Ask Alexa to guide you through a seven minute workout or get Google to organise your bedtime routine - from beauty how-tos to hands-free help with a new baby, here are the voice assistant hacks that get you ahead
The Black Friday tech offers have been rolling in for what seems like an eternity (how’s your inbox holding up?), but before your eyes glaze over entirely, keeping a look out for a good deal on a smart home device could offer up far more opportunities than simply checking the weather or setting a timer to make sure your fish fingers don’t burn, although both of the above are clearly handy. Here some ideas for making your voice assistant work harder while you don’t lift a finger.
Alexa, boost my career
Streamline your morning routine
Because we’re basically living in an episode of The Jetsons now, a simple alarm clock won’t cut it. Whether you struggle with getting up for work/life or love to have everything just so, both Google Assistant and Amazon Echo now have dedicated morning routine planners that spring into action on command. You can customise your own personal routines in the relevant smart device settings, but simply saying “good morning” to Google can prompt it to get busy on nine different actions, from turning on the lights with Philips Hue to curating an energising Spotify playlist and briefing you on the day ahead. Amazon’s Echo can do the same when you instruct it to “start my day” and you can customise the four basic steps by adding eight addition morning rituals, which can include cranking the heating up on chilly mornings and even putting the kettle on if it’s linked up to a Smart Plug (from £24.99). Both Google and good old Alexa can stop you being late to work too...
Reroute your commute
As well as delivering real-time traffic and public transport information to your exact location, both Google Home and Amazon Echo can tailor your commute to your movements and the state of the roads/tubes on any given morning, and you can even ask Alexa to order you an Uber by voice command if things are looking really hairy. Also, if you’ve dashed out of the door and left the lights on or the heater still going, integration with Philips Hue, Nest or any smart switches allows you to turn these off when you’re on the go, which is peace of mind from a paying the bills POV.
Boost productivity in meetings
Now you’re at work, Alexa for Business is on hand to act as your office PA (if your boss gives sign-off of course). The professional incarnation of Alexa can seamlessly streamline calendars, book meeting rooms, order printer paper as soon as it’s running low via Amazon Prime, invite employees to meetings whether they’re working in the office, remotely or from home and give you business stats and plans instantly when in said meetings. Say adios to tedious admin.
Learn a language
Enrich your CV or simply prep for that sabbatical you’re planning on - Amazon Echo speaks a whopping 30 languages while Google Home boasts 28, so whether it’s on the spot translation or a more leisurely chat and pronunciation lesson, both will get you fluent faster than a textbook ever could. Start using your voice assistant around the house solely in the language your learning once you’re up to scratch. A friend of mine has their parrot communicating with Google Home, so there’s your benchmark.
Never miss a (news)beat
Tailor your voice assistant to report on news updates according to your industry or interests to cut through the fluff and stay on the ball without falling into a Twitter scroll hole or despairing about the state of the world on Facebook. Far more efficient and you won’t be distracted by cat memes as you go about your business.
Your voice assistant can also provide an SOS caffeine service - your smart device can recommend and locates the best coffee shops open in your area, while the addition of the Amazon Smart Plug used in conjunction with Echo means that you can turn your coffee maker on at home by barking your order at Alexa. Barista, babysitter, loo roll orderer...Alexa/Google can stay.
OK Google, how’s my health?
Nail a HIIT workout at home
Amazon Echo’s ‘seven minute workout’ skill provides a tough on the spot HIIT session and can even sync your calendars to work out where you can squeeze it in. It can also link up with your Fitbit to analyse your progress and help you to reach your targets, meanwhile Google Fit is approved by the World Health Organisation and can be utilised in conjunction with your Echo to help you to make healthy choices for you (it’ll prompt you to move regularly and pick up the pace to earn cardio ‘heart points’). And you thought a smart home device just meant more sofa time...
Give your mental health a lift
First off, using a voice assistant to answer your burning daily dilemmas will help to untether you from your phone as soon as you get home, which can only be a positive thing from a mental wellbeing perspective, but you can also ask Alexa to take you through a guided meditation or request that Google helps you to relax. Cue chilled out sounds, or if you need cheering up, imploring “okay Google, tell me something good’ will see Google responding with an uplifting poem, story or news item to end your day on a high and escape the too often toxic social media maelstrom.
Make meals without the faff
Deciding on, shopping for, planning and executing a healthy meal after a hectic day has multiple real life barriers, but a voice assistant is your sous chef on every count. Your smart home device can suggest recipes depending on dietary requirements or what you fancy, will put together a bespoke shopping list and even order it to be delivered to your door, or you can programme Google Home to remind you to pick up certain ingredients via the Google Home app when you’re at the shops so you don’t forget the essentials. While your smart home device won’t do the stir frying for you, it can talk you through each stage of a recipe, allowing you to rewind instructions you might have missed and time your cooking to a tee. You can get the nutritional breakdown of your meal and even tell your family/ flatmates that dinner’s on the table if you connect up Echo or Google Home devices around the house.
Check your symptoms
Dr Google should never replace a visit to your GP, and we all know the perils of diagnosing your health niggles by way of a search engine, but Google Home’s Virtual Nurse is far more reliable that some corners of the Internet thanks to the fact that content is provided by NHS Choices. Check side effects, symptoms and first aid basics simply by putting your health query to Alexa. She won’t call 999 but she can provide instant, frequently reviewed advice on demand.
As well as a ‘good morning routine’, both Echo and Google home have bespoke bedtime functionalities, whether you want the lights to dim at a certain time, an audiobook read to you for 20 minutes to help you to nod off or some white noise on in the background to facilitate deeper sleep. Echo’s new Whisper mode also allows you to not only ask of Alexa’s services in hushed tones, but she’ll temper her volume to match yours rather than bellowing the house down, which is handy for both your own wellbeing and to keep sleeping babies….asleep. Hands-free home checks, information, list-making, shopping and reordering are also ideal if you’re breastfeeding, disabled or bedbound.
OK Google, take off my makeup
So this command is yet to be enabled but the likes of Estée Lauder are coming close. The cosmetics brand became the first beauty player to provide beauty advice via a Google Home app at the end of last year, with the ‘Nightime Expert’ service creating a tailored end of day skincare regime depending on your skin type and preferences. Simply request the Estée Lauder Night Time Experience and she’ll ask you a series of questions before delivering your personalized skincare prescription and inviting you to access a free service at a brand counter.
The app is looking to expand to mobile use and Amazon is also thought to be in talks with other beauty companies to provide voice-activated, highly tailored beauty how-to’s, instant advice and recommendations. Alexa could well be your on-call makeup artist, facialist and yoga teacher before the year is out.
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