Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: How do you use Amazon Echo?
80 points by trapped on May 15, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 112 comments
What are your main use cases and go to questions for Echo? How effective and useful it is?

For those who also have Cortana/Siri/Google and Echo which one is most useful?

Initially, my wife and I just used it for weather, music, and to occasionally order an Uber.

But we just had a newborn, so I built a custom skill for us to serve as log of our son's activities. So our primary use is now that.


- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CqBmjxOFCQ

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHaTUm9sQpM

The first custom skill I wrote that calls out to an API to do CNAM (caller ID) lookups. So when I get calls from a weird number, I can quickly get the corresponding name (if there is one). This was mainly an exercise to see how Alexa/Echo would pronounce various names and abbreviations.

That is a great idea. I remember going through a handful of apps trying to find one with an interface that agreed with both my wife and I but never found one we liked that synced.

The hands free of the echo is especially useful for that. Good hacking, and congrats on being clearheaded enough with a newborn to build it, I don't think I felt like I came up for air until the 9 month mark and the "high level" part of my brain didn't feel like it kicked in again until after mines first birthday.

Out of curiosity, is logging newborn activities a common thing? Do most parents do this? What is the value in knowing the counts and times of your newborn's routine? Is there a good use case for historical data or trends?

Yes, the EPS log (eat, poop, sleep). The first thing a Dr. will ask you if your baby is not feeling well is are there any changes in any of these.

It's to look for changes in the routines. If your baby hasn't pooped recently, or if their eating habits change, you can see it happening, rather than trying to rely on memory which is fried at that point.

And honestly, it's also to give parents a small measure of control over what's going on. When you're a new parent, it's a confusing and difficult time, and so recording what happens lets you feel in some way like you've got a handle on things. You may be exhausted and confused, but as you write your numbers down in a little book, life goes on. It's reassuring.

I wrote a custom skill so I can say "Alexa, ask the bus stop, when is the next bus?" ... and she responds "x minutes" for the bus-stop outside my house. I use it everyday - such a time saver!

For those interested, here's an integration with Alexa and One Bus Away, with instructions on how to build your own skill that uses the library.


Share please

I live in Australia and imported an Echo.

AFAIK Amazon only sells the Echo in the US, and a lot of the functionality is locked to the US, this makes it unusable for certain tasks (like dealing with time, dates, calendars and alarms).

The Echo won't let you change it's timezone to an Australian one (hacks like setting a timezone to one of the US military bases around the world no longer work).

So with the Echo assuming I'm living somewhere in the US, what do I use it for?

- Telling the time. Having said all the above, I do use it for telling the time, but I need to say "Alexa, what's the time in Sydney Australia?"

- Finding out the weather "Alexa, What's the weather like in Sydney Australia?"

- Controlling the Lights. "Alexa turn on the lights?"

- Reporting Revenue from Shopify (I've built a custom app) "Alexa, ask Shopify what were the sales?"

I'd love to hear more from others outside the US as to how they use their Echo!

German Echo user here.. I googled a bit a while ago and found a perfect solution for the timezone-thing. It turns out that you can (via some request tinkering) set the timezone to whatever you want, instructions here:


edit: typo.

Perfect, thank you!

I was going to get one here (Oz) too, but I think you have changed my mind for now.

Which smart lights are you using?

Philips Hue

How do you do the shopify one?

Want to say I'd also like if you put up some source for this.

Good idea. I'll put something up soon.

Kitchen appliance, basically. Timer, play music, listen to news, add stuff to my shopping list.

The kitchen is the perfect spot for it because my phone and tablet are usually in the living room or on their chargers in my bedroom, and Siri doesn't work anywhere near as well in a big, noisy area like a kitchen. The microphone is so much more accurate and reliable than the Apple Watch on my wrist (which doesn't say much, because the Watch is so bad at this sort of thing.)

Interesting, my Apple Watch is virtually perfect. It actually really surprised me the other day, I was listening to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History the other day, and forgot what a satrap was, and it wasn't clear from the context. Paused the podcast, asked what a satrap was, and it returned a definition.

This is apparently where the plurality users have their Echo. The timer is just so handy for baking and making my coffee in the morning, I just wish it could support named timers as it gets a little confusing when you start setting multiple timers.

Works great for timer, music, and daily news!

I have the echo hooked up to a Harmony Hub[0], it's a universal remote that controls devices via IR or wifi that the echo can trigger via IFTTT. The Harmony Hub UX is annoyingly overdesigned IMO which makes it more complicated than it should be, but it still works pretty well. I can use it to turn up/down the volume of the tv, hit pause on the Apple TV when I get up to do something, turn on/off the fan if I get hot/cold, etc.

The TV use is pretty neat since it takes so many clicks to navigate those menus. I'm hoping the echo will integrate natively with Apple TV or Fire TV, it would be sweet to be able to say "Alexa, play the latest Game of Thrones" and have it just start.

[0] http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/harmony-hub

I've also got mine hooked up to my harmony hub. I've got a program on my network pretending to be a bunch of smart lightbulbs. So I can say "Alexa, turn {on,off} TV".

I think I could do volume control by simulating a bulb that supports brightness but I haven't tried that yet.

Nice, is there a github link to the program?

How are you able to do fine-grained actions like volume control and pause through Alexa? The IFTTT channel for Harmony seems to only have start/stop activity options. Do you have a skill hitting a server running in the background that makes API calls to your hub maybe?

No separate pieces. You can kind of hack it so that single actions are set up as an activity, i.e. one activity is turn it on, a separate activity is turn it on then hit volume up 5 times, separate one for volume down, separate one for play/pause, etc. In harmony's settings for the tv you have to set it not to manage the off state so it won't turn off the tv when you switch to volume up.

It could be so much simpler, they really overcomplicated it

Main reason why I bought it was to use my phone less at home.

Main use cases: * Managing my shopping list (not necessarily for ordering on Amazon) while I'm in the kitchen and/or cooking * Calendar/Newsflash/Weather in the morning * Timer for cooking/workouts * Ordering an Uber (main reason why I use primarily Uber vs. Lyft because there's no Lyft skill right now) * Switching lights on/off (WeMo)

Would use it more if there would be (good/easy to use) skills: * Public transportation arrival/departure times * Controlling my Sonos (I know the workaround but a better integration would be awesome)

I don't. I think people who do are crazy.

Judgmental tone notwithstanding, I resonate with this. The idea of an always-on, always-connected gizmo that I can't audit and that listens to everything in my house gives me the creeps. Why are security-aware people not bothered by this idea? Am I missing something?

That's how I felt about it when I first heard it, and dismissed it.

Lately, I recognize that this is the leading edge of another shift in how we interface with computing. (Chat bot assistants/voice interfaces). I also missed the fact that you can extend Alexa and customize it by adding skills or writing your own skills. So I'm seriously considering getting one and playing with it, to stay in tune with the way our society is moving.

When the first iphone came on, I also recognized it as a shift. However, I stubbornly stuck with my feature phone for years. There was the same paranoia of being tracked everywhere with the iphone, and I felt uncomfortable about it. I eventually got an ipod touch, just so I could try it out. It wasn't until my feature phone was lost for good that I took the step to get an iphone, back in 2012. Very quickly, what I used to sit, fixated in front of my computer, I compacted into my phone. I watched how it shifted and changed the way I lived my life -- but also, mindfully decided what I want and what I didn't want. (I installed many instant messenger apps and got rid of messenging apps on my laptop, except for Slack -- but to this day, I don't have Facebook on my phone because I don't want to get sucked into it on the phone).

Around that time, I was entering a new phase in my life, one that involved dropping a lot of the paranoia and junk in my head. So now, I recognized that same reaction with the Echo. It'll be interesting to give this a try.


The echo does allow you to see a history of all previous recordings sent to Amazon (Settings > History), along with the actual voice samples that were sent.

Now granted, I don't think you'd be able to ensure that all packets that were sent corresponded to what is displayed there, but you can estimate it based on the sizes of packets and maximum data that could be sent. Would a proxy server that you controlled resolve your concerns? Or is it more "I don't know what's happening on the backend"?

> The echo does allow you to see a history of all previous recordings sent to Amazon (Settings > History), along with the actual voice samples that were sent.

Wow, that makes it even more creepy. Imagine e.g. your significant other accessing this log and finding things they aren't supposed to find.

You are able to delete items from this log; this is no different than your browser's search history. You simply cannot have this both ways though; you can either be ephermal, or you can be auditable.

I personally find the log to be very useful and interesting (as well as a free annotation source for my own projects).

I guess the main take away from this thread is that some people are just going to be creeped out by this sort of technology. And that's okay.

What exactly would you be asking Alexa that would be sensitive to your SO?

Thanks. I wasn't aware of the history feature. It's not a complete solution, but it helps.

Do you not use a mobile phone? An always on device that has a 4G connection and is strapped to your body?

That device only listens after I explicitly engage with it physically. If it decides to listen passively, that's a bug. With Alexa, it's a feature.

"Ok, Google" and "Ok, Siri" integration is built into all new iPhones and most new Android devices.

Also in these scenarios, all of these devices (Alexa, Android, iPhone) are only locally listening for a wake word, usually using dedicated hardware to detect it. Until you say the wake word, nothing you say is being saved or sent to the network. You can verify this by monitoring your network.

That you know of.

It's been the topic of much discussion that it can probably be listened to at-will by some 3-letter agencies.

It probably isn't, though, and there's almost certainly not a preserved history unless it's on.

That's always been my take on these things. I keep hoping that some security/NSA/privacy aware company will come up with some equivalents that we can trust to stay local. Then give us a controlling app to only open up certain actions to Internet.

This applies to the whole IoT, but doubly so for always-on voice gizmos. e.g. Go WAN when you say "Internet search flights ..." or "google ..." otherwise stay local.

I'd pay more for that. I'm almost ready to conclude IoT is not going to be for me.

That is exactly the reason why I backed the ZOE.


Because an always-on Amazon device in my home would be creepy.

That looks really promising. If it hadn't closed just yesterday I could see myself backing that too.

Definitely one to watch.

Agree 100%. Good speaker-dependent voice recognition ought to be doable locally now. Training would be needed so it would be less plug-and-play than Echo, but that's a price I'd be willing to pay for privacy.

> Why are security-aware people not bothered by this idea?

I personally don't think we can stop the tide of devices like this. I'm very selective about which devices & services I choose to partake in.

> gizmo that I can't audit

This is where I believe we can have some potential (if minimal) input. Granted, once it's in 'the cloud' we've lost all control, but at a minimum I think we're going to continue to see a rise in tooling to be able to critically assess the devices we have in our lives.

It seems like one more thing to worry about. I don't see the point. I'd much rather someone invent a way for my dishwasher to load itself.

With standardized dining ware it shouldn't be too hard. Do it :)

I also don't and don't ever plan to get one. I don't have any home automation devices of any kind, as the ones I have tried (thermostats, mostly) have been abjectly useless and only made my life more complicated and frustrating.

As to crazy, I'm more of the "to each his own."

I have the echo. For me, the annoying part is when you play music at a slightly loud volume, it can't hear you anymore. So i have to physically go up to the device (I didn't buy the remote). Other than that, I also use it to add household items to my shopping list.

Agreed, setting any volume above 7 or so completely torches all voice recognition.

Same as was most everyone else has listed: kitchen timer, play music, occasionally ask her the time. A new skill was recently released that lets you control your alarm.com system and I have Vivint (ugh) which is backed by Alarm.com so it works. I've played with that a bit, but not as much I'd like. Oh and shopping list from time to time, but the mobile app is terrible so it's not much fun to use once you're actually in the store and trying to shop.

Her. Beautiful. :)

This comment squicks me out so, so much. Not so much that the Echo as a product has been humanized, but because that seems like it was its purpose. You have this little thing sitting in your house that you bought, nominally to make your life easier. But all that other "make your life easier" stuff is icing on the real cake here, which is Amazon having, quite literally, a voice in your house that will sell you stuff at the slightest opportunity. Was that Amazon's goal? Maybe not intentionally, but it seems to be the end effect.

I don't know why that comment made me think that, but it casts the Echo in a much less wholesome light for some reason. I suppose it's because once people start to humanize it, they will start to bond with it, which means they are less likely to get rid of it. That comes off as just a little ethically dubious to me.

>Amazon having, quite literally, a voice in your house that will sell you stuff at the slightest opportunity

I don't see how the second half of this statement follows the first. There's a big difference between "can" and "will". The Echo doesn't do this. You could make this statement about anything. With a forced OTA update, your phone could become nothing but an advertisement tomorrow morning. That new intern your company hired? They could secretly just be a shill for Microsoft who will try to sell you upgraded office software.

They certainly did that on purpose. Humanizing the machine is how they can sell it as an always available "assitant".

I don't care about the amazon Alexa. I found the bond beautiful. Thats it. :)

Sell you stuff? It isn't speaking to you on its own. You're asking it to do this for you and then it does.

Hm yes, a female that is utterly servile and obedient. Perfect.

Her, as in a machine to which I have developed an emotional connection which happens to have a female name as it's own. The tie is between the name Alexa and the user. Had amazon named it AZ5000, this person would probably have called it it. But her shows a bond. One which is uncommon between humans and machines.

My comment is on the beauty of the bond between the user and the machine. Do not read anymore into it or give it negative connotations.

I think perhaps I would be more comfortable with a Star Wars droid style name like 'AZ', tbh

A2-Z2? :)

Fair enough. My reply was sarcastic BTW, but highlighting that Amazon chose to give a female name and persona to a device that does what it is told without question. Is it possible to reassign its gender and call it "Alex" and give it a male voice?

I do think that emotional bonds between humans and machines are fundamently unhealthy, but that's got a long history so it's nothing new (e.g. sailors calling their ships "her").

> I do think that emotional bonds between humans and machines are fundamently unhealthy

Is this an emotional bond because the OP said "her", or do you sense that for some other reason? Do you say this only in the context of high technology, the 21st century, or does a person talking about their car "She purrs like a kitten"[0] elicit the same response in you?

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X919tRgip3k

I apologize for not understanding your response as sarcastic.

I wish there was a seamless assistant from place to place.

Home -> Car -> Work. But I wind up using Echo at home, Siri or OK Google in the car (depending on what I'm doing), and nothing at work.

I use my Echo to play music. I uploaded my music collection to Amazon Music for $25/year and also have some Prime playlists.

I use her to find what day a date is on, like what day is June 16th. (Did this once to double check the end date for something).

I use Echo to check the weather before I leave every morning. I ask the time ALL THE TIME. I use her when I'm cooking for unit conversions. And I've set timers with the Echo quite a few times. I've got one going now actually.

I also got some Philips Hue lights and use Alexa to turn my lights on and off. I want to get a Trackr since it has an Alexa integration so I can find my keys.

I also set up IFTTT and have a trigger for Alexa to call my phone so I can find it when I lose it.

Do I like the Echo? YES. I'm considering giving one as a Christmas present this year.

I connected the Echo to my home automation startup API to control my entire home. I can ask her stuff like:

- Control the lights, TV, AC, or smart device in the house.

- Is anyone in the swimming pool? (I'm processing CCTV cameras)

- Who's home? (Geo-fencing and OpenWRT Wi-Fi data)

- Where is the people in the house? (I'm doing indoor locationing with RSSI signals)

Is fun and I keep adding cool stuff on it.

Tell us more. Is this open source?

I'm planning to make it open source but I gotta make it more structured first, is kind of dirty and a mess.

If you want to follow up the project, I'll be adding it to my blog/portfolio as soon as I release it: http://www.cabada.mx

If you want to see more of it, like videos, images and screenshots, I've got some in that site.

every morning I say, "Alexa, news" and that's pretty much it. Occasionally I ask for the weather (for which I still have to specify the city, because Alexa doesn't understand "Set my home [location] to [current city]". Once I used it to order a whisk, which was pretty cool, I'll admit.

If I have a question which I think a voice assistant could answer, I pick up my phone and use the Google app 100% of the time because it is so much better than Alexa it's not funny. It regularly outperforms my expectations, where Alexa regularly underperforms them.

If you go into the companion app and set your location, it should give you the weather for your city automatically when you say "Alexa, what's the weather".

The app allows you to specify your home city (as long as it's in the US)

I've been meaning to expand Alexa's abilities to be more tailored to my life, but in the meantime, these are the things I use:

  * Light control through Philips Hue: "Alexa, turn on lamps", "Alexa, dim hallway lights to 50%"
  * Assistance when cooking: "Alexa, start a 5 minute timer", "Alexa, how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?", "Alexa how many grams are in an ounce?"
  * Entertainment control through Logitech Harmony Hub & IFTTT: "Alexa, trigger Netflix", "Alexa, trigger FireTV", "Alexa, trigger shutdown"
  * Getting ready: "Alexa, how's the weather?", "Alexa, will it rain tomorrow?"
  * Easy music controls: "Alexa, play some music", "Alexa, play songs by Imagine Dragons", "Alexa turn it [up|down]"
  * Enabling laziness:
    * When I wake up but don't want to open my eyes: "Alexa, what time is it?"
    * When I'm already in bed and want to close lights, TV, etc...: "Alexa trigger naptime"
Things I wish I could do (and probably could do if I spent the time to make it so):

  * Control colors/scenes on my Hue lights: "Alexa, set the scene to warm", "Alexa, set the scene to variety"
  * Use fine-grained controls on my TV and devices: "Alexa, play Daredevil on Netflix", "Alexa, turn down the TV volume by 5"

Nobody said yet, so here's mine: "Guess the Number" [1].

My 4 year-old loves it. He learned to count to 100 and got a lot better in understanding higher/lower numbers by playing GTN with Alexa.

It quickly became our favorite pastime when outside; we now turns on who'll be Alexa :)

[1] http://echoskillstore.com/Games/Guess-The-Number/76

(ps: unfortunately it's buggy as hell. I'm considering developing a new one, just to fix it)

I don't do smart home, which seems to be the main use for it – instead, I use a simple remote control to turn on/off my lights, which is way easier for me than saying "Alexa turn on bedroom light" and waiting for it (I've tried this and unplugged the smart outlet the next day).

I only use it for two things:

• Weather and sometimes news in the morning as I'm getting ready.

• As a Spotify player that I can control from my sofa / bed / elsewhere through Spotify Connect, so basically a quasi-Sonos.

Other than that, I haven't really found any good uses for it.

I use it to set alarms, control my lighting, and check the weather. I find it kind of useless for music since it doesn't have a lot of the bands I listen to (it only plays "samples"), and it usually cycles the worst tracks first for some reason. I wish it would integrate with Google Play or have a non-Cloud (ie. local network) API. I've written my own home automation gateway (turn on the tv, set mood lighting, control blinds), but I'm unwilling to open it up to Amazon's cloud.

Do you have Amazon Prime? My Echo automatically plays from the Prime Music library which seems to have all the music I listen to (full songs, not samples). I've also integrated mine with Spotify though since that's where all my playlists are.

I do. It can't find "Django Django", "Cloud Control", etc. There are dozens of others, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.

Even if it did have a full library, it nearly always picks terrible, garbage songs from artists when shuffling them. I just told it to shuffle "Foals", and I don't think I've ever heard this song before. I don't like it, whatever it is.

How do you control your lighting with Echo?

A number of my devices are on WeMo switches, and Echo integrates with the product line. I can tell it to "turn <device or group name> on/off".

I wrote a Rust library for controlling WeMo devices as well. It's in a rough shape, but it does what I want. I use it for more fine-grained control.

Weather, kitchen timer/alarm to start something at a specific time, control a few LIFX bulbs, the common household shopping list, a bluetooth speaker. Occasional sports scores.

The microphone is really good and I can talk to it from a room over, so it's the sort of thing I can ask it about the weather as I'm walking to the door to put the leash on the dog and not break my stride.

I wish the Amazon shopping list had a better API, because I'd like to use that list for things outside of the Echo app.

Not made by me, but someone in my office created a Lambda function, so we can ask Alexa if a meeting room is free, and it links into the Google Calendar API to check.

It then uses a library to say how long until it is free in a human like way.

You can also ask it to find if any rooms are free in the building, and most importantly if the pool table is in use or not! As well as that, there is even a web cam above the table that counts the balls, and can tell you who is winning!

sounds like you work at either the most or least productive office in the world :-D

I use it for kitchen related lookups, timers, and music. The music selection sucks, so I often end up just connecting my phone via bluetooth.

My only custom use was to write a WOL task that targets my Steam Machine so I can turn it on without leaving the couch. The machine is a frankenstein, so it doesn't have any fancy IR receiver or whatever people typically use to remotely turn on a game console.

I have an Echo Dot in my bedroom. Here's what I use it for:

1) Lights - all of my lights are on WeMo switches. They turn on automatically at sunrise (note - they're energy-efficient LEDs), and they turn off automatically at 10:30. Whenever I want them on or off outside of this pattern, I use Alexa.

2) Music - I used to use Chromecast Audio on my speakers, but it took so long to connect - get phone, open spotify, find playlist, connect to speakers over network (after realizing phone wasn't on wifi and had to be reconnected), then hitting play. With Echo, I just say "Play <foo> on Spotify" and it works. This functionality is good for mornings when I'm not specific about music, but does not work well when there is a specific album you want to listen to. (Side note - I also use the sleep timer to automatically turn off music if I'm listening to something before sleep).

3) Alarm - I prefer using Echo over my phone to wake up in the morning.

4) Calendar - I listen to my schedule for the day while getting dressed.

I never got into the habit of using Siri as it requires more interaction and voice recognition success rate with my light accent is somewhere around 75%.

Echo on the other hand is awesome and picks up commands way better and knows more answers. My regular use cases are limited to timers, alarms, listening podcasts and dimming lights with Philips Hue.

I wrote my own skill to return arriving bus schedules. It was surprisingly easy with Lambda and I open sourced the code with a tutorial: https://github.com/jorilallo/muni-alexa-skill Disclaimer: code is somewhat sloppy as I wrote it in ~1h based on Amazon's tutorials :)

When it comes to skills, the Alexa app is horrible: very flaky and buggy, clearly Cortana (not native) and there's basically no discovery for skills. There's some great reddit threads where people list good skills.

My son uses it to answer random trivia questions. See: https://twitter.com/ethank/status/730809136972079105

Of note: for a great hardware product, it has terrible software.

I have an Echo as well as an Echo dot.

I use it mainly for managing smarthome devices, which is great. I control all the lights with it (Phillips Hue), as well as my AC/heating (Sensibo), remote controls (Harmony), outlets, and just about anything on IFTTT too.

It also manages my timers & alarms (which are also linked to my lighting system), music (great speakers on this thing), to-do list, and is useful for other random tasks you might google, e.g. kitchen measurement conversions.

It's really useful to me as is, but will get a lot better once custom skills are allowed to run in the background. It can also be kind of frustrating when Alexa doesn't hear you properly or do what you want, but yelling "ALEXA, SHUT THE FUCK UP!" and having it work, is quite satisfying.

I've got Echo sitting on my desk. Sometimes I ask her how much gas left in the car (via Automatic). Weather. Asking to remind me something only to remember next day that that thing is called "timer". When remember what I need to say, I'll ask her to set temperature on my ecobee to one I want.

As to Siri - I use it slightly more:

  - tell my wife I'm on my way. 
  - ask my wife what to buy in the grocery store.
  - wake me up tomorrow at 5am
  - delete all alarms
and many many more.

To sum up: since I don't use Google much, Echo is mostly useless to me. I can't do much with it, and getting mostly "Sorry I could not understand your question."

For timers and alarms: waking up, setting a time limit to an activity (e.g: reading), cooking, taking breaks or 15 min naps. ("Alexa, set a timer for 15 min", "Alexa, wake me up at 7 am").

I live near a stadium and traffic is heavily affected by it, so you can ask when is the next game to have an idea of how much traffic is going to be ("Alexa, when is the next <team name> game").

Also, weather. "Alexa, weather forecast".

You can connect it with your google calendar. "Alexa, when is my next event".

You can also order a cab from Uber, order a pizza from Domino, and other things.

In alexa.amazon.com there's a section called "Things to try". That can also answer this question.

I use mine much more than I expected. The number one thing I love is Pandora integration -- ours is outside the kitchen, so virtually every day I can holler for it to put on an appropriate Pandora station (with both hands dirty / full of dishes) or for it to set a timer.

I also updated a Python script that emulates Belkin Wemo devices so I can control HomeAssistant and various http enabled home automation devices around the house. For anyone interested: https://github.com/n8henrie/Fauxmo

In order of use:

- Timer

- Play specific radio programs or stations

- Play music I've uploaded or stuff on Prime

- Check weather

- Check upcoming calendar appointments

- Ask for definitions/encyclopedia entries (the logic is good ... I once asked how old Reagan was at the beginning of his first term and got the correct range)

- Checking game times or if a local team is playing that day

- Ask about local traffic conditions

I don't use the shopping list feature. I don't like opening the Alexa app, and my wife and I split shopping duties according to destination store.

I've looked at the IFTTT scripts but did not see any that looked appealing or useful for us.

I would love to see phone/messaging capabilities built into the Echo.

I use it to play white noise to soothe my newborn (hands free control is a great benefit when the baby is crying!).

Other than that, lots of use from the kitchen. As a timer, to listen to music, control my Hue lighting....

I also coded up a custom Skill to control my Anova via a little Bluetooth proxy I wrote[1].

[1] https://github.com/erikcw/pycirculate

Primary: fancy kitchen timer.

I wrote a skill that lets me ask what tech events are coming up, or are on a given day. Took half a day, and most of that time was spent figuring out aws lambda for the first time and writing the scraper for the event list I was pulling from. Now before I leave for work I can ask if anything is happening tonight.

I use it for exactly 3 things:

* Weather (do I need a jacket or umbrella?)

* Music (I never used Prime Music before)

* Checking how long until my train arrives. This is by far the most useful application for me; I use it every morning. I bought the Echo so that I could develop a Chicago train app (CTA Tracker), but there seems to be one for every major city now.

I use it to play music, set timers when cooking or when we need to leave, games for the kids, to spell words, ask what time it is in other time zones/cities, and to help enrich Amazon's passive listening analysis of my life so they can provide me with better shopping experience.

it's a good solution to listening to the radio for me, it'll tune in any fm or am station by call letters, so i can keep up with news and everything. its great to be able to tune in more than just the local stations. a young relative loves to hear new jokes on echo as well.

It's excellent if you have kids friend's coming over. We used to have to keep track of who had to go home when, but now they just come in, say "set an alarm for <time>" and go off and play.

Hmm, I have yet to explore any of the skills, but need to.

I tell it to control my Hue lights, and ask it jokes, and occasionally ask it for the weather - though Dark Sky is a lot better for weather data.

So it's not used a ton really.

A typical day:

"Alexa, what's on my calendar?" (Integrated with Google cal)

"Alexa, how is the commute?"

"Alexa, when do the Warriors play next?"

"Alexa, set an alarm for 7:30pm"

"Alexa, how much wood does a woodchuck chuck?"

I set a lot of kitchen timers and alarms. I also use it to play music.

It seems to work pretty well for my use cases. With alarms and timers, the accuracy is about 100%. With music, it's maybe 70%.

Music, timer, weather, lights, alarm, sport scores & schedules.

Music in bathroom .


Sleep music on timer at bedtime.

Traffic conditions before I leave for work .

News while I brush my teeth.

Mostly music, timers and weather. I don't use the questioning very much. I'd like to use it for talk radio/podcasts with something like Antenna Radio.

I listen to my flash briefing (news podcasts/summaries) every morning, and occasionally reorder bulk items like paper towels and toilet paper.

npr, baby rhymes, control nest, some skills occasionally, as a bluetooth speaker at parties, weather forecast, find nearby places

I use it with WeMos to toggle lights in my house. I lot more fun than using light switches :)

I'm sort of disappointed that no one uses Alexa to practice their poetry declamation.

One that I haven't seen mentioned: "Alexa, how do you spell X?"

All the lights in my apartment and alarm clock.

How does it do with non-native accents?

Works great with a slight East Indian accent!

It fills a spot in my Wish List.

Not at all


Hiding your affiliate code to Amazon using their link shortener doesn't make it OK. That kind of behavior is typically not welcome on HN.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact