Hey Alexa, cook me dinner
Amazon Echo is one of a range of hands-free speakers and devices that can be controlled with your voice. The voice-controlled Amazon “personal assistant” on these devices is called Alexa, who will perform various tasks for you and control various systems.
In this feature we’ll explain what Echo is fully and answer other questions such as “What can Alexa do?”.
As well as being available on Echo devices, Alexa is now becoming available on a lot of third-party devices plus the Alexa app on Android phones (the app is also available for iOS so you can configure Alexa-enabled devices, but without the voice-controlled assistant).
There are microphones within Echo devices, which feature enhanced noise cancellation and far-field voice recognition, meaning you can ask Alexa a question from any direction, even when playing music, and she should still hear you.
Amazon Echo’s personal assistant will respond to the wake word “Alexa”.
The Amazon Echo range includes the standard Echo (it’s the second-generation device), Echo Plus, Echo Show, Echo Dot and Echo Spot. There’s also an Echo Tap in the US.
If you have more than one Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo or another Alexa-enabled device in your home like the Sonos One, Alexa will respond from the device closest to you.
She is always listening for your command, but it is possible to turn the microphone off on Echo devices and devices like the Sonos One speaker if you want some privacy.
What can Alexa do?
Alexa will play music, provide information, deliver news and sports scores, tell you the weather, control your smarthome and even allow Prime members to order products they’ve ordered before.
She updates through the cloud automatically and learns all the time. The more you use Echo devices, the more Alexa adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences.
What can you ask Alexa?
There are plenty of things you can ask Alexa to do. A feature called Skills in the Alexa app enable you to customise your Echo device with capabilities to suit your preferences.
There are several skill categories within the Skills section of the app, including Connected Car, Food & Drink, Travel & Transportation, Music & Audio, Smart Home, and plenty more. To get started, you just have to tap Enable Skill when you’ve found one that is suited to you.
Some will require you to link to an existing account or separate subscription to use. For example, to use Uber with Alexa, you’ll need to have signed into your Uber account within the Skills section of the the Alexa app. Here are just a few examples of what you can ask Alexa to do.
“Alexa, wake me up at 7 in the morning”
“Alexa, ask Skyscanner for a flight to New York”
“Alexa, ask The Telegraph for the top stories”
“Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?”
“Alexa, what’s the weather in London?”
“Alexa, play Taylor Swift from Amazon Music”
“Alexa, how’s my commute?”
“Alexa, shuffle my Favourites playlist”
“Alexa, turn it up”
“Alexa, will it rain tomorrow?”
“Alexa, read my audiobook”
“Alexa, what’s in the news?”
“Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride”
“Alexa, open Just Eat and ask for my last order”
“Alexa, turn on the coffee machine”
“Alexa, turn on all the lights”
“Alexa, set the master bedroom to 20 degrees”
“Alexa, ask Jamie Oliver for a recipe”
What apps and services work with Alexa?
Numerous companies offer partnerships with Amazon Echo devices, as you will have seen from some of the questions above.
There are thousands of skills available but here are some of the services that work with Alexa and what they mean you can do.
The Just Eat partnership means you can get Alexa to order you a take away from one of the thousands of restaurants it has available.
The Met Office skill is available for various locations around the United Kingdom so make sure you download the one specific for you. You can then ask Alexa for detailed weather forecasts.
Need an Uber from home? No problem. Just ask Alexa to request you one and you’ll have a driver on its way to you.
Want to know what your commute has in store for you before you leave the house? Ask Alexa to check and she will pull in the information from National Rail regarding train times and schedules.
For those that read The Guardian, Alexa will give you a rundown of the paper’s top stories so you can find out which ones you’ll want to read before your commute.
Like The Guardian, the partnership with The Telegraph means users can ask Alexa for this paper’s top stories too.
A great one for those that live in or around London, Alexa will give you a daily briefing delivering a round up of the most exciting news, reviews, openings, events and things that shouldn’t be missed taking place near you.
Want to know how your favourite football team is doing? Or how your rival team is doing? Just ask Alexa and she’ll deliver the bad news in her lovely accent.
Need a recipe from the Jamie Oliver app but have your hands full? Just ask Alexa and she’ll find it for you so you can carry on with whatever you’re doing.
Want to know how you slept or how many steps you’ve done? Fitbit’s partnership with Echo means you can just ask Alexa and she’ll let you know. No need to open the Fitbit app.
Take me to New York. The partnership with Skyscanner allows users to ask Alexa for flight dates and prices using a natural conversation search method.
Check the latest arrival and departure information for EasyJet flights quickly by asking Alexa, or ask for the status of a flight your travelling on.
For those that love a random radio station, the TuneIn partnership with Echo allows you to ask Alexa to find your favourite station and listen to it all day.
Like TuneIn, RadioPlayer offers numerous radio stations meaning you can ask Alexa to recommend you one or just play one you know you like.
The Spotify partnerships allows users to request songs, artists or playlists through Alexa, which she will then play through Echo’s 360-degree omni-directional audio.
Have a suit or dress that have needed dry cleaning for months? Ask Alexa to take care of it and the partnership with Laundrapp means they will be collected, cleaned and redelivered.
BMW Connected is available as a Skill, allowing users to ask Alexa for an update on their fuel and battery levels, as well as ask her to lock their car remotely.
The partnership with smart heating system Tado means users of the system can ask Alexa to set, increase or decrease their home temperature without moving a muscle.
Like Tado, the collaboration with Netatmo means users with this heating system can also ask Alexa to turn the temperature of their house up or down.
British Gas-owned Hive is another smarthome partner of Echo, allowing users to ask Alexa to turn the heating up or down, turn lights on or off, as well as turn anything with a Hive Active plug on or off.
Neato’s collaboration with Echo means you can ask Alexa to tell your Botvac Connected robot vacuum cleaner to start, stop, pause or resume cleaning. More commands will also be coming in the future, such as scheduling.
Need to turn off the bedroom light, or all the lights? The Philips Hue partnership allows you to control your Hue lights by asking Alexa rather than having to go into the app.
For those that have the Logi Circle cameras, you can ask Alexa to start a start a recording, disable Privacy Mode or turn your camera on.
The EDF Energy partnership allows users to ask Alexa to access their energy account, check their next payment data give a meter reading, without lifting a finger.
The partnership with TP-Link means users with any of the company’s smart plugs or bulbs can ask Alexa to control them with their voice.
Like TP-Link, the WeMo collaboration means users can ask Alexa to turn their WeMo connected devices off or on without needing to open the app.
Have a Honeywell connected system? Just ask Alexa to turn your heating up or down in and she’ll make sure it gets done.
SmartThings is also a partner of Echo, offering users the ability to command their smart home through Alexa, whether it’s turning the lights off or the temperature up.
The Nest compatibility with Echo means users can control their thermostat through Alexa, like other smart heating systems on this list. You can set a specific target temperature, lower the target temperature, as well as say things like “I’m too hot”.
It’s not available yet, but Sonos has announced it will add Alexa voice support in 2017, meaning you’ll be able to ask the personal assistant to play music in your living room without even opening the Sonos app.
The Grand Tour
Amazon’s Grand Tour companion app compatibility means users will receive a clue from Alexa every Thursday about that week’s upcoming episode.