Amazon’s Echo Dot can power a vast collection of smart home devices and smart speakers that can be used to automate your life. There is an Alexa app available for both iOS and Android, so anyone with a smartphone can setup the device easily.
The Echo Dot is the cheapest entry point into the ecosystem of Amazon gadgets for your home, and several Wi-Fi or Bluetooth enabled Echo Dot pucks can be linked together in one household.
Getting Started With Amazon Echo Dot
The Echo Dot allows you to ask for news, music, to check the weather, perform a Google search, set an alarm, or act as a hub for other smart devices. The Amazon Echo Dot can play music from Amazon Music, Sirius, Spotify, and more right to your living room. It is more than a speaker and can give directions to a location, track events on your calendar, purchase items directly from Amazon, or answering questions.
Alexa learns to recognize voices over time, so asking the Echo Dot questions and interacting with it regularly will help it understand your vocal patterns. Alexa responds to her name as the keyword, listening for whatever question or request follows. This keyword can be changed if you happen to have a girlfriend with the same name.
Making Video Calls
Amazon’s Echo Dot has a feature called Drop In that allows select contacts to dial a number and connect without the other party picking up. It works similarly to a baby monitor and can be turned off completely if you’d rather not use it.
To start a drop in call, you can use the command “Alexa, drop in on Jane Smith”. A frosted video will be shown for 10 seconds on your TV or tablet and it will alert the person you’re calling before giving a clear feed.
Drop-In can only be allowed for specific contacts or disabled entirely. If you’d like to disable this feature on your phone, open the app, tap the Contacts page, and then the contact to enable or disable Drop In. If you don’t plan on using this feature, simply change a blanket option at the top of this screen that allows you to disable it entirely.
Connecting Smart Home Devices
One of the most powerful features of the Echo Dot is Alexa Skills, which are small programs that you can find on your Echo Dot to connect all manner of things to the system.
Products like Philips Hue bulbs, Bluetooth speakers, smart TV’s, refrigerators, and even washing machines and dryers can be connected, giving you control over these electronics.
Amazon also sells accessories to make “dumb” devices smarter. A plug-in accessory that plugs into the wall will turn any device plugged in into a compatible smart device.
Alexa is compatible with IFTTT, which allows you to set up routines for thousands of services. IFTTT stands for “If this, then that” which means if a certain trigger happens then Alexa can perform a task.
For example, you could link your bedroom lights, controlled by the Amazon Echo Dot, to IFTTT and have an applet to always turn them on at sunrise and have multiple Bluetooth speakers play your favorite music. Or give your to-do list to your voice-controlled assistant by adding items to your to-do app.
The possibilities when connecting a Dot and IFTTT are endless and, best of all, free. You can use built-in routines that can be established without the use of a third-party tool like IFTTT, but they are not as robust as the customization options for IFTTT.
Make Your Play, Work, and Life Easier
With an Echo speaker you can be more productive. Users with Android phones can text someone a dictated message, send an e-mail, or create a new post on Twitter. Link your calendar with Alexa and she can let a user add events, look them up, and receive reminders about upcoming events. She can also really save time around the kitchen by helping with recipes.
Some of the Alexa Skills are useful for productivity, too. Both Uber and Lyft have created commands that you can turn on to arrange a ride with just the Echo.
The Echo has over 50,000 abilities that add tons of functionality. Want to try out some cool things? Check out the following tips and tricks you can do.
Fun Things, Tips, and Tricks
While it can help you become more organized and productive, there are also a handful of Easter eggs and fun things that you can do with the Echo Dot.
Fun & Games
The Dot speaker can play several games, including Bingo. Asking the digital assistant to play will have your Echo choose random numbers for bingo.
There is also a great Skyrim Skill that allows you to control the classic RPG game with just your voice. Bethesda released the skill after gamers riffed on the company for releasing so many ports of Skyrim on different consoles. It’s a popular game that is now available for an adventure using just your voice.
Better Buying on Amazon
Echo makes it easy to shop while doing other things around your home. To have Alexa order any item from Amazon, just say Alexa, order me a Fire Stick. and the speaker will place the order for you, after verifying the price of course. It is really a time saver, but be careful with this feature if you have children or pets. A woman’s parrot who heard her ordering stuff from Amazon using Alexa now orders his own things.
You can also use the command, “Alexa, reorder cat food” to buy the last thing you bought in that category.
Amazon also offers special discounts to Echo owners who have purchasing features turned on. Ask her what deals are available today and the speaker will list of deals and ask if you want to order something. This feature does not work with Voice Purchasing turned off, so you’ll need to keep that in mind.
Alexa, how do you say “where is the bathroom” in German?
If you’re learning a new language, you can ask for translations in more than 50 languages. You get the answer from the Dot via your mobile phone to show the full translation.
Alexa, what happened today in history?
This requires the This Day In History skill to be enabled. It will respond back with interesting facts, tidbits, and any significant events that occurred on that day.
Good for Daily Life
Check Your Bank Balance
If you have Capital One banking or credit card services, there is a skill that can give you easy access to your account. There is even a skill to make a payment on your credit card.
Alexa, read us a bedtime story.
A Short Bedtime Story skill will have Alexa tell your kids a bedtime story. Alexa can even customize the names used to have them match your child or family. It’s no substitute for your stories, but your kids will enjoy the novelty of being told a bedtime story by a robot lady.