Amazon found success with the introduction of the Amazon Echo, a smart connected speaker that homeowners can interact with by speaking to Alexa, the voice that lives inside the device. Alexa can tell you what the weather is that day or start playing your music playlists on command. But what other capabilities does Alexa have that homeowners can tap into? New York Times writer Brian X. Chen revisited the Echo to see what other options were in store.
Alexa in your kitchen:
Echo tinkerers have been putting the speaker to work in their kitchens. One reason: you can summon Alexa without touching the device, which makes it extremely helpful while preparing food or putting dishes away. After you stick a pie or roast in the oven, ask Alexa to set a timer. Need help tripling a recipe? Ask Alexa to do the math (“Alexa, what is three times 127?”). Need to know how many tablespoons are in a cup? Ask Alexa to make the conversion for you. Alexa can also help restock your kitchen. If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber and are running out of something like Ziploc bags, just say “Alexa, order Ziploc bags” to place an Amazon order right away.
Alexa can control your smart home:
One useful product to buy to expand Echo’s utility is TP-Link’s $25 Smart Plug, a Wi-Fi-connected electrical outlet. It can be used to toggle on and off an appliance that you plug into it, like a lamp or portable fan. Chen writes: "Setting up the Smart Plug takes a few minutes. I plugged a bedroom lamp into the Smart Plug, then downloaded the free smartphone app Kasa, which detected the Smart Plug and connected it to my Wi-Fi network. Then I opened the Alexa smartphone app, added the Kasa “skill” (third-party apps for Alexa are called skills) and connected Alexa with my Smart Plug. I subsequently gave the lamp a friendly name: bedroom lamp. Now at night, I can say “Alexa, turn on the bedroom lamp” to light up the bedroom before I walk down the hall."
Some Echo tinkerers have been even more ambitious about hooking up their homes. One Reddit user made Echo open and close window blinds. Others have bought smart home kits like Samsung’s $249 SmartThings system, which can be set up to connect with different sensors like a water leak detector or a motion sensor.