Just a few decades ago technology like the internet was unthinkable, and the comforts and conveniences of the World Wide Web were practically science fiction. Today, we live in a world where technology is advancing at an exponential rate—and while we may not have the ubiquitous flying cars that Back to the Future envisioned existing by 2015, technological advancements like the many functions of Alexa offer convenience and entertainment that Doc and Marty would never have dreamed of.

Obviously, being able to live out your lifelong dream of being a contestant on Jeopardy by playing the game on Alexa is just…*chef’s kiss*. But did you know that you can use Alexa to find your phone when you’ve misplaced it for the seventh time this week, or turn on the A/C during that epic heat wave without moving a muscle? And there’s much, much more. 

This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some tips, tricks, and life hacks to make your Alexa device work for you:

Fine-tune Alexa’s voice recognition

Is your Alexa getting confused when you ask it to play Kid Cudi and playing Kid Rock instead? Or giving you recipes for marmalade when you asked for lemonade? We know how infuriating that sort of mix-up might be. Fortunately, Alexa devices are able to listen to you saying a series of phrases, and improve their ability to correctly recognize your speech. On your screen device:

  • Go to the main menu
  • Go to “Settings”
  • Go to “Your Profile & Family”
  • Select your profile
  • Go to “Voice ID”
  • Follow the prompts for set up

For screenless Alexa devices, just open the Alexa app on your phone, go to “Menu,” then “Settings,” then “Your Voice.”

Rename your Alexa

Maybe giving commands to an actual human name feels weird to you, or perhaps you know a human Alexa IRL (or perhaps your name is Alexa). Whatever the reason, if giving voice commands to “Alexa” isn’t your cup of tea, worry not. On your screen device:

  • Go to the main menu
  • Go to “Settings”
  • Go to “Device Options”
  • Go to “Wake Word”
  • Choose from the list of wake word options

If you have a screenless Alexa device, you can also change this setting from the Alexa app on your phone.

Play games

Obviously, this is the most important function of Alexa: playing games. Whether you have a screen device or a headless (no screen) device, Alexa’s Skills Shop is chock-full of fun games you can play with your voice. Here at Volley, we have so much fun developing games, and can’t wait to design more future fan favorites. In the meantime, here are some you can play now:

  • Song Quiz – Test your musical knowledge in a variety of genres, and compete with friends or strangers around the world.
  • Jeopardy! – Play along as you envision yourself on the Jeopardy! stage, beating all-time Jeopardy! winner-turned-host, Ken Jennings.
  • Question of the Day – Test your knowledge with daily trivia questions in a variety of categories.
  • Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader – Based on the popular TV game show, find out for yourself—are you smarter than a 5th grader?
  • The Price is Right – Just like the TV game show, can you guess the right price? Guess prices of a variety of Amazon products.

…and many, many more! Search the enormous catalog of Alexa Skills here.

Control your TV with your voice

This life hack requires having either a FireStick/Fire TV or a different smart TV, but is super convenient when you’re in full couch potato mode. After you’ve paired your Alexa device to your TV, you can use voice commands for a whole slew of things, like:

  • Turning your TV on or off (“Alexa, turn on/off [TV name]”)
  • Adjusting the volume (“Alexa, lower/increase the volume on [TV name]”)
  • Controlling playback (“Alexa, play/pause/resume/stop/rewind/fast-forward [TV name]”)
  • Opening streaming services (“Alexa, open Netflix/Hulu/Disney+/etc. on [TV name]”)
  • Searching for movies or shows by genre (“Alexa, show me for sci-fi/horror/comedy/etc. movies”)
  • Playing a specific movie or show (“Alexa, play 2001: A Space Odyssey on [streaming service]”)
  • Changing the input on your TV (“Alexa, change the input on [TV name] to Xbox/HDMI1/etc.”)
  • Playing a game of Song Quiz solo, with friends, or even your cat (“Alexa, open Song Quiz on [TV name]”) 

Change the temperature in your home

This life hack requires having a compatible smart thermostat, but its convenience is unparalleled. Just download the skill associated with your thermostat, and you’ll be able to do things like:

  • Increase or decrease the temperature by telling Alexa that you’re too hot/cold
  • Ask Alexa what your thermostat is currently set to
  • Ask Alexa about humidity and other thermostat settings
  • Have Alexa conserve energy by turning down the temperature when you’re away from home

*Voice commands and capabilities will vary depending on your specific smart thermostat.

Dim or turn on/off your lights

If you’ve gone to the store for light bulbs recently, you’ve probably noticed that “smart” light bulbs are all the rage these days. While they may seem a bit gimmicky, they are actually pretty cool—and you can control them with your voice via Alexa! This list provides a range of Alexa-compatible bulbs, although there are undoubtedly more available. And if you’re thinking, “what’s so special about being able to turn the lights off and on?,” that’s not all smart bulbs can do – depending on the bulb you get, you can also:

  • Set your lights to any color (for whatever ambience your heart desires)
  • Set your lights to your desired dimness
  • Make your lights pulse, blink, actively change colors, and more
  • Control the lights in any room in your house
  • Set timers to turn your lights on/off
  • Turn your lights on or off without ruining that perfect butt imprint you’re making in the couch
  • …and more!

Tune an instrument

Have you been trying to learn “Freebird” on your new guitar, but for some reason, you just can’t get it to sound right? Obviously, the issue must be that your guitar is out of tune. Just say, “Alexa, tune my guitar,” and you’ll be guided through six notes for regular tuning. 

There are also a number of skills for tuning different instruments, from ukuleles to cellos to violins to pianos, and more. Search for skills on the Alexa app, or say “Alexa, search for [instrument] tuners” to your device.

Flip a coin

Have you ever found yourself in a heated debate with someone? Do you need to settle, once and for all, whether the chicken or the egg came first? Just say, “Alexa, flip a coin,” and settle your argument with a good, old fashioned, “heads or tails.” Easy peasy!

Calculate cooking conversions & solve math problems

Let’s say you’re trying to bake cookies, but the recipe you’re looking at has ounces instead of cups, or grams instead of ounces—we’ve all been there. Never again will you smear flour all over your phone while you try to look up or calculate conversions—just ask Alexa! You can say things like “Alexa, 1 cup to ounces,” or “Alexa, how many grams are in 2 ounces,” or whatever calculation or conversion you’re looking for. No matter what you need help with, Alexa’s got you covered, and you won’t have to risk burning anything while you fumble with your phone.

Create Reminders

Let’s say you have an appointment at the dog groomers, but you can’t stop playing Jeopardy! and you’re losing track of time. No problem! Before answering your next trivia question, pause the game for a few seconds and say, “Alexa, create a new reminder.” You can then tell Alexa exactly what time you need to stop playing and take your pooch for his long-awaited spa day, allowing you to build up your win streak without a worry in the world!

Find your lost cell phone

Perhaps one of the most useful Alexa skills out there, “Find My Phone” uses Alexa to call your phone when you’ve misplaced it. It’s also perfectly secure, texting you a code at set-up that you have to input in order for the skill to work, meaning nobody else can use it to prank you with spammed phone calls. However, this does also mean that you need to already have your phone when you first set up the skill, so, pro-tip: set this one up now, before you lose your phone again for the umpteenth time this week!

Create and use your own Skills with Blueprints

If you aren’t already convinced that Alexa is nearly limitlessly versatile, Blueprints should make up your mind. With Blueprints, you can publish your very own skills without an ounce of coding know-how. Some of Alexa’s featured Blueprints include:

This list could go on for pages, but we’ll stop here—you get the point. Get creative and see what you can build! Take it from us—as the leading developer of voice AI games for Alexa, we know how fun building skills can be!

We could go on and on about the many fun and interesting ways you can make your Alexa work for you. As technology overall develops and grows, so too will Alexa’s capabilities. For now, following this list should help you kick back and take life in stride with some AI voice assistance. Keep an eye on the Volley blog for more ways to get the most out of your Alexa device!