After your kids are asleep, Alexa can help you doze off with the Ambient Noise skill and its companion skills. There are several different sounds to choose from, all of which come with their own skill. You can fall asleep to the sounds of a thunderstorm, rain, ocean, wind chimes, babbling brook, rain on a tent, city sounds and much more. For all available sounds, just say, "Alexa, ask Ambient Noise for a list."
One of my favorite features of Amazon’s voice controlled speakers, the Echo and Echo Dot, is the Alexa News Flash skill. Out of the box, it plays you a quick news briefing from standard news sources. What you probably didn’t know however was that you can customize your Alexa Flash Briefing with literally thousands of skills, tailored perfectly to the news you want. Here’s how it all works and how to set it up.
How does Alexa work? Once you buy an Amazon Alexa device — Amazon Tap or an Echo Dot — the device connects through WiFi or Bluetooth to the internet and then to other devices. With the most common devices, the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, people merely say "Alexa," which wakes up the device, and then ask for what they want. Alexa Skills radically expands the bots repertoire, allowing users to perform more actions with voice-activated control through Alexa.
Because Amazon opened up the development of Alexa Skills to anyone with the free Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) in 2015, anyone can create an Alexa Skill. As Alexa uses Natural Language Programing (NLP), those looking to build a skill don't need to worry about complex speech recognition. The ASK tools also makes it easier for novices to work with sophisticated NLP ideas.
You'll notice in the lists below that many Alexa skills are called by using trigger words like open, start, play and ask. While select skills require you to use specific terms, others consider them to be interchangeable and will work with some or all of these phrases. Over time you'll begin launching your favorite skills by the words you feel most comfortable using. Initially, though, it can be fun to play around with each.
The first of the Alexa flash briefing options to include is an error message. Alexa will read this to your audience if your briefing is unavailable. Next, you’ll be asked to paste the RSS feed provided by your audio host. The “preamble” field is a short, introductory cue that Alexa will read before delivering your briefing. Finally, fill out any remaining Alexa flash briefing options — frequency, briefing name, category/genre and more — and soon you’ll be ready to launch.
Once you’ve filled out the page, it’s time to make a listing or profile page for your flash briefing. This process is the same as with any Alexa skill: give your briefing a short description, a long one and a profile image to use. After that, submit your skill and begin recording your content! When you upload new content to your audio host, it will automatically push to your flash briefing via RSS.
Note: Your Flash Briefing settings apply to all Alexa devices registered to your Amazon account, and all users in your home get access to the same Flash Briefing content. However, if you or anyone in your home has a voice profile, Flash Briefing automatically skips stories and news items you've already heard. To learn more, go to About Alexa Voice Profiles.
In the Alexa app, this is achieved by selecting the main menu button (found in the upper left-hand corner of the screen) and choosing the Skills option. From here you can browse Alexa skills by category or other criteria such as those favored the most by its large user base. You can also search for skills by keyword or name through this same interface.