Alexa is an intelligent voice assistant built into Amazon’s Echo speakers. She is designed to respond to voice commands and she can fulfill various tasks such as play music, shop, create to-do lists, provide weather, traffic, sports information and can even control your smart-home. She can be activated by first saying a wake word which is “Alexa” by default but this can be easily changed to “Echo,” “Amazon” or “Computer” to avoid confusion if your name also happens to be Alexa. Alexa has enjoyed a lot of attention since the Amazon Echo speakers were released in 2014 and a lot of it has something to do with the third-party skills that users can add to their smart speaker to increase its functionality.
What is an Alexa Skill?
Alexa skills are like apps on your smartphone. These are voice-driven capabilities that bring products and services to life. The Skills are offered from both Amazon and third-party developers and act as virtual apps and you can view the available skills in your Alexa app or online via Amazon’s Alexa portal.
Enabling skills in your Echo is like downloading apps to your phone except you do it with your voice. To “download” a new skill, you just say: “Alexa, enable [name of the skill]”
During its release, Alexa only had 13 skills and in the past four years, that number has grown to approximately 45,000! Your smart speaker can basically do anything and if you are wondering where to get started, here are our top 10 free Alexa skills that you should check out in 2018.
10 Best Free Alexa Skills
1. Where’s My Phone
If you are like me who loses my phone every time I set it down then this skill will come in handy for you. Now you can ask Alexa to find your phone without having to frantically check all rooms of your house! When you give the command to Alexa, the skill will launch a call to your mobile and it will start ringing from wherever it ended up. However, Alexa can’t help you if your phone is on silent mode.
2. Ask My Buddy
The AskMyBuddy Skill allows you to ask for help through Alexa if ever you are in an emergency situation and your phone is out of reach. When you say “Alexa Ask My Buddy to Send Help” the skill will send out alert messages sent by voice call, SMS text message, and email to one or multiple predetermined contacts.
Pat Coggins, the co-founder of AskMyBuddy.net, said, “Our vision is to get help to the end user no matter which device or service they may use. Many of our users already have an in-home alert device but do not always wear them around the house, and integrating their existing service with Ask My Buddy would provide the additional security of voice activation from anywhere in the home .”
Read Also: Top 25 Cool Things Alexa Can Do
3. Big Sky
Ever had a picnic that got canceled because the weather is not ideal or a day at the beach that got ruined because it started raining? Weather is unexpected, especially from where I’m from which makes listening to weather forecasts a needed part of my morning routine.
Big Sky is a weather forecasting Skill which uses Dark Sky API to give detailed information about the weather of your actual street address! You can ask Big Sky what the humidity is, what the temperature will be at a certain time, what the weather will be on a certain day of the week and even what the current wind speed is.
4. Uber or Lyft
Getting a cab nowadays is a lot easier through services like Uber or Lyft. With just an app, you are now able to get a ride in minutes. But Alexa takes it a step further because, through your Echo, you can now do all that with just your voice.
If you live somewhere with Uber or Lyft, you can ask Alexa to order a cab for you and she will arrange a ride right to your door. You can even ask “Alexa, ask Uber where’s my ride?” if it’s taking a long time to arrive.
5. Track by Nutritionix
Through this skill, you can ask Alexa for the detailed nutrition information of thousands of common foods and add foods to your personal food logs. This is extremely useful for those who are aiming to make healthier food choices.
“Our mission is to make it easier for people to understand what they eat. Through the launch of our Amazon Alexa skill, we are excited to enable millions of Amazon Alexa users to better understand and keep track of the foods they eat every day, ” said Matt Silverman, Director of Product, Nutritionix.
6. 7-Minute Workout
Most of us find it difficult to insert going to the gym in our hectic schedules but now, you can train Alexa to be your personal digital trainer by enabling the 7-minute workout skill. This skill combines several exercises in 7-minute intervals to help you be fit even when you are busy.
It’s recommended that adults get 75 vigorous or 150 minutes of exercise per week, so 10 to 22 sessions will help you fulfill that requirement.
Alexa will guide you in doing the workouts and in between sets, the session will pause and wait until you are ready to start again. If you’re not sure how to do a particular exercise, you can ask Alexa for help and she gives you a verbal description of the moves. If you are still unsure, you can open the app for the visual guides provided there.
7. Random Restaurant
“Where do you want to eat?”
“No, you decide.”
“No, YOU decide.”
I’m sure we are all familiar with how this one goes. Through the Random Restaurant Skill, you can ask Alexa to pick a place to eat. It saves time and relationships!
The Allrecipes Skill provides hands-free access to the recipe along with step-by-step instructions on how to prepare the meal. By enabling this skill, Alexa can find recipes that match your desired dish type, ingredients you have on hand, your available cooking time and your preferred cooking method.
This is definitely a much-appreciated help inside the kitchen.
9. Save the Food
The Ad Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have been working together on a campaign, Save the Food, to make it easier for consumers not to waste so much food. Through their efforts, the Save the Food skill to Amazon Alexa was made.
Your Echo speaker can give advice on smarter food storage, tips for evaluating whether something is still safe to eat, and tricks to revive food that’s past its prime.
10. Skill Finder
Alexa has thousands of skills in her library and by using the Skill Finder, you will discover new, cool skills to try. You can also learn about the latest skills by category by saying, “Alexa, tell Skill Finder to list the top skills in the games category” Or find the newest skills in the catalog by asking “Alexa, tell Skill Finder to give me the newest skills.”
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Make Your Own Alexa Skill
With the Amazon Skill Blueprints, anyone can create their own Alexa skill. These blueprints are templates for creating your own skills. This site houses over 20 different templates for creating everything from trivia games to your own interactive fairy tales.
To create a skill, all you have to do is go to blueprints.amazon.com and select a template to get started. You can use pre-filled content or make your own to add a personal twist to your skill. When you are done, simply hit the “create skill” button to finalize and your skill will be available on all of your Alexa-enabled devices. It takes a couple of minutes for it to roll out though, so be patient. Then lastly, trigger the skill by asking Alexa, as you would any other Alexa skill.
The main difference between Blueprint skills and Alexa skills is the scope. Skills that you make using Amazon’s blueprints will only be available to your Amazon account and will only work on your devices meaning, they won’t be available to the public unless you choose to share it with others.
You can do that by doing the following:
- Head over to the “Skills You’ve Made” page
- Select the skill you want to share
- Click the “Share With Others” link under the “Skill Actions” section
- Choose how you want to share the skill (email, text, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest)
Further, if you change your mind later on and want to keep the skill to yourself, you can revoke the access.
About Jeroen van Gils
Jeroen van Gils is a content writer at Olelo, a German based startup. Olelo is an innovative platform for Alexa Skills.