25 Things Alexa Can Do You Had No Idea About

Alexa, Amazon's artificial intelligence technology, is "always getting smarter" with frequent new updates. Many were introduced amid the COVID-19 pandemic during which customers "spent more time than ever at home," Amazon's Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President for Amazon Alexa, noted in December.

Here we look at some functions Alexa users may have yet to explore, including some of the technology's latest new features.

Tell you who's inspiring

To celebrate Women's History Month in March, customers can ask: "Alexa, who inspires you?" to learn about women Alexa admires each day in March.

Users can also hear playlists honoring "female musical inspirations and heroes" by asking: "Alexa, play music for Women's History Month" and "Alexa, play music for International Women's Day" in the Amazon Music mobile app for iOS and Android or on Alexa-enabled devices, the company noted in February.

Take you on an art tour

Amazon announced a new Alexa Skills feature in January which allows users to explore art from the Art Institute of Chicago by saying: "Alexa, open Art Museum."

"Art Museum allows you to discover artwork from around the world using just your voice. Featuring a curated collection from the Art Institute of Chicago, this skill lets you explore artwork by category and origin—like European paintings, or sculptures from Asia. With 300+ pieces of art in the collection, you can move through an entire gallery, view pieces up close, and listen to in-depth audio commentary along the way," Amazon noted in January.

The Art Museum function is best experienced on an Echo Show device, the company advised.

Find nearest COVID-19 test center

From January, customers in the U.S. have been able to find where they can get a COVID-19 test by asking: "Alexa, where can I get tested for COVID-19?" to hear the nearest COVID test location based on the device's location setting. You can get more information by saying, "Alexa, call the first one," to call the phone number to confirm the information provided.

...and COVID-19 vaccine trials happening near you

Amazon announced in January: "COVID-19 vaccine trials are looking for participants to assist in COVID-19 research. If available in your area, Alexa will help you find an open trial or study within 30 miles of you and connect you to IQVIA, a clinical research organization to learn more. Simply ask 'Alexa, find COVID trial' and get connected to see if you can participate."

Get Samuel L. Jackson to tell jokes and more

From September, users have been able to swap Alexa's voice with that of Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson to get him to tell them jokes, the weather and anything else they'd want to know. To make the switch, customers can just say: "Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson" and choose the "Hey Samuel" wake word.

"The 'Hey Samuel' wake word works for most voice-activated Echo devices in your home, except first-generation Echo and Echo Dot and Echo Look. Users without a compatible device can use 'Alexa, ask Samuel,'" Amazon advises.

...and have him "get explicit"

Customers can also "hear Samuel get explicit" by asking certain questions such as "Hey Samuel, how many times was the f-word said in Pulp Fiction?" or "Hey Samuel, what do you think of snakes?, among several other queries.

Amazon notes: "Explicit responses occur when explicit content is enabled. You can enable or disable explicit content from the Amazon Alexa app."

See the Amazon website for more questions you could ask Jackson.

Deliver a hug

Customers in the U.S. can send virtual embraces to their loved ones by saying: "Alexa, send a hug" to share a virtual hug with any of their Alexa contacts.

Read your mind

From November, Alex has been getting better at "predicting customers' goals." Amazon notes: "We're taking another step toward natural interaction with a capability that lets Alexa infer customers' latent goals—goals that are implicit in customer requests, but not directly expressed.

"For instance, if a customer asks, 'How long does it take to steep tea?,' the latent goal could be setting a timer for steeping a cup of tea. With the new capability, Alexa might answer that question by sharing, 'Five minutes is a good place to start,' then follow up by asking, 'Would you like me to set a timer for five minutes?'," the company explains.

Make calls even if your phone is turned off

Amazon announced in September: "AT&T calling with Alexa makes it possible to link your eligible mobile number to Alexa to make and receive calls from your compatible Alexa devices, even if your phone is out of reach, turned off, or out of battery. After linking your AT&T postpaid mobile number, you can call contacts or phone numbers hands-free, using your existing mobile phone plan."

Be accessed hands-free from your phone

Users can access Alexa hands-free via their smartphones whenever the Alexa app is open on the phone screen. This allows customers to ask Alexa to perform tasks even when they're not on their phones such as when they're running on a treadmill.

"Once the wake word is detected, an animated blue bar will appear at the bottom of the screen, indicating Alexa is streaming your request to the cloud. To access, customers will need to update their Alexa app or download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Users can turn the feature on/off at any time in their mobile app settings," Amazon explains.

Have your lights come on at sunset every night

Customers can set their house lights to be turned on automatically at sunset every night by creating an Alexa Routine. "A Routine enables Alexa to perform a series of actions with a single command. For example, create a routine for the command, 'Alexa, start my day' so that Alexa will respond by telling you the weather forecast for the day, turning on the lights, and delivering the daily news," Amazon explains.

Have the TV pause automatically when you get up

From November, users have been able to have their Fire TVs automatically pause at specified moments using Alexa Routines.

Users can "create an Alexa Routine so that when someone in your house says 'Alexa, I'm getting a snack,' Alexa will pause your Fire TV content and turn on your smart lights. You can also create a Routine so that when someone says 'Alexa, I'm back,' Alexa can say OK—now back to your show,' turn off your smart lights, and resume playing content," Amazon notes.

Let you know when dinner's ready

Last June, Amazon launched Alexa's "Announcement Features" which allow customers to make announcements in their own voice to those who have an Alex-enabled device. So when a user says "Alexa, announce that dinner's ready," the phrase "Dinner's ready" will be heard in their voice on other Alexa-supported devices.

Amazon notes: "Now Announcements are also sent to mobile phones on your account as a push notification from the Alexa app with a transcript of the message. When customers tap the notification, they can hear the audio and respond back with their own Announcement."

Users can also say "Alexa, reply" after hearing an announcement to broadcast a response back to all their Alexa-enabled devices.

Pay for gas

Those with Alexa-enabled vehicles as well as devices like Echo Auto, or simply the Alexa app on an Android or iOS device can pay for their fuel by saying: "Alexa, pay for gas."

This will prompt Alexa to "confirm the station location, pump number, and then activate the pump. The customer can then select the fuel grade on the pump and begin fueling," Amazon noted in October.

"Transactions are made securely through Amazon Pay and powered by Fiserv, enabling customers to use their default payment method associated with their Amazon account. No additional sign-up or separate account is required," it added.

The feature is available at over 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations across the U.S.

Alert you of break-ins

Through the Alexa Guard feature, currently only available in the U.S., users can be alerted of "potential emergencies in your home while you're away, and features to deter potential intruders."

Amazon notes: "If Alexa detects sounds that could be an intruder while you're away from home—like footsteps, a door closing, or glass breaking—she can send you a Smart Alert mobile notification and play a siren on your Echo. Alexa can also notify you about the sound of smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms.

...and call for help

Devices enabled with the Alexa Guard Plus feature, also currently only available in the U.S., customers can get 24/7 access to an emergency helpline using their voice.

Say, "Alexa, call for help" to speak with trained agents who can request the dispatch of emergency responders—such as police, the fire department, or an ambulance—based on information you provide on the call," Amazon notes.

Using the Alexa app, customers in the U.S. can also designate one of their contacts as their "emergency contact" who Alexa will call and text when they say "Alexa, call for help," alerting them that the customer is experiencing an emergency.

"The emergency contact needs to have a U.S. phone number. They can call your device back via the Alexa app or an Alexa device with Alexa Communications enabled," Amazon notes.

Translate in real time

Alexa can now translate words from live conversations taking place in two different languages by stating "Alexa, translate [insert the language]."

The "Live Translation" feature is available for English and French, Spanish, Hindi, Portuguese (Brazilian), German, or Italian.

Alexa's "Multilingual Mode" was also expanded in November to allow users in the U.S., as well as now Europe and Japan, to set their Alexa devices to two languages, combining German, French (France), Italian, Spanish (Spain) or Japanese with U.S. English. Customers can switch to one of these languages by saying: "Alexa, speak [insert language]."

Monitor energy usage

Alexa features an "energy dashboard" that helps users monitor the energy consumption of compatible Alexa-enabled smart home devices.

"Using the Alexa app, customers can see the energy consumed by certain smart home devices from a variety of manufacturers, including lights, plugs, switches, water heaters, thermostats and TVs. Customers are also able to see daily, weekly and monthly trends," Amazon announced in January.

Sing a song and rap

Users can ask Alexa to sing them different types of songs (from love songs to pirate songs) or certain specific songs (from the national anthem to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"). Alexa can also do a beatbox or specifically "rap for Mom" or for your dad. See the Amazon website for more song-related requests Alexa can take.

Share songs with friends in real time

While listening to a song, users can now share the tune with one of their Alexa contacts by simply saying: "Alexa share this song with..."

Recommend next film to watch

Users can now receive personalized recommendations for what movie or series to watch next through a new video homepage by saying: "Alexa, open video home."

Help you buy sustainable products

From February, customers in the U.S. have been able to say: "Alexa, give me ideas for more sustainable products" or "Alexa, give me Climate Pledge Friendly recommendations," to hear a list of sustainable items to purchase.

Print documents

Customers can get Alexa to print out documents using your voice and compatible Echo devices. "Chances are, it works with the printer you already have. Just say, 'Alexa, discover my printer' to get started," Amazon notes.

Delete everything you've said

Instead of having to open the Alexa app or to the Alexa Privacy Settings page online to manage all recordings, users can now just say: "Alexa, delete everything I've said" to delete all voice recordings associated with their account, Amazon noted in December.

Reveal its favorite things

From colors and sports to superheroes and more, Alexa can tell users about its favorite things. See the Amazon website for what favorite things Alexa is happy to reveal.

Give you a wellness tip for the day

From last June, customers in the U.S., Canada, India, and Australia can now ask: "Alexa, what is my wellness tip of the day?" to access their tip of the day as well as information on various wellness topics including mental health and exercise.

Amazon says the function helps "to create healthy habits sourced from Mayo Clinic, NIH [National Institutes of Health], CDC, and Talkspace,"

Amazon Echo smart speaker Alexa January 2021
A view of an Alexa-enabled Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker seen in Lafayette, California on January 22. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images