January 3 2017

My Favorite Christmas Present: The Amazon Echo Dot

Sam and I don’t usually exchange gifts but when we find something we both would enjoy, we dive in head first. After my sister, Carol, showed us the wonders of her Amazon Echo Dot, we decided we’d gift it to each other. We couldn’t be happier!

We bought two initially, and then we set up two more. Now, we can play our favorite songs in four rooms of the house – the kitchen (while washing dishes), the master bedroom, the kids’ playroom and the extra bedroom, where we all sleep together. (Yes, we co-sleep. And I’m proud of it!)

Here are 10 handy thing we’ve learned so far:

1. You don’t have to pick a specific song (though you can). You can just say the name of the artist and it’ll shuffle songs from him or her. For instance, you can just say, “Alexa, play Kaskade” and it’ll play music from that DJ. (We signed up for Amazon Music Unlimited which gives us access to tens of millions of songs. You can start with a free 30 day trial. By default you get your music streamed by Amazon Prime, so it pays to be a member. It has over 2 million songs.)

2. You can just pick a genre. Sometimes I’m in the mood for some calming music. All I have to say is, “Alexa, play meditation music” or “Alexa, play classical music” and it’ll choose songs in that genre.

3. Alexa can give you a news briefing. Just say, “Alexa, what’s in the news?” or “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?”

4. One of the most used features in our house is, “Alexa, what is the weather going to be like today?” This helps us figure out how to dress the kids for school.

5. Sync it to your Nest and you then you can ask Alexa to turn your temperature up or down. We use, “Alexa, set the upstairs temperature to 72 degrees.” It’s the best when you’re coming out of the shower and you want to heat up your house.

6. We have Philips Hue Lights so we can ask Alexa to dim the lights or turn them on or off. We say, “Alexa, turn the kids’ light off” or “Alexa, turn the kids’ light to 10%”.

7. I’ve also used Alexa to give me facts like, “How big is the sun?” or “What’s the definition of pernicious?”

8. Alexa can set an alarm for you. You just have to say, “Alexa, set an alarm for 7am.” You can even set a recurring alarm.

9. Though this one is a little bit silly, Alexa can flip a coin for you. Say, “Alexa, flip a coin” and it will pick heads or tails.

10. If you’re looking for more than just a quick fact or definition, you can Wikipedia something. Say, “Alexa, Wikipedia: [subject].”

Here’s a good list that CNET has put together of all the things Alexa can do. Mostly, I like Alexa because she brings more music into our house. It creates a happier, more joyful place. (Just ask Parker, who has these three songs on repeat: “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake and “The Gummy Bear Song” by Gummibär.)


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