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    • I finally got an Alexa powered Sonos Beam for the kitchen, where I've been spending a lot of time lately. My hands are tied up while cooking and it is a pain to drop what I'm doing, wipe my hands, and hunt for a skip song button. It is for simple tasks like that I bought Alexa. Switching songs, podcasts and audiobooks, while controlling the volume is where Alexa is proving to be indispensable.

      Originally that is pretty much all I needed it for, but now I'm on a quest to find other useful things I could do with Alexa. One of the latest unexpected discoveries was the fact that it works with Nest thermostat. I bought it years before Alexa was even announced, so I wasn't expecting it to cooperate. Now I just yell at Alexa to set the temperature from across the room and boom... it is magically turns up the dial.

      Even though Sonos Beam doesn't have Bluetooth, I figured out how to connect it as an audio source. Now my iMac can stream audio through it, instead of built in speakers. All I had to do was to enable Sonos in the Airplay settings. ๐Ÿ™Œ

      I haven't dabbled into the routines yet, which is a sequence of commands that Alexa executes, but I will soon. For now, baby steps...

      One of the side-effects of interacting with Alexa is that I find myself sounding commanding and demanding. I hope that does not spill over to my interactions with real people.

      What are some of the useful things and commands you use to get the most out of Alexa?

    • We do a lot of kitchen and children-related timer stuff (it's kinda futile to argue with a robot telling you your time is up :) ). All the usual suspects like weather forecasts, and I also have it hooked up to my Netatmo weather station and sensors in a couple rooms (and some more of home control stuff). I don't really have practical use for its commute check but I imagine it might be nice for people who depend on changing fortunes of traffic and/or public transportation to get to work in time. We listen to Spotify occasionally (my recommendations and top charts there are irreversibly ruined by preteen choices and lullabies :) ). When our younger son was just a baby, we used the "Drop In" functionality to listen in on him sleeping in the bedroom from the living room, and it is very occasionally useful to check into the living room from my phone on the go, to clarify some shopping question or make sure homework is done before playstation gets t be used :) speaking of shopping, we keep trying to get into the habit to use Alexa's shopping list, but it's not sticking so far, mostly because we are just too chaotic at shopping. For the little kid, we also have some random "skills" enabled mostly around animal sounds ("Alexa, sound like a whale", etc, the choice is surprisingly wide), and I have some space geekery "skills" enabled so I can find out by voice when is the next SpaceX launch and such. You can ask her to read out Wikipedia articles and do some simple conversions (this also usually relates to cooking stuff). Think that's about it.

    • I didn't know about the "Drop In" functionality or "Announce" for that matter! Thank you for pointing these out.

      I'm a bit uneasy about ordering anything directly by using voice, so I'll start with just adding certain things I need to the cart first. This way I don't forget about them. However, I will still order them via my phone or computer. There is something about visually double checking what I'm spending my money on and if that is in fact what I need.

      Now that you've mentioned about geeky stuff you can do with Alexa, I'm going to go on a deep dive to hunt down the Alexa skills that I'm clearly missing to make it truly personalized. I guess not many of my guest will be impressed if I ask Alexa to tell me what the weather is like. They will be impressed, however, if Alexa can tell me the when the next SpaceX launch is. Hopefully it will blow their mind as much as it would mine!

      I'll keep on exploring and elevating my Alexa skills ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • We don't do any voice purchasing either, in fact, I have it disabled. We don't have Amazon here anyway, so no Prime and no impulse or utility buying :) and I am skeptical of enabling voice controlled expenses when no real authentication and authorization exist yet.

      I'm working on hooking it up to Home Assistant smart home control software as both input and PA, too