Amazon Echo family
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After several months with an Amazon Echo Dot in our living room, we have found the biggest issue is not what Alexa does not know, but what she does not understand.

A computer is only as good as the code it is programmed with, and voice assistants can only be useful if they are asked questions or given commands the correct way. They might seem intelligent when they give a useful answer but they are still following a script; asking the right questions and issuing the correct commands is key to getting the most out of them.

Here then, is a list of questions and commands for you to try out with Alexa. Most of these are new and some are more useful than others, but at least you know that using any will get a meaningful reply, not the "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that" stock response when you go too far off script.

First, three of Alexa's more complex skills:

"Alexa, play music downstairs"

A new multi-room function means multiple Echos and Echo Dots can be set up across the house, each playing different music. There is a bit of setting up required in the Alexa smartphone app, but once each Echo knows where it is - living room, kitchen, bedroom, or just 'downstairs' - you are good to go.

"Alexa, set a 10-minute timer for pizza"

Timers can now be given a name, making it easier to work out how long is left for each - useful for when you are cooking more than just a pizza.

"Alexa, turn off the lights"

Another one which requires some tinkering, but once you have your smart lights installed, and their system (be it from Philips, Ikea or someone else) talking to Alexa, simple voice commands are all you will need.

Now for some simpler questions and commands:

  • "Alexa, what's the pound to euro exchange rate?"
  • "Alexa, who won the last Formula One race?"
  • "Alexa, tell me a science joke."
  • "Alexa, what films are playing nearby?"
  • "Alexa, where's the hottest place on Earth?"
  • "Alexa, how long does it take to boil an egg?"
  • "Alexa, what's up?"
  • "Alexa, play the song that goes, [song lyric]."
  • "Alexa, play music for cooking."
  • "Alexa, open Meditation Timer."
  • "Alexa, set a repeating alarm for Tuesdays at 8:00am."
  • "Alexa, play rock paper scissors."