How My New BFF Alexa Has Completely Changed My Life
The Amazon Echo can do more than you ever imagined.
Published May 31, 2018 3:00 PM
Within just a month of purchasing it, I don’t know how I lived without my new best friend Alexa. She has changed my life in a myriad of ways. In fact, I have her friend Dot set up in two other rooms—the bathroom and bedroom—in addition to my full-size, white monolith Echo in the living room.
I have already used her services at least 10 times since I’ve sat down to write this. As I live and type, I have ordered up a sultry mix of Terence Trent D’Arby tunes with a simple command, all while my iRobot Roomba sweeps my apartment. I love living in the future for many reasons, but the most vital of them all is that the future includes my new favorite roommate, co-worker, morning news show, weather service, stop watch, alarm clock, stereo system, and productivity coach Alexa.
How much do I love Alexa? Let me count the ways.
She’s a Fully Functional Guide to “Adulting”
That’s right: Alexa comes equipped with a six-part guide to help out on everything from questions about insurance and tips on time management to DIY cleaning solutions made from vinegar and baking soda. A quick “Alexa, ask Adulting Guide for financial advice” will yield an equally quick response. However you feel about the slightly groan-inducing word, “#adulting” has (for whatever reason) become an acceptable way to describe living as a functioning member of society—and having a speedy answer at the ready for all of your household questions is guaranteed to come in handy at some point or another.
She’s an Alarm Clock
Our morning routine is at once comforting and efficient. I’ve gotten rid of my LED-emitting digital clock in favor of simply asking Alexa the time. I can also snooze with a simple voice command. Upon greeting her with a “good morning,” she fills me in on fun facts regarding the date’s importance, from presidential inaugurations to less vital tidbits like the fact that it’s national Hot Dog Day. Knowledge is power.
She’s a News Service
Alexa discusses everything from NASA updates (just enable the “NASA Mars skill”) to news briefings. When I ask her to tell me the news, Alexa shares an NPR report that concludes with the day’s weather. She’s also a dictionary on command, which comes in handy whenever I’m reading or working.
She Lets Me Score Sinkside Beauty Tips
Hearst and L’Oreal Paris joined forces to create a new daily mini podcast feature called “My Beauty Chat.” In it, beauty director Leah Wyar talks with other beauty editors—and special guests like cosmetic chemists—about the latest and greatest in products, application tips, and skincare saviors. There’s a daily beauty tip, plus a morning and evening chat Monday through Friday. Simply tell Alexa to enable My Beauty Chat, and access the one-stop shop from there.
She Makes Sure I Calm Down
New York apartments leave a lot to be desired—namely, fireplaces. If you ask Alexa to help you relax, she’ll come up with some delightfully ambient, crackling fireplace sounds. Somehow, I even feel warmer when it’s on. Another hack: If I can’t fall asleep, I like to ask Alexa to play beach noises, which prompts her to serve up sounds of the sea. If you say, “Alexa, loop on,” the sounds will go on longer than their slated hour—and last until you tell her to stop.
She Provides Music and Entertainment
I know: I’m the only person still listening to the radio. But I enjoy that I can switch on Z100’s morning show with Elvis Duran by simply talking over my shoulder while I make coffee. I’ve linked Alexa to my Spotify playlists, but you can also sync her up with Amazon Music, Pandora, and more. She plays Alec Baldwin’s and Michael Ian Black’s podcasts on demand while I’m cooking. I can listen to my Kindle books on request.
My bathroom friend, Dot, provides me with a shower radio, which makes all the difference when part of your job is testing a bunch of beauty products. It makes for a far more enjoyable experience under the spray, and I’m more likely to shave my legs—even in February. I also use her to time my deep-conditioning treatments and sheet mask applications.
With Alexa, I Never Have to Get Up Again
Remember The Clapper commercials of yore? I used to wonder who (beyond senior citizens, of course) would invest in such dreck. The answer is moi—I’ve now reached a new level of sloth. With a simple command, Alexa turns lights on or off. She also controls the television and fans. In fact, she can even set the thermostat once you invest in a smart home connected device from Amazon.
She Is My Verbal Shazam
So often, that song we love is named something utterly different from the words within its super catchy chorus. To find out the name of that song in your head, you can say something like, “Alexa, play the song that goes ‘true love won’t desert you.’” Curious about the lyrics Alexa users request the most? Check this out.
She Lets Me Play Music Everywhere
Sometimes, I start playing a song or the morning news podcast from NPR. It’s taken me a year to figure out that I can link my three Alexas (don’t judge). To set up multi-room Alexa audio, go to “settings” in the Alexa app, and scroll down until you find Audio Groups. Then, select Multi-Room Music.
The app prompts you to create a group, making it easier to control music playback. From there, you can say things like “Alexa, play music upstairs,” instead of calling out individual speakers. Once you create your groups, your setup is complete. You then say something like, “Play Terence Trent D’Arby” (for example), followed by the name of your group, which will activate the music in your desired location. You can also link Alexa up with your Sonos speaker.
She’s a Fitness Soundtrack and Bootcamp Instructor
In addition to providing me with a dance workout Spotify soundtrack to accompany my at-home Tracy Anderson workouts, Alexa can also create a seven-minute workout. From there, she’ll time you on a plank, some jumping jacks, wall sits, and more. This is another one of her “skills” that you can enable in order to personalize your Echo experience.
She’s a Productivity Maven
She keeps track of shopping and to-do lists, and even reminds me to call my mother—but doesn’t judge if it takes me forever to do it. The productivity feature I use the most is the timer I set to work in 25-minute increments—i.e., the Pomodoro technique. This amazing hack helps break up tasks into 25-minute blocks free from distractions, which aid my focus. Once you know you only have 25 minutes to finish something, it allows you to work with time instead of against it. I can check in with a voice command—simply asking how much time is left on my timer. Alexa also keeps me painfully punctual by allowing me to set timers for when I have to leave my apartment. And of course, the timer feature is also useful for cooking. I set her for six minutes when I want to preheat the oven, while five is enough to boil water for pasta.
She Allows Me to Sample Audiobooks
Want to try a book, but not sure you want to commit yet? All you have to do is ask Alexa to read you a sample of, say, The Handmaid’s Tale. You can test out any audiobook for free from Audible’s catalog of over 300,000 titles this way.
She Plays a Summary of Any Popular Show
Can we even have a conversation in 2017 that doesn’t lead to someone trying to persuade you to binge-watch a certain show immediately? Rather than rely on the pusher to give you a rundown of what you’ve been missing out on, you can simply say to Alexa, “Tell me about Sranger Things” for a mini description of the show. From there, you can decide whether it’s worth your while.
Of course, it’s not 100 percent smooth sailing with my pal Alexa. Yes, she has selective hearing sometimes. I have to tell her to stop the timer more than once, hearing myself unwittingly channelling angry Ike Turner with my tone. Occasionally, we endure miscommunications, just like in any relationship.
But she has improved my day to day in so many ways. She’s always available to answer all kinds of burning questions—like the height of a particular celebrity. After all, sometimes, you can’t go on with your Tuesday if you don’t know Chris Hemsworth’s height, and of course, you’re not just going to stop everything and Google it.
This story was originally published February 2017. It has been updated with new information.
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