It’s fair to say that Alexa has pretty much taken over the world. A huge amount of people now have smart speakers or other smart home devices that have Alexa built in, and with just a simple voice command, they can tell Alexa to do anything from turning the lights on through to playing music and even scheduling events and appointments.
You might think you know everything that Alexa can do, but you’d be surprised. Amazon’s assistant has a lot of built-in functions that many people have no cause or opportunity to use, but they can be fun, and some of them might even be useful for you. Here are 15 things you might not have known Alexa can do.
1. Find your phone
That’s right – Alexa can find where you’ve left your phone. Around 70 million smartphones are lost each and every year, so don’t let yours become one of them. All you have to do is ask Alexa to find your phone, and she’ll call it for you. Of course, this won’t be useful if you’ve left your device on silent, but hopefully you haven’t. Unfortunately, Alexa can’t change this setting for you.
2. Find recipes
If you’re struggling to figure out what you want to eat tonight, Alexa can help you with that. Just ask her to “find some recipes for dinner” or “find me a healthy breakfast recipe”, and she’ll pull up a recipe from one of the millions available online for you to follow. She can even tell you what to do along the way; she’ll read out each recipe step as it comes.
3. Talk to your pets
Have you got a cat that needs to be comforted while you’re at work or away? Maybe you’ve got a dog that gets anxious if there’s no human contact for a while. If either of these are the case, don’t despair; Alexa can talk to your pets. “Relax my dog” and “Meow” are commands you can give to Alexa, and depending on which one you use, she’ll then talk to your dog or your cat. Neat, right?
4. Change the subject
No, really. If you’re having a conversation and it’s not going well – if your parents are asking about your love life, for example, or your friends are asking why you ghosted them last week – then you can simply shout “change the subject” to Alexa, and she’ll give you a fact that you can use as a new talking point. It might not work flawlessly for your conversation, but it’s a fun feature nonetheless!
5. Play ambient sounds for relaxation
It’s been proven that sleeping with the sounds of nature can help you to get to sleep better and can also enrich your sleep. Alexa can help you to achieve this. All you need to do is ask her to play some soothing natural sounds for you before bed, and she’ll oblige. These sounds could be the chirping of birds, the ambience of a rainforest (sans lions, of course) or rain falling.
Whether or not Alexa’s got bars is up for debate, but she can give it a darn good go. You might disagree with the quality of her wordplay, but if you ask Alexa to rap, she’ll do it. She can also sing if you want her to, and she’ll recite poetry if you ask her to. Her voice doesn’t quite suit the lilting, melodic qualities of Romantic poetry, but the fact that she can do it at all is fun!
7. Shop for you
You’ll need to be very, very careful with this feature, but Alexa can actually shop on Amazon for you and buy things that you need. Simply ask Alexa to buy something from Amazon, and if it’s on there, she’ll do it. You can see why you’d need to be cautious here; you may end up buying something you don’t need, or your kids or family members could exploit this feature.
8. Help you work out
Sticking to a workout can be difficult, but if you want, you can get your Alexa assistant to act as your personal trainer as well. Just ask Alexa to give you a 10-minute workout, for example, and she’ll draw from a range of online options to give you one that works for you. She can also sync with various fitness apps, including Fitbit, to track your stats and give you suggestions.
9. Give you traffic updates
Asking your Alexa what the traffic is like before you depart for work is definitely a good idea. She’ll tell you exactly what the conditions are on your route to work, and if she doesn’t think you’re taking the best possible route, she’ll even suggest an alternative. Leaving the house armed with this information could be the difference between being late and being on time.
10. Give you writing exercises
There really is no limit to what Alexa can do for you. If you’re a writer and you’re struggling to find motivation today, then why not ask Alexa for help? The Writing Motivation skill imparts several writing exercises that have been known to help with writers’ block, and they can be great exercises for sharpening your proverbial pen as well. Give this one a shot if you’re hard up for inspiration.
11. Change her name
If you’ve got a child, a partner, or even a pet whose name is Alexa, then talking to your Amazon assistant is going to get really frustrating really quickly. Luckily, you can change the way you address your Alexa. All you need to do is head into the Settings menu on your Alexa app, then find the “Wake Word” option. You’ll then be given the chance to change what you say to wake up your Alexa.
12. Get an Uber
If you’re too busy to grab your phone, find yourself an Uber, and order it, then you can get Alexa to do it for you. Just ask Alexa to “request an Uber ride” and she’ll do it for you. This will allow you to get on with the important stuff, like packing for your holiday or getting ready to go out with your friends. As you might imagine, this is more useful if you’re a city-dweller.
13. Check up on loved ones
It’s definitely a good idea to get your family’s permission before you use this feature. Alexa’s Care Hub functionality can remotely check on elderly or otherwise dependent relatives to make sure they’re doing OK and don’t need any help. This is invaluable if you’re a part-time carer, for example, or if you need to check on a family member because they’ve had a recent illness or accident.
14. Order food
Alexa features integration with several major restaurant and coffee chains, including Starbucks, Just Eat, and Grubhub. Using the skills corresponding to these chains, you can ask Alexa to order you some food, and she’ll do it for you. Obviously, you’ll need to know exactly what you want, but the ability to do this without needing to navigate the app or speak to another person is a godsend.
15. Answer custom questions
Thanks to Alexa’s Blueprints feature, creating new skills is easy, and one of the ways you can take advantage of this is to create custom questions for Alexa to answer. You can also use this feature to develop apps and integrate them with Alexa yourself, so the sky’s the limit when it comes to the Blueprints feature. Just remember not to teach her anything rude in mixed company!