning… maybe water cooler talk at the office instead?

Let’s find out.

Why did the tea break up with the coffee?
The coffee was a bit of a drip with an ugly mug.

Turns out, none of the above. Let’s make fun of how coffee looks instead!

“Alexa, enable the Halloween Routine”

Sadly this command doesn’t really do much. It sets up a new routine called “Halloween” and presets a few phrases for Alexa to say, but that’s all. If you want anything else, like setting up halloween colors on your smart lights, you’ll need to configure that yourself.

If you’re wondering, this is what the routine looks like after you use this command:

Halloween Routine
Halloween Routine

Personally I’d love for the routine to set up something related to my Smart Lights at least. Otherwise, it’s pretty boring.

“Alexa, give me a spooky rap”

Continuing with the Halloween theme, Alexa can also give you a themed rap song. As for it being spooky, I think it’s a bit of a stretch there, Alexa.

I will admit that the production value is pretty good. Give it a shot if you want yet another cheesy halloween song to listen to.

“Alexa, tell me a story about pickleball”

One of these days I hope to get out and actually learn about Pickleball. I hear it’s a pretty fun game to play, being a split between Ping Pong and Tennis.

Looks like Alexa is catching on to the game’s popularity as well.

When I use this command, Alexa truly tells me a story with sound effects and in Alexa’s voice. The story is just a few minutes long, but enjoyable. It’s a story about someone learning about the game, and ultimately, their family.

Try it out if you have a few minutes and you’re looking for a quick, cute, story. But don’t expect to learn about the game itself, other than the fact that Pickleball is a thing, atleast.

“Alexa, give me a fortune”

When I saw this command, I first thought of Zoltar. Hopefully he’s the one giving my fortune.

Zoltar
Behold, your fortune awaits

Let’s see. When I use this command, Alexa responds with:

“There is yet time enough for you to take a different path.”

Also, the skill actually mentions Zoltar as well! Looks like I’m already on the right path. So thanks but no thanks Zoltar. I’ll keep chugging on. If you guys don’t hear from me next month, maybe Zoltar was right after all?

“Alexa, play NPR”

This command plays NPR radio, as if you were listening to NPR on your car FM radio. You’ll get a stream of stories from NPR. So if you’re looking for some news and you’ve already listened to your flash briefing, try this command out.

“Alexa, what’s the phone number of the closest urgent care?”

If you’re in a pinch if you need to contact urgent care, Alexa may be able to help you out.

When I use this command, Alexa gives me the name of the urgent care area, the location and the phone number. Alexa then asks if I want to call them.

This command can be really handy, especially if you’re unable to pick up your phone.

Summary

And that’s a wrap for October. Stay tuned for next month’s review in a few more weeks. Let me know in the comments if you learned about some other cool command this month.

Full list of 101 October Commands

If you want to wade through the raw list yourself, have at it! Here’s the full list of things to ask Alexa that Amazon highlighted for October.

“Alexa, add ‘Family Dinner’ to the schedule tonight at 7 PM“

“Alexa, add a note… Sally’s Birthday is on June 20th“

“Alexa, announce ‘trick or treat’“

“Alexa, answer the call“

“Alexa, ask Headspace for today’s meditation“

“Alexa, ask Jurassic Bark to bark“

“Alexa, call for help“

“Alexa, cancel my alarm on my Bedroom Echo“

“Alexa, check my email“

“Alexa, compute to the last digit the value of pi“

“Alexa, enable the Halloween Routine“

“Alexa, find action movies on Fire TV“

“Alexa, find my keys“

“Alexa, find my keys“

“Alexa, find my phone“

“Alexa, find the top rated taco place in Sunnyvale“

“Alexa, fire photon torpedoes“

“Alexa, flip a coin“

“Alexa, follow Future on Amazon Music“

“Alexa, give me a fortune“

“Alexa, give me a spooky rap“

“Alexa, give me some bad poetry“

“Alexa, help me relax“

“Alexa, help me sleep“

“Alexa, how’s traffic to Lake Tahoe?“

“Alexa, how do I make chicken stock?“

“Alexa, how do I share my Routines?“

“Alexa, how do I turn off your microphones?“

“Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson“

“Alexa, let’s get spooky“

“Alexa, let’s have fun“

“Alexa, make me laugh“

“Alexa, navigate to my parents’ house“

“Alexa, navigate to the closest open pharmacy in San Jose“

“Alexa, open Bamboo Luminaries“

“Alexa, open Guided Meditation“

“Alexa, open Lucky Charms Magical Mission“

“Alexa, open Photo Booth“

“Alexa, open Rainforest Sounds“

“Alexa, open Sleep Sounds“

“Alexa, open Thunderstorm Sounds“

“Alexa, open Word Pop“

“Alexa, play 90s country“

“Alexa, play electronic music“

“Alexa, play King of the Hill on Hulu“

“Alexa, play MLB highlights“

“Alexa, play music everywhere“

“Alexa, play music for Halloween from Amazon Music“

“Alexa, play music for meditation“

“Alexa, play music for sleeping“

“Alexa, play nature sounds“

“Alexa, play NPR“

“Alexa, play smooth jazz“

“Alexa, play the news“

“Alexa, play The Pocket on Amazon Music“

“Alexa, play white noise“

“Alexa, read Audible everywhere“

“Alexa, read me a Science Fiction from Audible“

“Alexa, relax with Diddy“

“Alexa, relax with Nick Jonas“

“Alexa, remember that I need to watch Casablanca sometime“

“Alexa, remind me to wish Alexa happy birthday on November 6th“

“Alexa, reset the equalizer“

“Alexa, send a message“

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

“Alexa, set a 7 AM alarm on my Bedroom Echo“

“Alexa, set an alarm to happy music“

“Alexa, set a sleep timer for 30 minutes“

“Alexa, set the background to my photos“

“Alexa, show me cooking classes“

“Alexa, show me featured movies on Tubi“

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

“Alexa, show my Facebook photos“

“Alexa, start Common Knowledge“

“Alexa, start my free Audible trial“

“Alexa, stop playing music in one hour“

“Alexa, tell me a coffee joke“

“Alexa, tell me a Jimmy Fallon joke“

“Alexa, tell me a joke about jazz“

“Alexa, tell me a spooky limerick“

“Alexa, tell me a story about pickleball“

“Alexa, tell me when there’s a severe weather alert“

“Alexa, test how smart I am“

“Alexa, turn up the bass“

“Alexa, what’s my election update?“

“Alexa, what’s the hourly weather?“

“Alexa, what’s the phone number of the closest urgent care?“

“Alexa, what’s the temperature at 6:00 AM?“

“Alexa, what’s the weather this evening?“

“Alexa, what are my deals?“

“Alexa, what are my deals?“

“Alexa, what are my deals?“

“Alexa, what are my emails?“

“Alexa, what can I make with spinach?“

“Alexa, what is Brief Mode?“

“Alexa, what is Mariah’s thought of the day?“

“Alexa, what is Mindy’s thought of the day?“

“Alexa, what is the S&P average today?“

“Alexa, what should I make for dinner?“

“Alexa, what should I read next?“

“Alexa, what should I watch?“

2 thoughts on “Keeping Up with Alexa Commands: October 2020”

  1. I enjoy reading a book called “Just For Today” Narcotics Anonymous and would like Alexa to wake me each morning with the daily reading. Is this possible?

    1. Hmmm that’s a interesting use case. Maybe you can setup an Audible book as an alarm? I don’t think that’s possible currently though. Has anyone else tried?

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