11 Amazing Alexa-Compatible Products That Obey Your Voice Commands

Amazon's home assistant
Amazon's home assistant
Amazon

Amazon's Alexa platform—the main selling point of its Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers—is turning the sci-fi fantasy of the voice-controlled home into a reality. Sync these gadgets to your Echo and start barking orders at your locks, your lights, and even your Wi-Fi router. 

1. GARAGE DOOR OPENER; $95

Garage door opener

Is it lazy to ask Alexa if the garage is closed, instead of stepping outside to check? Of course, but that simple, nightly confirmation—with no slippers or bathrobe required—is exactly why a smart garage door opener could become one of your most cherished gadgets.

Find it: Amazon

2. THERMOSTAT; $245

Nest thermometer

The initial appeal of internet-connected thermostats was the ability to adjust and program temperatures with a phone. Alexa takes that a step further, letting you turn the heat up or down with your voice, or even let the thermostat know you're leaving, so there's no delay in switching to an energy-saving “away” mode.

Find it: Amazon

3. LOCK; $280

Touchscreen handles

The appeal here is similar to the garage door opener: instant, voice-activated peace of mind. You can ask Alexa to check that your smart lock is engaged, and to lock it if it isn't already. And not to worry, a random line of TV dialogue won't leave the door unlocked, since you can't actually disengage the lock via Alexa voice command.

Find it: Amazon

4. LIGHT BULB; $70

Smart lightbulb

Add smart LED bulbs to your Wi-Fi network, and wow guests with one of the cooler, the-future-is-now Alexa tricks: asking the lights to turn on, turn off, or go dimmer or brighter.

Find It: Amazon

5. WALL SOCKET; $40

Smart white wall socket

Though not quite as fun as a full-fledged smart bulb, a smart plug is often more affordable, and gives you basic voice control (no dimming, for example) over whatever's plugged into it. This usually means a lamp, but it's possible to cut the power to other devices—such as a TV—in dramatic, hands-free fashion.

Find it: Amazon

6. BLUETOOTH LOCATOR; $28

Orange Bluetooth locator

The premise of Bluetooth locators is ingenious: You clip or stick a tiny doodad to the objects you can never seem to keep track of, then use your phone to trigger a telltale ping the next time said object goes missing. But what happens when it's your phone that's gone AWOL? By syncing trackers to your Echo, you can ask Alexa to sound their alarm, no phone or other intermediary device needed.

Find It: Amazon

7. WI-FI ROUTER; $160

A wi-fi router with three antennae

Ok, this is an obscure use of Alexa, but also a pretty neat one. A select number of Wi-Fi routers can respond to voice commands that range from the very nerdy (asking for current Wi-Fi settings) to the genuinely handy, such as rebooting the router to clear up random connection issues, or activating a guest network when friends and family drop by.

Find It: Amazon

8. ESSENTIAL OIL DIFFUSER; $57

Blue oil diffuser

Like most smart appliances, internet-connected essential oil diffusers tend to require their own, purpose-built phone or tablet app to be controlled remotely. But when company shows up without warning, instead of fumbling through an app on the way to the door, you can just ask Alexa to get the aromatherapy party started (though not in those exact words).

Find It: Amazon

9. SPRINKLER CONTROLLER; $200


Smart sprinkler controllers are a minor miracle, letting you fine-tune when and how much water you apply to your lawn and/or garden. Alexa makes that interaction a little less fussy, accepting quick commands to pause the sprinklers for a set amount of time, activate specific zones, or delay the entire system because of rain.

Find It: Amazon

10. VIDEO DOORBELL; $200


The interaction between Alexa and video doorbells is small, but indispensable. You can ask Alexa to take a picture of the front door, or start recording live video, in case that strange noise outside is worth investigating or documenting.

Find It: SkyBell

11. SMART HOME HUB; $48


We saved the best, but also the most complicated Alexa-compatible gadget, for last. Many smart home products either require a central, Wi-Fi-connected hub to be controlled remotely, or are simply easier to control with one (meaning you can use a single app instead of multiple ones). Smart hubs, in other words, are for true smart home believers, and Alexa only increases the appeal of these device-wrangling products. A synced-up Echo allows for a wide array of voice commands, from controlling lights to activating the air-conditioning, all without reaching for a phone or tablet. For now, this is the closest you'll get to the voice-activated robo-houses that science fiction promised us.

Find It: Amazon

Twitter Bug Accidentally Alerted Users When Someone Unfollowed Them

iStock/bigtunaonline
iStock/bigtunaonline

Social media networks may notify you every time your former high school classmate has a birthday, but there's one piece of information most sites choose not to share with users. When someone unfriends or unfollows you, platforms like Facebook and Instagram will save you the pain of knowing about it. This is normally the standard on Twitter, but thanks to a new bug, some Twitter users have received notifications when people unfollowed them, Vice reports.

For several days in June, many Twitter users reported receiving push notifications on their phones every time one their followers removed them from their feed. The notifications didn't clearly reference the awkward situation: The bug told users that someone had “followed them back” when they had actually hit the unfollow button. People eventually caught on to what was really happening.

The bug apparently didn't affect all users, so if you unfollowed someone on Twitter in the past week or so, there's a chance they didn't notice. Though if they really wanted to know, there are third-party apps that show Twitter users who unfollowed them.

According to Fast Company, Twitter has resolved the issue and users no longer risk getting their feelings hurt every time they check their notifications. So feel free to continuing curating the list of people you follow in privacy.

[h/t Vice]

This Amazingly Simple Google Docs Hack Is a Game-Changer

iStock/ardaguldogan
iStock/ardaguldogan

The seconds it takes to manually open a Google Doc, Sheet, or Slide on your computer are short compared to the time you spend working in them. But if you're already feeling stressed or tempted to procrastinate, the process of going to Google Drive, selecting New, and opening a blank document can be annoying enough to disrupt your workflow. For people looking to maximize as much of their time as possible, Google introduced a hack late last year that creates a new Doc, Sheet, or Slide in seconds.

According to TechCrunch, you can launch a blank Google Doc in less time than it takes to type out a full web address. If you're already signed into your Google account, simply go to your web browser, type in doc.new (no www. required) and hit Enter to go to your fresh, new document. For Google Slides, do the same for slide.new, and for Sheets, use sheet.new. It doesn't matter if you pluralize the name of the app: Typing doc.new or docs.new will bring you to the same place.

Google owns the .new web domain, which allowed it to create these convenient hacks for its users. If you're a frequent user of Google's applications, you can bookmark the addresses so they pop up in your browser suggestions with just a couple keystrokes.

The new document shortcut is pretty straightforward, but there are several more Google Docs features that make life more convenient for users in unexpected ways, including features for automatically transcribing audio and outlining documents.

[h/t TechCrunch]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER