A Mom Finds Cool Uses for the Amazon Echo

I am making dinner, a task I absolutely despise. As usual, I have put cooking off until my children repeatedly are asking when dinner will be ready. Normally, I slice vegetables with a frown on my face. But tonight, I’m happily swaying to the soft jazz that my Amazon Echo is playing.

My children gave my husband and me the Echo as our holiday gift. When I opened it up, I wasn’t sure what to think. It wasn’t a gift I had asked for, or one I knew much about. But when I tell Alexa to play soft jazz music for me while I cook, I realize that the Echo is the tech gadget I needed, but didn’t know I needed.

While cutting vegetables, I turn to my voice-controlled Echo and say, “Alexa, remind me to turn on the oven in 10 minutes.”  

I have decided that having a gadget around to verbally remind me of tasks is worth whatever my kids spent on the device. Recently, I set a reminder on my phone to tell me to buy concert tickets at the time they went on sale. But I got distracted with a work project, didn’t look at my phone, and got crappy seats when I went to buy tickets an hour later. That won’t happen again with Alexa around!

There are tons of things I can do with my new Amazon Echo that I am just discovering. I can control devices in my home, as well as stream music and podcasts. I can have Alexa answer questions, give me traffic, weather and news updates. When I am scrambling to get out the door in the morning, or get my sleepy teenager out the door, I can ask Alexa the time from pretty much anywhere in my home.

Like most working mothers, I want to be more organized in the new year. Since Amazon Echo can sync with my Google Calendar, I can ask Alexa to let me hear what meetings, appointments and kids activities I have each day. I can also use Alexa to create shopping lists and add to them as needed. No more forgetting appointments or writing shopping lists on scrap papers!

From CNET, I learned that Alexa can send notifications when my Amazon order or a Dominos pizza order goes out for delivery. I just need to enable notifications by opting in. That’s a cool feature for someone like me who LOVES Amazon Prime. I’m not sure how I managed before new printer ink could arrive at my home in just two days.

While reading a Business Insider post, I discovered that I can request an Uber car to pick me up just by asking Echo. I activated the Uber skill in the Alexa app, and now when I want to Uber, my Echo lets me know how far away the closest car is from my home. It even lets me know if there’s surge pricing.

Oh yes, there’s another cool feature that my Echo offers that I must let you know about. It’s called Alexa Flash Briefing. It’s the ideal feature for a news junkie like me. A flash briefing is a customizable news update that Alexa can read me. I can choose from a list of news sources (CNN is the most popular). All I have to do is ask “Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?” 

This morning, I read a news article that said vendors are about to show off the first augmented-reality glasses that can talk to the Echo and display information to the wearer’s field of view. I can’t wait to use that feature some day.

New tech gadget can be intimidating for those of us who aren’t techies. But I promise you, the Echo is easy to use and definitely life enhancing — and I probably haven’t even scratched the surface of its usefulness.

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