Amazon Alexa Skills

An Introduction Into Amazon Alexa Skills

Did you know there is a way to enhance the intelligence level of your Alexa-enabled devices? It’s true. You can amp up performance by giving your device what is known as an “Alexa Skill.” On the surface level, it might seem a little complicated, but if you break it down into its parts, this little trick can be a game-changer for how you interact and utilize your Alexa smart devices. 

We wanted to provide you with a basic introduction to the world of Alexa and her many abilities. If you haven’t already checked all the useful commands Alexa offers, take a look at some of our favorite and most popular commands you need to know if you have an Alexa-enabled device. From setting timers, reading news headlines, or weather forecast requests (all while being able to help with general knowledge questions), Alexa truly has your back! 

Enhance Alexa with Skills

But this isn’t even scratching at how much potential there seems to exist in such a small package. Developers are constantly coming up with new ways to make life easier. Alexa skills are just one example and they can do so using voice technology. Through Skills, Alexa can actually get smarter and smarter by adding more skills. Alexa skills allow people an easy way of controlling many aspects of their home through just one command. They’re in addition to what comes pre-built in the Alexa-ecosystem (Alexa, find my phone, Alexa what time is it, Alexa, set a timer for 3 minutes, etc.). Alexa Skills are kinda like smartphone apps that exist on your device. Through the creation by developers (a lot of third-party companies), some of these can work by themselves, yet some require Alexa to engage with something else (like a TV, vacuum, or Bluetooth speaker). Skills technically could be anything: a game you can play together as a family, relaxation sounds, reading a book to you, access to your favorite podcast on Spotify. The amount of Amazon skill types there are is huge. 

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Using these Alexa Skills is also pretty easy to use. One thing that Amazon cares about is user experience and they’ve launched Alexa Blueprints to really shrink the learning curve between what users want and what these amazing smart devices can do (more on that below). Best of all, you can create a completely personalized system of skills that is unique to you (with little tech knowledge). 

How To Find An Alexa Skill

One of the quickest ways to find a skill is to just perform a Google query like “Alexa skill for meditation” and I get a list of results, but the top one pointed me to this Mindful Meditation skill. From here, you’ll get a detailed description of the skill as well as some vital details, and reviews. I will usually spend a few minutes glancing over this information because not all Skills are created equal. If you’re logged into your Amazon account, you just click on the yellow “Enable” button and you’re ready to roll. It’s literally that easy. Seriously, you can find a skill and enable it in less than a minute if you really wanted to. In a weird way, it’s like the Matrix where Neo hooks his cortex up to the machine and instantly knows years of Kungfu in a matter of moments (Note: I don’t know if I want Alexa knowing Kungfu quite yet).

I also visit the Alexa Skills and Features page from time to time to find new tips and tricks or new skills that are trending. Right now, the one we just got was the Samuel L. Jackson Celebrity Personality for Alexa Skill (this one did cost $5). Another extremely quick way to add a skill is if you know the name of the skill. Just say, “Alexa, enable Mindful Meditation” and it’s there. You can also ask Alexa to perform a search on a skill you want to find or use. If you want to take your Skills to the next level, Amazon has Alexa Blueprints which allows users to build an Alexa skill that is customized to your “blueprint” life. If you’re up to the challenge, we suggest you check them out and see what they are capable of. You can create a guide for guests that first come to your home. Or…set of instructions for someone house-sitting or pet-sitting for the weekend.   

Our Favorite Amazon Alexa Skills

There are hundreds and hundreds of skills to enable with Alexa. We are just in the beginning stages of possibility with this kind of technology. Here are a handful of our favorite Amazon Alexa Skills that you must get immediately!

Alexa Guard

Yeah, this one turns your smart speakers into security devices. If it hears an intruder enter the home (through breaking glass or another sound), the Alexa app will send you a notification if it hears anything suspicious. 

Alexa Clean

We’ve teased this out before about telling our smart devices to clean a specific place in the home and it can be performed with an Alexa Skill. There are a handful of smart vacuums on the market that are Alexa-enabled. The Roomba versions are the most popular. But…with this skill you can (and the device), you can command, “Alexa, clean my living room” and you have voice-activated cleaning. 

Ask My Buddy

We love this because it’s free and has so many real-world applications. Ask My Buddy makes it easy to contact someone in case of an emergency. It will send a notification (SMS, phone call, or text) to a pre-determined contact when you’re in a jam and can’t reach your phone. 

Our Groceries

This Alexa Skill allows you to keep track of the status of your pantry. You can add items to your shopping list, track recipes, scan barcodes, and a list of other cool features. You will need to download the OurGroceries app to really leverage what this skill is fully capable of.

The Five Minute Workout

Five minutes doesn’t seem like that much, but this skill is great, especially for those who work in a field that requires them to sit a lot (stay-at-home-work types). With this, Alexa will provide you with a quick core and cardio workout and you’ll be shocked what this will do for your body AND productivity. I have these scheduled a few times a day because when work gets crazy I need to be nudged to remind me to get up and move!

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