Here’s a hand-picked selection of five popular, new, or noteworthy Alexa skills worth trying. There are now more than 25,000 voice apps in the Alexa Skills Store, Amazon announced earlier this week.
This was perhaps the most prolific week of developments for Alexa device owners since the launch of the Echo in 2014.
On Wednesday, six new Amazon devices made their debut: a second-generation Echo, the Echo Plus, the Echo Spot alarm clock, Echo Connect for phone calls, Echo Buttons for games, and Fire TV 4K.
Among the features recently made available, Alexa devices can now make free calls to the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and footage from smart cameras can now be tracked with Fire TV or an Echo Show.
Proactive notifications for Alexa-enabled devices were made available for the first time Thursday and offer updates on shopping, Alexa skills, and flash news briefings, starting with skills from Washington Post, AccuWeather, and Life360.
Routines are new to the Smart Home Skills API and allow Alexa to accomplish multiple tasks at once.
Alexa is also available now in the Amazon Music app on iOS and Android. You can do plenty of searches by artist, genre, or lyrics, as well as based on your activity, such as a road trip, cardio session, and more.
Gadgets and Routines are the new kids on the block, but last month Amazon debuted a new class of skills made especially for children, including this one from Sesame Workshop.
The Sesame Street skill lets you call Elmo about letters or play hide-and-seek. Elmo picks up the phone and plays hide-and-seek in the real Elmo voice.
Skills made for kids must be activated using Verified Parental Consent, which can be granted via text message or the Alexa app. The child’s name, age, and birthday must be shared to complete the process.
This new skill from CBS Interactive can quiz your Star Trek knowledge with regular trivia questions, but that’s just the tip of the Trekkie geek iceberg.
The team at Amazon really likes Star Trek, so much so that Alexa was made in the image of the AI assistant on Star Trek (“Computer”) and is still part of the initiation process for new engineers charged with improving and expanding the Alexa universe.
To celebrate Trekkies everywhere and the debut of the Star Trek: Discovery series, Amazon built some fun commands directly into Alexa, among them:
- Alexa, red alert
- Alexa, beam me up
- Alexa, fire photon torpedoes
- Alexa, speak Klingon
- Alexa, what is your mission?
- Alexa, state your Starfleet rank and class.
Separate from the skill, you can speak directly to Alexa about Star Trek, or even rename Alexa “Computer” in your Alexa app settings.
Games are pretty important to Amazon, so much so that earlier this year, starting with games, the company began to pay Alexa developers based on engagement their skills can generate among users.
Some of the games that are the most fun to play with Alexa might be those related to music. For the Beat The Intro skill, your host is Foxy, and you guess the word bleeped out of pop songs.
To get answers, say “Alexa, ask Beat the Intro for today’s answers” or “Alexa, ask Beat the Intro to play it again” to repeat.
A quiz with six new songs is shared every day.
The top-enabled skills in the Alexa Skills Store are a pretty consistent group. Jeopardy, This Day in History, flash briefings from ESPN, and Fox News are skills that pretty much never leave the top 10, but Cook Reference recently made its way into these prestigious rankings.
Cook Reference can tell you some basic things needed for cooking, like conversion of measurement units or proper cooking temperatures for pork, beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, and some fish.
Earlier this month, the skill gained wine and beer pairings so you can say something like “Alexa, ask Cook Reference what goes well with chicken?”
Life360, which keeps tabs on the location of important people in your life, is one of a very few skills (only three were shared by Amazon when this feature launched Thursday) that are now available with proactive notifications via a blinking LED atop an Alexa-enabled devices or a one-second auditory notification.
With notifications, if you tell the skill about places — like home, work, or school — the skill will share a notification when, say, your kids get to school or walk in the door after school.