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6 Alexa skills on my Amazon Echo that I actually use regularly



Echo Auto to the socket

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

When Alexa was launched first In 2014, skills were a way for third-party developers to make mostly free, voice-driven programs for average people to activate and try. Thanks to creative third-party developers, average users quickly got a vision for the possibility of voice assistance to add incredible convenience to daily life. But today, Alexa does what most of these early skills did without the cumbersome phone game that skills require. No more “Alexa, ask the meat thermometer how to cook salmon.”

; That’s right, Alexa can tell you exactly what internal temperature you need to cook salmon and for that matter, what wine to pair with it.

But skills created by third-party developers and activated in the Alexa app can still provide real smarts that you do not get from the basic voice assistant. While many skills do not offer much beyond novelty – even for my 4-year-old, speed and animal sounds lost their luster after a few short minutes – some skills are fun and useful in the long run.

Here are six Alexa skills that I have actually used more than once – and those that all Alexa fans should test:

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Audible

Audible

Amazon bought Audible more than 10 years ago now and the audiobook company is still one of its best acquisitions. If you love audiobooks, Audible is a great resource. Especially during lockdowns, when public libraries are closed or restricting access to their catalogs, Audible lets you listen to new, high-quality recordings of the books you wish you could read. Two of my latest favorites? NK Jemis’s Broken Earth Trilogy and Zadie Smith’s intimations.

7-minute training

Working from home comes with all kinds of challenges, but short workouts at dinner have become a mainstay for my wife and I. It helps to break up the day and prevent us from being too sedentary (or driven crazy by our two children). I like the 7-minute workout because it is so compact, it requires no planning and you can even customize it if you are in better or worse shape.

pizza delivery

What better way to push up after a workout than with pizza? If you live near a Domino’s or Pizza Hut, their respective Alexa skills will allow you to order your favorite pizza with a single command. As we eat more takeaways and need simpler meals during lockdown, these Alexa skills have proven to be simple but useful. Maybe too useful, because we also try to stay healthy.

Yes sir

This recommendation comes from another Alexa expert on CNET: Ry Crist. A fun, easy game, Yes Sire asks you a series of yes or no questions when trying to deal with a medieval fiefdom. If your wealth or influence rises above 100, the king will feel threatened and behead you. If they drop to zero, the king will banish you. I was skeptical of the structure, but the simple installation I think is a surprisingly fun and engaging strategy game that challenges you to survive as long as possible. I’ve played at least half a dozen times since I recommended it to myself, and I plan to play a lot more.

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Amazon

Starfinder

A more complex game than Yes Sire, Starfinder offers 13 hours of role play. Its 30-minute pilot episode is free, and each 90-minute episode is $ 2 after that – but the price actually feels like it makes sense. The story is well written and features well-known voice actors such as Laura Bailey (The Last of Us, Part II) and Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle). More than a simple linear story, Starfinder includes skill checks and dice-driven combat that you’ll find familiar with if you’ve played D&D or any other board-playing role-playing game. Since my two weeks of board game nights with friends have been put on pandemic hiatus, Starfinder has made a nice discovery in their place.

Smart home skills

OK, this is not exactly a specific skill, but among my colleagues and friends, smart home skills generally appear repeatedly as among the most popular. Get a little Philips Hue lamps or a Ecobee Smart thermostat, connect them to Alexa with brand skill, and suddenly you can talk your lights and air conditioning on and off. Ditto fans, air purifier, security cameras and More. One of the fastest ways to feel like you’ve upgraded your voice assistant is to give it – and yourself – control over your home devices in simple words.

Are there any essential skills I was missing? Let me know in the comments.


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