I got the Amazon Alexa for my birthday and things haven’t been the same since. It’s had a profound impact on my home life in ways I wouldn’t have expected. This little “gadget” is powerful beyond most people’s imaginations and I’m just scratching the surface, but here are some of the awesome ways I use Alexa every day.
Anytime we run out of a food item, before I’ve put the empty container in the trash, I belt out “Alexa, add Milk to my shopping list.” She confirms cheerfully and it immediately updates the shopping list in the associated iPhone app.
While at the store, I can check items off and if my wife is at home and wants to add something before I checkout, she just tells Alexa. This means we never run out of anything and our shopping trips are very efficient. This is the ultimate expression of the external brain.
I love making soft boiled eggs and have found that 6 minutes and 10 seconds in boiling water makes the perfect egg. So, early in the morning, with my eyes barely open, I put the eggs in boiling water and say “Alexa, set a 6 minute 10 second timer.” Her alarm sound is really pleasing. While she’s counting down I’ll ask “Alexa, what’s the weather today?”
When we change a diaper on the baby and it’s getting to the bottom of the package, I can say “Alexa, order more diapers” to which she responds “The last diapers you ordered were X for $Y, would you like these?” I’m only too happy to say yes and continue on my way.
My kids love Alexa. Not only does it force them to speak clearly and in a loud voice, but they can ask really interesting questions. The other day Ben said “Alexa, what kind of reptiles live in China?” After she recited the 20th reptile, I softly said “Alexa, stop.”
The boys also like baking so not only can I say “Alexa, how many ounces are in a cup?” But she has a ton of integrations with other sites. So using the AllRecipes “skill” she can walk me step by step through a baking recipe.
And of course, who doesn’t love a good dance party? The boys will say “Alexa, play Yellow Submarine” and she’s all too happy to comply.
The Secret Sauce
The real magic with Alexa is in it’s integrations, the most dynamic of which is through IFTTT which allows Alexa to connect to hundreds of services. I can say “Alexa, it’s cold in here” and using the Nest thermostat she’ll turn the heat on.
I can say “Alexa, turn on the TV to PBS Kids” and the Harmon Universal Remote will do as I command. “Alexa, turn off the black lamp” you can guess what happens next, thanks to a Philips Smart Plug.
My favorite is Alexa’s built in To Do List. I’ve set it up so that I can have Alexa add something to my list and that will post a task for one of the virtual assistants at Priority VA to get to work on it.
You can even use specific phrases to trigger just about anything. “Alexa, I just had a glass of water” can make a notation in your fitness tracking app. “Alexa, text my wife to call me when she can” is a pretty useful command.
The Big Idea
Using your voice to issue these types of commands means the shortest distance between your brain and action in something or someone else. You can use your working memory for coming up with new ideas, fresh brainstorming, and plain old peace and mindfulness. It also means there’s never hesitation where you have to decide how you will retain, or even act upon the information you develop.
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