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If you own an Amazon Echo, you might have noticed that most of the 3,000+ skills in the Alexa Skills Store totally suck. Luckily for you, we at TOPBOTS have combed through the entire directory to hunt down the best Alexa Skills that are actually worth trying.
Keep reading to learn the 12 most useful (or at least funny) Alexa Skills, features, and integrations to get the most out of your smart home device, whether you want to find your car or your phone, get in touch with friends, outsource some chores, or just have fun.
Ever lose your iPhone in your own house? LostThings can help. You can get the Skill to play an audio beacon that will help you navigate to your phone’s location. Just say, “Alexa, ask LostThings to find my iPhone.” LostThings currently only works with iPhone, but you can enable the Skill Find My Phone instead if you’re not an Apple fanboy.
2. Ask My Buddy
Remember those corny infomercials for Life Alert featuring an elderly woman on the ground crying “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”? Well, the Amazon Echo version of that is Ask My Buddy, a free service that can alert all your friends if you hurt yourself in your own home and can’t reach a phone. This is one Skill you’ll be glad you set up in advance.
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3. AT&T Send Message
Sending a text message hands-free is a feature we’ve all been waiting for ever since the Echo shipped, since we’re often not in the same room as our phones or are cooking, cleaning, or otherwise busy when we want to convey a message to someone.
Finally, AT&T has stepped up to offer their customers a working option. While this particular Skill is a bit buggy, resulting a 2.5 star rating on Amazon, we do expect the functionality to improve over time and for other carriers to come on board.
4. Voice Remote & Simon Says
Simon Says is a built-in feature for Amazon Echo where you can get Alexa to repeat anything you say. You’ll get the most utility out of this Skill in combination with an official Echo voice remote, so that you can prank gullible friends from the other room.
5. Philips Hue
Amazon Echo should just ship with Philips Hue lights, which are a no-brainer integration with Alexa’s voice control capabilities. Whether you need to get the party started or just want mood lighting while you Netflix and chill, controlling lights from the comfort and safety of your couch is a definite win.
You can seamlessly order anything off of Amazon via voice ordering on your Echo, but sometimes you don’t know which product to buy. Kit is a surprisingly robust Skill that can tell you the best product in any category, whether you ask for recommendations for electronics, apparel, toys, or anything your heart desires.
We were impressed with Kit’s accurate voice and natural language processing. We tried asking for very specific items like “colorful ukuleles,” “stocking stuffers,” and “faded jeans,” and even if Kit didn’t have a recommendation for such narrow niches, the Skill was able to correctly relay back the product category we requested.
Echo voice control will eventually come to most of your connected smart home devices, but right now the only robot vacuum that can be activated hands-free via Alexa is the Neato Botvac Connected (with Wi-Fi Enabled). With a $500+ price tag, the vacuum might not be worth getting just for the voice-activation features, but it does highlight a trend of IoT devices integrating tightly with Amazon Echo.
Did your expensive robot vacuum get stuck somewhere or run away from you? Time to call in some human help for your chores. Handy, a popular cleaning service, allows you to easily book via voice. Say “Alexa, ask Handy to book a cleaning” and you’ll be presented with all the available upcoming openings.
9. Ukulele Tuner
Now that you’ve outsourced all of your chores, it’s time to indulge in some hobbies. If you play ukulele, guitar, or other acoustic instruments, there are hands-free ways to get Alexa’s help to tune your instruments.
If you own a car, Automatic’s Pro Car Adapter gives you unlimited monitoring and alert capabilities that may one day save your life. The adapter tracks your driving and immediately notifies authorities, and friends and family, if it detects any accidents.
With Automatic’s Echo integration, you can also ask questions like “Alexa, ask Automatic how much gas I have” or “Alexa, ask Automatic where I parked my car” if you’re the forgetful type.
11. Lyft and Uber
On the other hand, if you don’t have a car and depend on Lyft and Uber, you can call a car to your house with a single command on your Echo versus picking up your phone and tapping multiple times within the app. Note that if you need to cancel or change your ride, you’ll still have to go into the app to make adjustments.
12. Skill Finder
Finally, we present the One Skill To Rule Them All, Amazon’s very own Skill Finder. As you can guess, this Skill helps you find other Skills. You can get a list of the most popular Skills or simply search by category.
When we tried Skill Finder, we were recommended “Fart Sound Jokes” as a popular Skill, so your mileage may vary. Luckily new Skills are constantly being added for the Amazon Echo, and Skill Finder is still the best hands-free way to discover them.
Watch the TOPBOTS Alexa Skills video below to see the best ones in action. Beware that you should turn the microphone input on your Echo off before hitting play, as we’ve had a few readers hilariously and unwittingly trigger their Echos to order a robot vacuum while watching.
Mariya Yao is the Head of R&D at TOPBOTS, a strategy & research firm for artificial intelligence and bots.
This story originally appeared on Www.topbots.com. Copyright 2016
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