Amazon’s Echo took the mainstream world by storm two years ago, and its momentum hasn’t slowed down yet. Since Amazon allows developers to create and offer skills, the market for the Echo’s capabilities is seemingly never-ending and can be difficult to navigate sometimes. There are always new skills popping up and though Amazon sends out “what’s new” emails it can still be easy to miss an exciting update. Here are six recent updates that I think are worth a mention:
Flash Briefing Options
The Flash Briefing is one of the Echo skills that I use daily. I still read newspapers and watch the news, but the flash briefing gives me a snapshot of the world while I am waking up and getting ready. The updates for this skill include new sources, like TechCrunch and Planet Money. You are also now able to arrange the order of sources, so you can choose to hear sports, stocks, or weather first depending on your personal preference.
Hands-Free TV Watching
Remember the days where you had to get up and turn a dial to change a channel on your television? Well, the future of TV watching is here and it doesn’t require you to get up, or even to use a remote. Now, if you have a Harmony hub, you can use simple voice commands to turn your TV on or off and to jump to channels. Couch surfing is getting weirder and weirder. But, hey, maybe people will stop slow scrolling through the guide channel now.
Cause a Scene
You can now use Control4, Insteon, Lutron Caséta Wireless, SmartThings, Wink devices or the Philips Hue Skill to create and control scenes in your home. Whether you want to set a romantic mood for dinner, fire up the entertainment center for family movie night, or create a serene mood to relax before bed, your Echo now supports you.
Amazon recently launched its paid “Music Unlimited” service – not to be confused with Prime Music. Music Unlimited is available to Prime and non-Prime members for a monthly fee – think Apple Music and Spotify – and includes commercial-free music that is on-demand. With a subscription, you can use your Echo to do more than control your music; you can ask for songs to play without knowing the title or artist by simply supplying some of the lyrics. This smart search is a really cool advancement that shows us just how far AI is coming.
GE Smart Appliances
GE launched a skill called Geneva that you can use with your Echo to control your WiFi enabled and connected appliances. You can preheat your oven, check the status of your laundry or dishes, and more.
The Echo is able to connect with Yahoo Fantasy Football leagues for easy tracking of your team, and it can also give you any old sports scores and updates. I know I used my Echo to stay current on the scores for all the recent World Series games!
What’s your favorite skill on the Amazon Echo?