There has been great interest in the Amazon Echo since it has been launched and the Echo can do many things out of the box when it is set up such as: set timers and alarms and play radio stations. It is also possible to extend the functionality of the Amazon Echo by enabling its skills. There are thousands of these, but many are experimental, so I thought I’d suggest a few that are really useful. Here are 3 skills that I have found useful or entertaining.

‘My Talking Newspaper’ skill. This is a skill that lets you listen to local talking newspapers that are available in the UK. It also lets you listen to the Infosound magazine, the Dot to Dot podcast which has hundreds of reviews of skills and RNIB Connect radio. To enable it say “Alexa, enable My Talking Newspaper skill” and after this, to use the skill say “Alexa, open My Talking Newspaper”.

‘The Daily Log’ skill allows you to make notes with your voice. You just speak the note such as “Here is John Smith’s phone number. It’s 02073331333”. You can then use your voice to search for John Smith once the skill is open by saying “Search for John Smith”. You can search for recordings on a particular day or for particular words. This is a powerful skill, particularly for recording notes longer than a sentence or so. To enable it say “Alexa, enable Daily Log Skill” then to use it after that say “Alexa, open Daily Log”.

The third skill I want to highlight is called ‘Path of Discovery: Europa’. It’s an interactive Sci-Fi game. This skill demonstrates great use of sound effects to enrich the experience of using the Amazon Echo. The tasks are not too hard and there is plenty of help through the game. So even if Sci-Fi is not your thing, this skill is worth giving a go just for fun! Like all the skills mentioned here, it’s free so there’s nothing to lose. To enable it say “Alexa, enable Path of Discovery: Europa” and then to open it say “Alexa, open Path of Discovery: Europa”.

Lastly, if anyone has come across Amazon Echo skills that they find useful, feel free to tell us by sending an email to [email protected]

Written by Graham Page, Assistive Technology Adviser