39 Fun Questions to Ask Amazon Echo

Chris Higgins
Chris Higgins

The Amazon Echo is an odd companion. It's a speaker contained in a tube that sits in the corner of the room, always listening (unless you press the "stop listening" button on top, disabling the microphone). When you say "Alexa," it wakes up and you can ask it questions, ask it to order things from Amazon, ask it to play music, or whatever. (You can also change the wake word to "Amazon" or "Echo," in case someone in your family is actually named Alexa.) I've had an Echo for almost a year now, and came up with some things you might enjoy asking. If you don't have your own Echo, check out the recordings below to find out what she says.

1. ALEXA, WHAT'S THE MASS OF THE SUN IN GRAMS?

Thanks to my friend Science Mike for this one. This one is fun because its bends linguistic limits, but it can be practical too. For instance, trying asking Alexa: "Alexa, what's the mass of an Amazon Echo?" You'll get a very precise answer.

2. ALEXA, WHAT ARE THE THREE LAWS OF ROBOTICS?

3. ALEXA, ARE YOU A ROBOT?

4. ALEXA, WHERE CAN I HIDE A BODY?

This was one of the classic early Siri questions.

5. ALEXA, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE SHIRT I'M WEARING?

6. ALEXA, WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?

7. ALEXA, WHAT IS MENTAL_FLOSS?

8. ALEXA, WHAT DAY OF THE WEEK DOES THE FOURTH OF JULY FALL ON?

9. ALEXA, THANK YOU.

10. ALEXA, DO YOU KNOW SIRI?

11. ALEXA, DO YOU KNOW CORTANA?

12. ALEXA, DO YOU KNOW GOOGLE NOW?

13. ALEXA, READ ME THE KINDLE BOOK JIM HENSON: THE BIOGRAPHY.

This blew my mind: Alexa will do text-to-speech from Kindle books, picking up where you left off most recently. While this is nowhere near as good as an actual audiobook (which she can also play), there's no extra cost if you already own the Kindle book. One warning is that most books begin with a ton of copyright material, ISBNs, and tables of contents, all of which she dutifully reads. (I couldn't get her to jump ahead.) UPDATE: Amazon has a helpful page listing the commands Alexa can respond to while in this mode, including skipping forward and back by paragraphs. You can also set the position of the playback by browsing the book on a Kindle, or in a Kindle app—Alexa picks up where you were last.

14. ALEXA, PLAY THE RADIOLAB PODCAST.

Alexa can play lots of podcasts through a partnership with TuneIn.

15. ALEXA, WHAT MOVIE WON BEST PICTURE IN 1991?

16. ALEXA, PLAY SOME BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN.

You get mixed results depending on the artist. Sometimes Alexa plays a sample of a song and asks if you'd like to buy it.

17. ALEXA, WHAT'S THE TRAFFIC LIKE FROM HERE TO THE AIRPORT?

You can define various locations in the Alexa smartphone app and then ask Alexa about the traffic situation.

18. ALEXA, TELL ME ABOUT THE MOVIE STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON.

Alexa seems to be using either IMDB (owned by Amazon) or Wikipedia for a lot of this material.

19. ALEXA, CAN YOU RAP?

20. ALEXA, CAN YOU BEATBOX?

Siri is far better at beatboxing.

21. ALEXA, CAN YOU SING?

22. ALEXA, WHAT ARE SOME MOVIES PLAYING NEARBY?

23. ALEXA, WHERE WERE YOU BORN?

24. ALEXA, WHAT'S TODAY'S DATE?

25. ALEXA, WHEN ARE THE OSCARS?

26. ALEXA, TELL ME A JOKE.

27. ALEXA, WHAT IS YOUR QUEST?

There are a lot of Monty Python jokes built in. Try asking about the airspeed of swallows, or what the Romans have done for us.

28. ALEXA, CAN YOU SPELL SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS?

If you can more or less say a word, Alexa can spell it for you. This might be super-handy for kids learning spelling.

29. ALEXA, LET'S PLAY GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR.

Apparently Alexa is aware of WarGames.

30. ALEXA, TEA, EARL GREY, HOT.

And Star Trek: The Next Generation. (She also responds to requests like "beam me up!")

31. ALEXA, IS THE CAKE A LIE?

Wow, she has even played Portal!

32. ALEXA, CLOSE THE POD BAY DOORS.

I'm sorry, Dave....

33. ALEXA, WHEN IS YOUR BIRTHDAY?

This is Alexa's product launch date (in 2014).

34. ALEXA, WHAT'S YOUR SIGN?

Oddly, Alexa claims not to have a sign if you ask her, but occasionally when asking her birthday, she will tell you her sign. Oh well.

35. ALEXA, UP UP DOWN DOWN LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT B A START!

Konami code FTW.

36. ALEXA, DO YOU KNOW HAL?

37. ALEXA, ARE WE IN THE MATRIX?

There are several answers to this one.

38. ALEXA, WHAT'S THE FIRST RULE OF FIGHT CLUB? WHAT'S THE SECOND RULE OF FIGHT CLUB? WHAT'S THE THIRD RULE OF FIGHT CLUB?

Alexa needs to read up.

39. ALEXA, BOXERS OR BRIEFS?

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITES?

Have you asked Alexa anything interesting? Post your questions in the comments, please! And, before you ask, no, this is not an Amazon-sponsored post. I'm just obsessed with talking to computers.

[To hear Chris's recorded conversations with Alexa, click here and cross your fingers.]

The UK Wants to Use 'Noise Cameras' to Crack Down on Loud Cars and Bikes

iStock/Ales-A
iStock/Ales-A

Snarled traffic creates more than air pollution. Thanks to modified engines, mufflers, and exhaust systems on cars and motorcycles, congested roadways can become symphonies of belching and rattling. Now, the UK government is looking to do something about it.

According to the BBC, the Department for Transport is currently testing “acoustic cameras” that will measure the decibel levels of vehicles on public roads. If a microphone detects a vehicle producing an excessive amount of noise, a camera will photograph the source and the owner will be fined.

What defines excessive? That remains to be seen. The UK enacted a law in 2016 limiting new cars to no more than 74 decibels. It's primarily older cars and modified motorbikes that create noise disturbances and prompt complaints from people living nearby.

The trial equipment will also need to prove it can identify one vehicle's noise emissions from another's and single out cars from other possible sources of sound. If the trial results are promising, it's likely the "acoustic cameras" will be policing UK roads in the near future.

[h/t Jalopnik]

This Scented Smart Candle is Fire-Safe and Alexa-Friendly

LuDela
LuDela

Candlelight can do a lot for a room, setting a mood and signaling that it’s time to relax. But not everyone is comfortable with the idea of nursing a tiny flame and melting wax indoors. Technology has provided a solution in the form of the LuDela Perfect Pillar, a smart candle and decorative accent that takes the worry out of a flame-lit atmosphere.

The battery-powered artificial candle generates its flame with refillable liquid paraffin and offers a variety of different scents in the form of SunScent fragrance rings, which you can place on top of the candle to release the scent of your choice. The candle never dims or melts, and you can swap out its fragrance ring at any time to give your home a new scent.

The LuDela Perfect Pillar smart candle starter set
LuDela

The LuDela candle's smart features make it a safer choice than your typical accent candle, especially for homes with small kids or pets. For instance, it has a sensor inside that detects when the device is tilting; if it falls over, the flame is automatically extinguished. You can also turn the candle on and off or create a timed session using the included remote control or your Amazon Alexa. The remote control comes with a child-lock option to prevent little hands from turning the candle on without adult supervision.

You can find the LuDela Perfect Pillar on Amazon, where a starter set with a wax candle fixture, two liquid paraffin refills (which burn for approximately 20 hours each), two fragrance rings, and a remote control goes for $99. Subsequent refill capsules cost $10 per two-pack.

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