You Probably Didn't Know The Alexa In Your Home Can Do This

When Amazon released the Echo smart speaker in 2014, it also debuted the accompanying virtual assistant, Alexa, as per The Assistant. She was originally invented to mimic the computerized voice assistant found aboard Star Trek's Starship Enterprise and has now become a cultural icon. She has also led to the introduction of several more digital assistants, including Microsoft's Cortona and Apple's Siri. Alexa operates via specialized apps that are linked to Amazon smart speakers and devices. All you have to do is give her voice commands and she'll do her best to follow through. 

While most of Alexa's tasks started off administrative in nature, Amazon has improved the technology over the years to enhance her abilities. You may be surprised to learn that not only does she come with a pre-programmed array of functions, you can also personalize her skills and responses using the Amazon Alexa Skill Blueprints technology, as per Pocket-lint. The best part is that computer coding skills and app developing experience are not required. 

The Blueprints app provides templates that you can customize to teach Alexa new skills, according to Amazon. These templates cover the areas of learning, games, storytelling, and household-related tasks, such as making lists or chore charts. You can even program Alexa to respond in specific ways to questions. Programming is as simple as choosing a blueprint, filling in the blanks, and then putting the skill into action. You can then publish it for others to use as well.

Alexa has a lot of neat tricks up her sleeve

Programming your own Alexa skills is super cool, but did you know that Alexa features over 100,000 pre-programmed skills? Tom's Guide lists some of the most useful skills that truly make your life easier. Among these is Alexa Guard, which essentially acts as a security system for your home by using the smart speaker to tune into potentially alarming sounds. The app will then notify you of any suspicious activity, making your fears of a home break-in or house fire going unnoticed a thing of the past. Alexa is also great for helping you stay healthy with her nutrition tips function. Simply ask her for a tip and she'll dish one up using a reputable source.

Another impressive Alexa skill is her ability to help you out in an emergency with Ask My Buddy. She can notify your emergency contact that something is wrong, which can be a lifesaver if you are unable to call 911 in that moment. Alexa helps out around the house as well by controlling your thermostat and turning your lights on and off, as long as you have smart-enabled thermostats and lights. 

Lastly, Real Simple reveals that Alexa can provide entertainment for your pets when you're not home. Set up the Meow feature to allow Alexa to talk to your cats and keep them company, or enable the Dog Teaser function to provide entertaining sounds for your dog, such as barking and doorbell ringing.