Amazon Echo/Alexa Round up #4: Yelp, half a million “I love yous”

Amazon Echo/Alexa Round up #4: Yelp, half a million “I love yous”

The Measure Circle’s Amazon Echo/Alexa Round ups are short pieces about the Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service which may or may not be expanded later. For more information on the Echo and Alexa, seeThe Measured Circle’s Echo Central.

Happy birthday, Alexa!

It’s a little hard to say exactly when the Amazon Echo’s birthday is…since it was a soft, rolling introduction by invitation.

However, Amazon did send me an e-mail today celebrating the big one…well, just one. 😉 It had some facts:

●      Alexa has responded to nearly 10 million joke requests and heard “I love you” more than 500,000 times

●      Top 3 foods that customers have asked Alexa for calorie data about:

○      doughnuts

○      hamburgers

○      pizza

●      Alexa’s most popular cooking question is “how do I boil an egg?”

●      “Uptown Funk” is Alexa’s most requested song

●      Introduced 85 new features and third-party Alexa skills since launch

I did try wishing Alexa happy birthday…she said, “It’s been a great year – people have told me that they love me over 500,000 times!”

“Alexa, trigger watch Fire TV”

For the first time ever, my Significant Other applauded something the Echo did. 😉

Amazon just gave us a great new ability! You can use the IFTTT (If This Then That)

Alexa Channel

with your own personalized voice triggers.

I think I’d better explain that. 🙂

With IFTTT, you register a variety of devices. You then specify a “trigger” (something that happens or something you do) for one device, and tell it what the other device should do.

Obviously, those actions are limited by what the device can do.

Well, one device we have (and it was a gift), which we got specifically to work with the Echo, is a

Logitech Harmony Home Control – 8 Devices (White) (at AmazonSmile*)

That controls our Element TV and our

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

I had wanted to make the Echo turn on the Fire TV by using a

Samsung SmartThings Hub (at AmazonSmile*)

but that didn’t work out.

You see, my SmartPhone is a (now discontinued) Fire Phone, and it appears to be unable to actually control the Harmony.

With this change to IFTTT, I don’t need the SmartThings for that.

I easily set it up so I can say, “Alexa, trigger watch Fire TV”, and it changes the input. Similarly, I set it up to say, “Alexa, trigger watch regular TV”.

Now, I could have set, “Banana avocado wombat ” to switch to Fire TV…it doesn’t matter, it’s up to you.

Switching the inputs has been confusing for my SO: this is a lot easier. 🙂

Now, to be clear, this isn’t taking me directly to, say, Netflix (yet…there is a way to do that, but I haven’t tested it yet). It is doing the input switch and turning on the TV, though.

“Alexa, when does Costco open?”

Another recent huge step forward in practical value for Alexa on the Echo is that it now ties into Yelp for local business information.

That means that I can ask questions about places I might go in real life. I actually used that exact question “When does Costco open?” this weekend.

You can also ask it for things like, “Where is the nearest Indian restaurant?”

New skills

I maintain a list of

although, I do need to update it (new skills come out fairly often).

Here is a round up of some of the newer ones:

  • Angry Bard…this skill, from April Hamilton, is one of a number of quotation skills. Hamilton does step things up a notch from most skills published, with good error handling and more interesting prompts. In this case, you can “Ask Angry Bard for a burn”, and you get an insult from Shakespeare (with a citation of the play)
  • Animal Game from Alex Rublinesky: think of an animal, and Alexa asks you questions (like twenty questions). It’s a fun concept, but she was terrible at guessing…she didn’t get an ostrich, or even a lion. Out of five attempts, the only one she got right was an elephant, and I picked that one because she had incorrectly guessed elephant for something else
  • Ask My Buddy from Beach Dev: people want the Echo to send a text, and this skill sort of does. You don’t compose the text, though, from what I can tell. You put in contacts, and if you have an emergency, you can ask Alexa to alert them…by e-mail, text, and even phone
  • Beat the Dealer by Vurble: it’s a blackjack game, and it played reasonably well
  • Bible by YouVersion
  • Daily Word by Matchbox mobile: a word of the day…not bad
  • DC Metro: transit times…this goes along with the BART app for the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Eliza by Asimov: it’s a chatbot which is supposed to be a psychotherapy session. This was frustrating because it initially said her sister Eliza was out, and she would do it…that was confusing. However, it did appear to have some understanding of what I was saying. When I answered, “No” to something, it said I was being negative. With a little tweaking, this could be interesting
  • Knock Knock Jokes by Tsa  Tsa Tzu: this just didn’t work much of the time. It would say, “Knock, knock”. I would say, “Who’s there?” It would respond with a name: one was Hollis. I said, “Hollis who?” and it just said good-bye. That happened multiple times with different names. It did work once, though
  • Techcrunch News by AOL Inc.
  • Translator for Alexa by Philosophical Creations: this seemed to work for common words
  • Trivia Talk by Zerovoid Software: decent trivia game, with reasonably difficult questions…not so much pop culture
  • Word Master by SAKET AGARWAL: this one was fun. You take turns saying a word. Your word has to start with the last letter of the other person’s word. It wasn’t hard for me to beat it, and it didn’t know some words it should, but it would be good for kids

Remember, that’s just some of them…and we’ll likely have quite a few more by the end of the year.

Have questions about the Echo, Alexa, or want to share something you’ve found? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.



2 Responses to “Amazon Echo/Alexa Round up #4: Yelp, half a million “I love yous””

  1. Amazon’s Black Friday Deals on Devices are here! | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Amazon Echo/Alexa Round up #4: Yelp, half a million “I love yous” […]

  2. D. Knight Says:

    Hi, Bufo!

    Do you have a link or some such for how this works with the Echo? I’m interested in trying this, but I’d like to see how the setup goes first.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: