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5 Alexa skills to try this week

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Here’s a hand-picked selection of five popular, noteworthy, or new Alexa skills worth trying from the Alexa Skills Store on Amazon.com.

With the Lex bot framework and new Skills Management API, developers were given more ways to build Alexa skills. And this week we also learned that Amazon employees will now be placed in some Lowe’s stores in order to sell Amazon products, including the Echo and Echo Dot.

eHarmony

This skill can tell you essential facts about your eHarmony dating account and the profiles of people who might be interested in you, along with a summary of your account activity.

Dating and cooking aren’t the same thing, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but as with cooking, dating seems like the sort of skill that would be better with visuals. Visual Alexa skills are just a few months old, but I’m curious and a bit excited to see where things are headed once online dating companies figure out how to operate voice apps.

United

The United Airlines skill lets you check on a flight’s status or departure time but can also tell you whether your next flight has Wi-Fi or give you info about inflight movies, drinks, and entertainment. Passengers in the U.S. can even use Alexa to check into a flight.

Imagine what it’s going to be like when Alexa can understand the context of your next flight and connect you with your airline’s skill.

Ask Stubb

Show me someone who says they don’t want the person on their bottle of barbecue sauce to speak to them, and I’ll show you an absolute liar. C.B. Stubblefield is the man on the front of Stubb’s Legendary BBQ, which was started in Texas in 1968. Speak with Ask Stubb and you can hear him — in his own voice, with help from Alexa — give you barbecue tips, recipes, or play his favorite songs. Thing is, Stubb died in 1995. The skill actually uses old recordings of his voice.

A tip: “One thing about a brisket, ladies and gentlemen — I want you to remember this point — that most people think you cook with smoke, but smoke is for aroma. You need heat. You must always remember that.”

Ask for beef recipes and you can get ideas for how to prepare grilled stuffed peppers, whiskey steak, brisket, or pot roast. Other grilling recipes are available for pork, chicken, and fish.

Picniic

The Picniic Alexa skill is one of the first of its kind. Earlier this week, Amazon debuted List Events, which lets skills and Amazon to-do and shopping lists sync up. So say “Alexa, add ‘pick up grandma’ to my to-do list” and a reminder will be added to your Picniic account and the Alexa to-do list found in the Alexa iOS or Android app. Say “Alexa, what is on my shopping list?” and the information will be drawn from both.

Picniic is one of the first four Alexa skills to sync with Alexa lists.

Who Farted?

Skills featured in each entry of this weekly roundup are chosen because they’re popular or noteworthy, but every so often a skill makes this list just based on potential, and that’s how Who Farted ended up here. Truth be told, it’s not a great skill, but it could be, because anytime I get to say “Who farted,” I laugh a little. If I could ask Alexa “Who farted” when friends are over, that’d be great.

The description of this skill says it uses a smart speaker’s microphones to determine exactly who cut that cheese, but that’s not possible. Alexa is only made to listen when the Alexa wake word is spoken. Unfortunately, today this skill doesn’t say a whole lot beyond “Whoever smelt it, dealt it, and I’m not talking about a card game.” However, a string of clever responses to the question “Who farted?” could be wildly successful, at least to anyone who finds farting funny (you know who you are).

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