Remember when apps were first created, and there was an app to do just about anything - even make fart sounds?
Well, something tells me that’s where we’re up to with Amazon Alexa skills. Experimenting with voice services is - for the majority - simply a novelty. It’s entertaining.
But that doesn’t mean we can ignore it.
If mobile apps are anything to judge by, voice skills will mature at a very quick pace - just as apps went from fart sounds to simplifying basically everything we do on the web in just a couple of years.
Amazon Alexa was launched in 2014, and in 2015 they upped the pace - publishing the Alexa Skills Kit or ASK. This set of software meant that companies and individuals could start creating their own skills and releasing them to the public.
And boy, did they!
There are now over 15,000 skills - some weird, some wonderful, and some very useful indeed. Let’s dive in!
The 5 most useful Amazon Alexa skills
These skills are great to help you do the little things that would normally have you reaching for your phone or turning on your computer:
1. Music / SiriusXM
Music skills are by far the most useful thing to have in your home speaker. The Echo comes with an easy way to link itself to your Spotify account or your Amazon Music account. Though if you are a SiriusXM user, there is no pre-baked way to have it play on the Echo. Thankfully, the SiriusXM team has created a skill that makes it easy to connect to your account and play your favorite stations all over the house. Check it out!
2. This Day in History
A&E’s History channel developed this fun Skill, which lets you know what historical events happened today or a specific day of your choosing. If you are interested in the event, Alexa can tell you more about it. No easier way to learn a bit more about history!
3. 7-Minute Workout
Based on an article published in the American College of Sports Medicine, the 7-Minute Workout has gained tremendous popularity. It is an easy, quick workout that requires only your body weight, a wall and a chair. This easy workout can easily be done at home and the Alexa skill can guide you through the entire routine. It even lets you pause and resume the workout whenever you need to.
4. Valossa Movie Finder
With all the streaming services available to us these days, finding something interesting to watch can be quite the task. The Valossa Movie Finder makes it easy to find movies of a particular genre or of a particular decade. You can even ask it for help in remembering what the title of a movie is if you have some information about the plot, simply ask “Alexa, ask movie finder what is the movie where a boy learns he is a wizard” and it will use whatismymovie.com to find it for you.
5. Lyft or Uber - you choose
The Amazon Echo now has support by default for ordering Uber rides. You can ask Alexa to order you an Uber or see how far away your ride is. Though not everyone uses Uber and one of their competitors, Lyft has created a skill to do much of the same. It allows you to order a ride, see how long a ride to a pre-saved location will take or how much it will cost. You can even rate your driver once you’ve completed your ride back home using only your voice.
The 5 least useful Amazon Alexa skills
Alexa skills are amazing, though like with any app marketplace, you are bound to find joke apps or apps that don’t serve much of a purpose.
Below you will find a list of weird and wonderful apps. They might well be the perfect way to entertain guests!
1. Fake pets
There are multiple skills which allow Alexa to act as a fake pet. The Skills Meow! allows you to carry conversations with Alexa by simply using Meows. The Doggo Skill allows you to give Alexa commands as if it were a dog. Commands such as barking, howling, eating or drinking. The developers even remind you to make sure to call your Doggo a good boy after they listen.
If fart jokes are your thing, then boy do we have the thing for you! Simply by asking for a fart, your Alexa can now deliver a wide variety of perfectly timed farts for your enjoyment. No more need to blame farts on the dog, when you have 4AFart!
3. Harry Potter Skills
Ever wondered what your house would be like if it was Hogwarts? Well now you can, with these Alexa skills. The Potterhead Sorting Ceremony Skill will decide your house and the Potter Spells Skill will teach you random spells, their pronunciation and their effects. Add some decor and you will be immerse in the world that brought joy to millions.
4. Fidget Spinner
This little device, aimed at helping people who need to keep their hands busy, has exploded in popularity lately. With such an immense growth, it isn’t far fetched to imagine that many people want to capitalize on it. The Fidget Spinner Skill allows users to virtually spin a Fidget Spinner and Alexa will tell you how many times it spun. You can unlock new levels depending on how many times it spun. Whether you are a fan of Fidget Spinners or not, I think we can all agree that a virtual Fidget Spinner isn’t a clear winner.
Have you ever worried that Alexa was being too nice to you? Ever wanted her to tell it like it is? The Meanie app will make Alexa a bit meaner. Simply tell Alexa to “start being mean” and you are good to go. You can even direct her to be mean at someone in particular. Not the most useful, but it can certainly mix things up.
Amazon Alexa devices are coming a long way towards automating your home and becoming a JARVIS-like personal assistant. With so many skills available to enable, you can easily lose hours. And hopefully, in the long-run, we’ll be able claim them back as voice makes many interactions quicker and more efficient!
What do you think of voice? Do you have a skill to recommend? Let us know in the comments!
Finally, if you want to create your own skills - watch this space. CareerFoundry will be announcing a specialized course for voice user interface design in collaboration with Amazon Alexa this September.