Alexa is a virtual assistant from Amazon that is now a key technology which powers smart homes and offices. Its capabilities include audio playback, task management, alarm setting, voice interaction and real-time information updates. Released in November 2014, this artificial intelligence has expanded its functionalities for platforms such as Amazon Echo, Fire TV, Apple iOS, Cortana, Android and Linux.
Amazon is encouraging the manufacturers of other smart devices to integrate with Alexa. When enabled, this AI can help monitor and maintain various smart devices through voice commands. In the future, we can expect to see Alexa in various applications such as cars, computers, smart glasses and many more.
The versatility of Amazon Alexa is unique and practical. Many use it now as a reliable tool for work applications or a welcome distraction for rest and relaxation. We list down the ways your Amazon Alexa can help improve your quality of life for work, rest and play.
How Can Amazon Echo & Alexa Help You Work and Be More Productive
Alexa became a part of numerous households when it was integrated with the Amazon Echo, smart speakers that can listen and respond to voice prompts. At the centre of it all is artificial intelligence, capable of interacting with audio commands and responding to tasks. In the workplace, it has taken the form of a very intelligent personal assistant. Think of Marvel's Iron Man when he dishes out voice commands to his ai Jarvis and Friday.
Because it acts as an additional hand that can help, Alexa can be very useful in a work situation. Here are the various office-related tasks that the Amazon Alexa can further improve.
The tasks people need to do at work never seem to dry up. Just as you are about to start a task, another one pops up. It is a common occurrence when all these to-do things pile up, and you tend to forget one task over another. Enter Alexa to help untangle this office mess.
With your voice commands, Alexa can organize your calendar, and it can remind you of tasks you need to do beforehand. It can also provide you with a general outlook of objectives you need to accomplish in a day, allowing you to prioritize activities and to manage your time well. Remove the anxiety of missed deadlines and forgotten appointments with Alexa.
a) How to set up your Calendar
Setting up your calendar is easy. Visit alexa.amazon.com or simply open the Alexa smartphone app either for Apple iOS or for Google Android.
Go to Settings, then Calendar.
Select your calendar from a host of choices including G Suite, Outlook, iCloud, Office 365 or Google Calendar.
Log in your account
Now you can proceed to give voice instructions to your virtual assistant. Simply say: “Alexa, add events to my calendar.” You can also ask Alexa about upcoming appointments, deadlines and tasks.
With better time and calendar management, Alexa can be a steady digital partner as you sort and accomplish your to-do list. Alexa has a built-in task manager, and you can also do two-way syncs with AnyList, Any.do, Cozi Lists, Todoist, and Picniic.
If you have a trusted third party task manager, you can integrate it with Alexa by going to alexa.com or managing the Alexa smartphone app.
Go to Settings, then List.
Then click 'Get Skill' and place it to the right of the task manager.
Toggle Enable and authorize the connection by logging in.
Once this is done you can use voice prompts to help Alexa manipulate and manage your to-do lists. Alexa typically manages two lists: a rundown of tasks and a shopping list. You can also craft additional lists over the official website. With your voice, you can add items to this list or you can re-order them. If you are not adept at lists, you can just skip it and command Alexa to put the items straight to your Amazon cart.
Accessing the database of Amazon via cloud technology, Alexa can provide suggestions about the top Amazon search results for the items you are seeking to add. If you wish to purchase, checkout as you would typically do in Amazon. For future recurring orders, you can simply tell Alexa to just re-order the item.
Taking Breaks with a Pomodoro Timer
It is easy to get lost in the daily grind of work and to forget to take a break. This is the purpose of a Pomodoro Timer and Alexa can help facilitate this functionality.
A Pomodoro Timer will help alternate periods of intense work with breaks to help you become more efficient with your outputs. You can do this by instructing Alexa to prepare a work timer for one to two hours, for example. Then command: “Alexa, set a timer for a work break for 20 minutes.”
You can also set this voice command in one go: "Alexa, establish a work timer for two hours and a break for 20 minutes.” You can rely on Alexa to manage your time well with its voice prompts so you can go all-out in your work then take a break for a quick walk or a cup of coffee.
Editing of Documents and Email Sorting
Shuffling through various apps just to edit a document may be cumbersome. Alexa can learn the Edit Docs Skill so that it can jot down notes, erasures and edits for you. You can just enunciate the sentences or phrases you have in mind and let Alexa take care of it.
Likewise, Alexa can ease the burden of email clutter by learning the Astrobot Skill. Astrobot can intelligently manage an inbox with the help of voice commands from Alexa. It can create a Priority Inbox for very important emails, delete and archive emails that are no longer needed and process quick automated replies depending on the context of the email.
Conferences, Calls and Collaborations
Conferences can be complicated tasks when you have other deliverables to attend to. Alexa can help sort through your calendar to identify the conference that you need to participate in. With presets, Alexa can find the necessary contact information, dial it together with the participation code to connect to the conversation.
Alexa can also process hands-free phone calls to help you communicate better even if you are occupied or even driving. This Skill can remember the phone number of the contact and can dial anytime when you command it by mentioning the first name.
For group collaborations, Alexa can learn a Skill that can integrate Slack, a powerful messaging application for real-time group communications. This will allow various inputs from team members to be exchanged efficiently even without lifting a finger. Just send a voice command to Alexa and it will handle the rest.
Alexa is efficiently branching further into offices and there are two modes that these compatibles devices can do when in a Business model. It can either be a shared or personal device. Shared devices can be used anywhere in the office by anyone, in order to accomplish certain tasks that will improve the overall performance of the team. The IT department can help facilitate these shared Alexa-enabled devices in conference rooms, lobbies, pantries and printing rooms.
Personal devices, on the other hand, improve the productivity of individuals within the company. They can be used for task management, time scheduling and faster information processing. Using Alexa integration in your office workflow can add a level of convenience that may improve the output of the team.
Take note of privacy precautions when employing Alexa in your office. Amazon has this sorted out with the safety reminders. If you are not mindful, you may open up your calendar, shopping lists and private items to your colleagues who are within earshot of your voice commands. For an additional layer of protection, disable voice shopping in your settings. You can also enable a PIN and a voice profile so only your voice can be distinguished by Alexa.
Just to make sure no one orders items on behalf of your Amazon account, remember these safety precautions.
How Can Amazon Echo & Alexa Help you Rest and Sleep
Once you have finished work, you can take Alexa home to also help you relax as you sleep. You can command Alexa to access the sleeping sounds from Amazon Prime Music. Simply command: “Alexa, play sleepings sounds via Amazon Prime Music.” Alexa will smartly pull out the audio catalogue and play soothing music to help you sleep.
You can also customize your playlist or add custom sleeping sounds as you see fit. But if you have no time for that, Alexa has got you covered and can set the appropriate music that you need. Amazon has Sleep Sounds which is a catalogue of various relaxing sleep noise that can help lull you to sleep. These include ocean waves, rain splattering on rooftops, aeroplanes humming, a washing machine chugging along or even the cacophony of forest nights.
"Just tell Alexa to open Sleep
Sounds. Or ask for a playlist".
Once you have fallen asleep, Alexa may continue playing music and this same ambient noise that put you to sleep may accidentally wake you up. Or it may annoy people around you, most especially your loved ones. You can also do presets to make sure Alexa will sleep after a while of inactivity with the help of a sleep timer.
Tell Alexa to set a sleep timer for an hour and Alexa will automatically stay quiet to comply with the task.
Sleep and Relaxation Sounds Alexa Skill
Some people relax more not by listening to music but by listening to a human voice or to people talking. Podcasts are just the thing for you and Alexa has got you covered.
Alexa can expand its skills to add TuneIn and AnyPod integration. These services help give you the latest list of productive podcasts you can listen to. TuneIn can work well with Alexa Routines and it can help manage a “Good Night” routine wherein Alexa can dim the lights while playing the podcast.
If podcasts are too much to prime you to sleep, you can also turn to the Bedtime Story skill. Alexa can read a bedtime story. You can even personalize it so that Alexa will mention your name. Just instruct Alexa to open a Bedtime Story.
On the Internet, there are also various audibles of notable personalities reading entire classic books to help get you to sleep.
Some people can't clear their mind while listening to music and people talking. Meditation may be the right fit and Alexa is capable as a reliable virtual assistant for this need. Let Alexa learn the Guided Meditation skill and it can launch a meditation session between three to eight minutes to help clear your mind. There are also available sessions focused on stress relief, anxiety and depression.
Employ these voice commands:
“Alexa, open Guided Meditation” or
“Alexa, ask Guided Meditation to play meditation.
To help set the mood, you can also use the Night Light feature to dim the room. This capability can help convert your Amazon Echo into a relaxing, warm light. Just tell Alexa to “Open Night Light.” You can then tell Alexa how long you want the light to dim for as you wind down to sleep.
Guided Meditation Alexa skill
How Can Amazon Echo & Alexa Help you Play and Have Fun
Once you have woken up to a good night's sleep, you can also turn to Alexa to provide you with some more rest and relaxation with the help of fun games. Open the Alexa smartphone app, tap on the hamburger icon, and select Skills.
You can then tap the section of Games, Trivia and Accessories where you can find a trove of interactive games that can destress you. Since its launch, more than 80,000 Skills have been prepared for Alexa and many of these involve games. We take a look at some of the popular games that you can enjoy with Alexa.
Price It Right
A game spinning off from popular TV show, Price It Right challenges players to accurately guess the prices of items that are sold at Amazon. The host of the game will provide seven items and details about the product. Challengers with the closest estimate will win the game. Simply say:
“Alexa, play Price It Right.”
Price It Right Alexa Skill
Bingo is a classic game wherein numbers are randomly announced until a certain player gets the winning combination in their card. Alexa can't magically provide bingo cards but it can randomly announce a number when you cue the command “Next.” For a fun time with the family, the website of the game's developer provides a PDF copy of actual bingo cards that you can print.
Bingo Alexa Skill
Another game from a popular TV show, Jeopardy provides six clues from six different categories. Phrase your answers in the form of a question. After answering the first round, members of Amazon Prime can move on to the Double Jeopardy round. Non-members will have to shell out $1.99 per month. The questions range from world history to popular culture and Alexa will take note of your performance, as well as your friends, over time.
Jeopardy Alexa Skill
This is a marathon game that will only end when you have spelt incorrectly. After you instruct Alexa to
“play Spelling Bee,”
your virtual assistant will cue a word and will challenge you to spell it. You will then have to clearly say each letter, hoping you get it right. Don't worry, Alexa will double check if that's your final answer. The difficulty of the words gets harder as you progress with each round.
Spelling Bee Alexa Skill
Game of Lists
Game of Lists is another fun group game that you can initiate with the command:
“Alexa, start Game of Lists.”
Alexa will provide the participants with varying challenges that you must enumerate for thirty seconds. For example, Alexa will ask that you list as many movies that beign with the letter S. When the time is up, the participant with the most correct entries will win the round – that is if the other challengers will agree with the answers.
Game of Lists Alexa Skill
Skyrim Very Special Edition
Alexa will take an arrow in the knee for you if it could. But it can only serve you a game of the popular Skyrim franchise that popularized the phrase “arrow in the knee.” Based on the popular 'The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda Studios', this adventure game is voice-based where challengers can embark on quests and paths to find fantasy beings.
Skyrim Very Special Edition
The Magic Door
The Magic Door is another interactive game that has an original storyline. With the help of voice commands through Alexa, you can explore this magical land that spans across forests, gardens, castles and oceans. You are here to find hidden items, interact with magical creatures and answer riddles.
World Mathematics League
For the math experts, this game from Shanthan Kesharaju will excite your senses by bringing you head to head with global mathematicians. Alexa will assist you as you compete with the best mathematical brains in the world.
The Magic Door Alexa Skill
Kids Court from Pretzel Labs is a good group game that Alexa can facilitate. Alexa will provide mock cases from everyday situations that will teach children about the judiciary. Friends or family members can play roles such as a witness, defendant or prosecutor. Judge Lexy will preside over the case and will provide the rulings of the case. Find out if you can win a conviction or acquit a client. Listen well to Alexa's instructions.
Kids Court Alexa Skill
Would You Rather
Would You Rather is another group game that Alexa will be glad to facilitate. As the de facto host, Alexa will recite questions that are both entertaining and strange. The software can detect if your answer is incomplete, making it a perfect icebreaker for parties or events.
Would You Rather Alexa Skill
Beat the Intro
For the musically inclined, you can instruct Alexa to “play Beat the Intro.” Alexa will serve a playlist of tracks that you have to identify. The faster you answer, the higher you go up the leaderboards. You will earn coins for correct answers which you can use to purchase new music packs. There are three levels in each pack. Play with your friends and post your scores in Facebook.
Beat The Intro Alexa Skill
Escape the Room
Expanding the capabilities of Amazon's Alexa for creative recreation, try this game by saying “Alexa, open the Escape Room.” This game will challenge your powers of inference, observation and detection. You will be incarcerated in a room and you need to get out! You can do so by searching the room for clues, finding items and unlocking riddles.
Alexa will guide you through every step. Use vocal instructions such as “Use,” “Inspect” and “Look.” Explore puzzles such as The Office, The Car and The Jail Cell.
Escape The Room Alexa Skill
Here's another adventure game for zombie fans. Infected makes use of Alexa's voice interaction to create a compelling game where you can choose your own adventure. Narrated by the celebrated actor R.C. Bray and based from the book by James Schannep, this game allows you to wander off with your bat as you explore places such as basements, attics and various zombie-infested public places.
Access the game by saying
“Alexa, open Infected.”
Infected Alexa Skill
Further reading around the web: