Hey Google, write this article for me. No? Okay, good—my career’s not in jeopardy yet! As smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home continue to grow in popularity, so do their functions and capabilities. Smart speakers can control our lighting, turn our TVs on with a voice command, and even control the locks to our doors. As the technology continues evolving, smart speakers have become capable of much more than what’s listed on the tin. Some little-known tips and tricks can truly help you get the most out of your Amazon Echo or Google Home.
1. Control All the Things
Over the past year, smart speaker use in the home has increased by seven percent in homes with internet service, and every day, more devices, appliances, and gadgets are added to the “internet of things.” Though Amazon Echo and Google Home work out of the box with a number of smart home devices, not all services and devices are natively supported.
Luckily, there’s a solution: both devices support IFTTT (IF This Then That, a third-party service). How it works: “If this [command is spoken], then [do that action].” Only you dictate what that command and action are.
IFTTT allows you to create “applets” and “recipes” which pair your device to an app or command that isn’t natively supported (or supported in a way you prefer). You can use IFTTT to turn your lights off when it’s time for bed, tell Amazon Echo to begin brewing coffee, or start your vacuum cleaner with Google Home.
IFTTT expands the functionality of your smart speakers to more fully encompass the smart home concept.
2. Help out in the Kitchen
Whether you’re a Gordon Ramsay clone or the act of cooking just makes you curse like him, both Amazon Echo and Google Home can serve as your virtual sous chef. Alexa and the Google Assistant can read recipes aloud, convert units of measurement, and maintain separate timers for every dish you’re cooking.
You can also maintain your shopping list as you cook. Happen to use the last of the bread for an afternoon grilled cheese? Simply say, “Alexa/Hey Google, add bread to my shopping list,” so you won’t forget to grab a loaf during your next grocery run.
Amazon Echo and Google Home helps you in the kitchen by keeping your food where it belongs—in a pan or dish, not smeared across an expensive screen by your greasy or sticky fingers.
3. Play Games with You
Amazon Echo and Google Home are loaded with games, easter eggs, and fun commands. Whether you’re playing a board game like Monopoly or an impromptu game of Dungeons & Dragons, both Alexa and Google Assistant will roll dice for you—even dice with a specialized number of sides.
The Echo and Google Home can also keep you informed about your favorite team’s score or standing in a league, which is quite helpful if you’re away from the TV or arguing with a friend about why this is your team’s year. Make sure you never miss a game again by asking, “Alexa/Hey Google, when is the next Cowboys game?” and then “Add to my calendar.”
“Easter eggs,” or secret commands, are hidden in both Amazon Echo and Google Home. Try asking, “Alexa, what is the meaning of life?” or “Hey Google, sing me happy birthday.” Play around with different questions or requests (or cheat and look up some lists) for a quick laugh or to kill some time.
4. Send Info to Your Phone
Have you ever been preparing to head off to a job interview in a part of town you’re not familiar with, but you’re running late while trying to tie your tie just right? Google Home can send directions straight to your phone with the command, “Hey Google, send this to my phone,” so you don’t have to spend precious time scurrying to pull up a map after you’re dressed.
Currently, this command only supports a handful of features and has the added caveat of requiring a device on which Google Assistant is activated. Additionally, both Google Home and your phone must be signed into the same Google account.
While Amazon Echo does not support a similar feature, you can create an IFTTT recipe to send notifications and information from Alexa to your phone or tablet.
5. Operate as an Intercom System
Amazon Echo and Google Home both support an intercom or broadcast function. This allows you to broadcast a custom message (and in the case of Google Home, additional presets and sounds) to other Echoes or Homes you’ve set up.
Google Home will broadcast to all devices signed into the same Google account, whereas Amazon Echo requires some setup beforehand—and can only broadcast to one device at a time. First, you must give each Echo device its own unique name (such as “kitchen”) and then enable the “drop-in” function on the Alexa app and each individual device.
As a bonus, Amazon Echo and Google Home can broadcast from their relevant phone apps to your network of devices. If you want to tell your family you’re stuck in traffic and will be late, fire up the app on your phone, say the appropriate voice command, and your message will be broadcast to your devices at home. That’s some Oz sh*t, right there.
Amazon and Google—as well as Microsoft, Apple, and other competing giants—continue to innovate and create cool new ways to use smart speakers as the building block of a modern smart home concept. As an estimated 55 percent of U.S. households use smart devices by 2022, time will tell what exciting new tricks these devices become capable of performing.