According to the company, hundreds of thousands of people unwrapped an Alexa enabled smart assistant this holiday season. And many more already have one, in their home, on their phone, and, thanks to one of the more recent additions to the Amazon Echo line, in their car.
The fact is, if you want to add some extra productivity to your day in 2020 you should consider adding one to your desk as well, as Alexa can be taught skills that can do just that. Here's a look at some of the most useful.
Beginning in 2017, Amazon made it possible to call mobile and landline numbers for free, enhancing a capability that previously only allowed using your Echo as a phone when calling other people who own the device. There’s also a handy Conference Manager skill from Vonage that lets you dial into conference calls with your voice. It's one of the best Echo skills you can teach Alexa for avoiding feeling rushed before a meeting.
It extracts details from Google Calendar, including meeting numbers and participant codes, saving you the trouble of copying and pasting those necessities into a phone or app interface. Cisco WebEx and GoToMeeting are among the providers the skill currently supports, with future updates planned.
Do you often feel like your smartphone harms your productivity more than it helps it? If so, you’re not crazy. Research proves that smartphones hinder productivity, even without active usage. However, you probably can’t avoid some smartphone-centric tasks, like sending texts.
Scryb (pronounced “scribe”) can send text messages using an Echo device without your smartphone. After activating the skill, say “Alexa, open Scryb.” When Alexa asks you for the phone number, speak it out, including the area code.” You can then say, “Alexa, ask Scryb what number is set” to ensure it’s correct.
Then, speak your text message. This skill recognizes short ones better than long ones. and Scryb doesn’t allow people to reply to the texts it sends. But, it’s useful for confirming things or giving employees reminders, such as “Don’t forget to call Mr Big at noon today” without getting distracted by your smartphone or email.
If you’re not careful, an intention to read “just one email” could turn into an hour spent getting bogged down in your inbox’s often not very useful content. That is unless you enable the MailBot skill. It works with Gmail and reads entire messages to you, making it possible to do other things while staying up to date about the newest emails you've received.
Rain Sounds for Sleep, Relaxation and Focus
Researchers at New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that playing nature sounds in an office environment improved the moods and productivity levels of employees. In that instance, the scientists used the sounds of a flowing stream, but a soundtrack of falling rain should work similarly.
The Rain Sounds for Sleep, Relaxation and Focus skill does what its name suggests by playing rain sounds in 30-minute intervals. Alternatively, you can make the track play in a loop or stop it with a voice command.
Statistics say Americans waste an average of $1,200 in time and fuel costs each year due to traffic conditions and even more in the most congested areas. The I’m Driving skill is one you can use just before dashing out the door to head to your destination.
The skill allows Alexa to provide you with an ETA and offers a suggested route. If Alexa says it’ll take longer than expected, you can be proactive by changing your plans and leaving at a different time or setting expectations and telling a person you may be late.
Not sure how to enable Alexa's many skills? This quick tutorial should help.