Abigail Yarrison ’24, Managing Editor

Source: Cnet.com

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s Alexa. Amazon’s Echo Dots have been exploding in popularity since their launch in 2014. Nearly one-quarter of all US adults own a smart speaker, and of those individuals, 70% own an Amazon Alexa. Alexa is well known for her shopping list feature, as well as the ability to play your Apple or Spotify music. But did you know there are over 100,000 skills available for use with Alexa?

Alexa is not only good for lists and alarms, but she can also be your fitness coach. Just say “Alexa, open five-minute workout” or “Alexa, open easy yoga” to get access to quick exercises. You can also pair Alexa to your Fitbit to check in on how many steps you took today, if you hit your sleep goal, or what your heart rate is. Just say “Alexa, ask Fitbit…” to know everything you need to know. If you’re more interested in mental fitness, Alexa is equipped with multiple meditations for relaxing while cooking dinner or settling down before bed.

One of my favorite aspects of Alexa is the games she has. My dad and I do the weekly Jeopardy questions and the Song Quiz while cleaning up dinner. My little brother asks her for jokes and short stories which she somehow has an endless supply of (our favorite story is Canned Destiny). Alexa also offers an escape room game and other interactive stories like the Wayne Investigation, Animal Rescue, and Magic Door. Just say “Alexa, play…” or “Alexa, open…” to start a game.

There are many other Alexa features that require the use of Smart Plugs. After pairing the plugs to Alexa, put them in any outlet, and label them according to what’s plugged in. For example, saying “Alexa, turn on Keurig,” would turn on the Smart plug outlet the Keurig is plugged into. You can turn on lights, electronics, fans, etc. with just your voice and a Smart Plug. Using the iRobot skill, you can even hook Alexa up to your Roomba or Braava jet. You can start and stop a vacuum cycle, send the Roomba back to home base, and even tell the Roomba to clean specific rooms it knows. The uses of Smart plugs are endless. Smart Thermostats can also be connected to Alexa, so you can control your house temperature right from the Alexa app.

When it’s all said and done, what really makes Alexa special is her security features. The Alexa Guard feature offers protection while you’re away from home by sending you alerts if she detects intruder sounds like footsteps, a door closing, or glass breaking. Alexa can also notify you if your smoke alarm goes off. She can connect with any smart lights or cameras you have outside your house to alert you about intruders, or turn on the lights to make it look like your home. Most importantly, Alexa Guard gives you 24/7 access to an Emergency Helpline you can call by saying, “Alexa, call for help.” Alexa Guard does cost $4.99 a month, but for all these features it just might be worth it.

Scroll through your Alexa app to discover many more skills to enable and try out. There are so many not mentioned here like the multilingual skill, find my phone, and even the ability to call another Alexa owner! As the world becomes more and more technologically dependent, my bet is that smart speakers like Alexa will continue to grow in reliability and skill sets until they can start the oven, the car, and pay the taxes. Until then, “Alexa, add Amazon Echo Dot to my shopping list.”