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

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

Watch Ford's Sweaty-Butt Robot Put a Car Seat to the Test

iStock.com/gargantiopa
iStock.com/gargantiopa

Buyers tend to look at price, safety, and gas mileage when shopping for a car; a question that rarely comes up at the dealership is how well a car seat stands up to years of butt sweat. But even if it isn't a priority for car owners, the vehicle testers at Ford work to ensure the cars that leave the factory can accommodate the sweatiest passengers.

The secret to Ford's durable seats is a device called the Robutt. This video from the car company shows a Kuka robotic arm pushing a buttocks-shaped cushion into a car seat. To replicate a person sitting in the car after exercising, the dummy butt is heated to approximately human body temperate and pumped with half a liter of water. The average person produces about 0.7 to 1.5 liters of sweat in one hour of intense exercise, and people who are especially fit perspire 1.5 to 1.8 liters in the same time.

The sit test is repeated 7500 times over three days—simulating one decade of someone driving their sweaty behind home from the gym. If the surface of a car seat can make it through all that abuse without any wear and tear, the design is good enough for a Ford vehicle. Robutt-approved seats were first introduced in the 2018 Ford Fiesta and are now being built into all Ford vehicles in Europe.

You can watch the messy process play out below. Here are some more robots that, like the Robutt, were designed for oddly specific tasks.

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