If you’ve been struggling to find some new tricks to try with your Echo smart speaker, Amazon has some good news. The Seattle-based firm is always tinkering away with its chatty AI assistant Alexa, adding new features and funny references over time. Amazon highlights these new additions in regular updates to customers, and the latest email has some real corkers.
As always, these voice commands will work with any Alexa-enabled gadgets. That includes the Amazon Echo smart speaker, as well as Echo Show, which adds a touchscreen for some extra information from Alexa, Amazon Fire TV streaming set-top boxes, the Echo Buds – wireless earbuds that include handsfree access to Alexa anywhere, some Fitbit smartwatches and a number of other popular gadgets and TVs. You’ll need to start every voice command with the wake word “Alexa”. This acts as a Power Button for the device, telling it to begin taking note of whatever you’re about to say, so that it can take action for you.
First up, if you’re looking for a slightly sunnier news story to lift your spirits, Alexa has you covered. Asking the AI assistant, “Alexa, give me some good news” should help put a spring in your step.
Likewise, Alexa has always had a pretty sizeable selection of gags under its belt. However, Amazon is now letting you be a little more specific about what you want the subject of the joke to be. For example, you can now ask “Alexa, tell me a light bulb joke” or “Alexa, tell me a shark joke”.
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If you want to pair your smartphone to your Amazon Echo to use it like a Bluetooth speaker, you can ask the smart assistant to: “Alexa, connect to Bluetooth”. You’ll need to dive into the Settings menu on your iPhone or Android handset, find your Echo listed in the Bluetooth devices available for pairing, and then tap to connect. And you’re off!
Just like using a UE Boom or Beats Pill, you’ll then be able to broadcast any audio from your smartphone – whether you’re listening to a live radio show, podcast, album, and more – from the speaker built into the Echo. Amazon has done a lot of work to boost the audio performance of its smart speakers over time. And if you have an Echo Studio, you could enjoy a serious boost in volume and quality.
Once you’ve paired with an Echo device, the next time you want to connect to your smartphone, you’ll only need to say the name of the device. So, you’ll be able to say “Alexa, connect to [device name]” or “Connect to my phone”.
And if you’ve got an Echo in the kitchen, you can ask Alexa to help out with your cooking. “Alexa, give me a pasta recipe” will load up audio-only instructions that your smart speaker can talk you through, one step at a time. And if you need to set a timer, Alexa can handle that. If you’re going to need more than one – if it’s a particularly complicated past recipe, for example – it can be helpful to give the timer a name when you initially ask for it. “Alexa, set a 40-minute garlic bread timer,” for example.
Finally, if you have an Alexa-enabled device with a touchscreen, like the Echo Show 8, you can ask Alexa to summon some of your favourite photos from social media. Asking the handsfree assistant to “show my Facebook photos” will load up some choice shots from your Facebook profile. And if there’s a snap that really takes your fancy, you can now personalise your wallpaper on Echo Show with photos of friends and family from Facebook. Of course, for this to work, you’ll need to have Alexa app on your smartphone, head to Menu > Settings > Photos and then log into your Facebook account.
Other helpful new tricks highlighted by Amazon include:
- “Alexa, what new features do you have?”
- “Alexa, what’s on my to-do list?”
- “Alexa, track my order”
- “Alexa, sing me a song”
- “Alexa, what day is it?”
- “Alexa, what time does the sun set in London?”
- “Alexa, play music for 1 hour”
- “Alexa, what’s free from Audible?”