The initial novelty of Amazon's Echo smart home device quickly wore thin, and I find myself using it less and less. However, the "Siri with a speaker" gadget, which is still available only by invitation (or via eBay), just got a bit more useful, thanks to new integration with IFTTT.
IFTTT (which stands for "If This Then That") is a free cloud service that lets you use or create "recipes" to connect two services and trigger automated actions between them. Want to automatically forward your weekly Fitbit progress email to Evernote? There's an IFTTT recipe for that -- several of them, in fact.
The new Amazon Alexa channel on IFTTT currently includes dozens of recipes that connect Echo (a.k.a. Alexa) with Gmail, Google Drive, Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, Nest thermostats, iOS, Todoist, and Toodledo, among other services. The Echo-IFTTT mashup seems cool, but so far it's not particularly useful.
Among the more intriguing IFTTT recipes I tested is one that lets you send short SMS texts by adding the messages to your Echo shopping list, though you need to have an Android phone for this recipe to work. When you add the IFTTT recipe, you simply enter the intended recipient's cell phone number -- make sure you add the country code, such as "1" for U.S. phone numbers. Then you say "Alexa, add 'I am running late' to my shopping list." The voice command gets translated into a text message, which is sent to your pre-designated recipient.
It works well, but you're limited to only one recipient unless you change the phone number in the recipe. And it's faster to simply dictate a quick text on your smartphone. (You can also send email messages through Echo via Gmail.)
I added to-do items to a specific Evernote notebook by adding them to Echo's to-do list using a new IFTTT recipe. The recipe works, but the to-do items in Evernote don't show up in checklist format, which I prefer.
Another recipe I like lets you add new items from your Echo shopping list to a designated list in the iOS Reminders app, which is handy. You could use this recipe if you're cooking and realize you're nearly out of, say, olive oil. Without using your hands, you can say "Alexa, add olive oil to my shopping list," and the item appears on your Reminders app's shopping list.
Is any of this life-changing? Nope, not at all, but it is fun and moderately convenient. And it could very well reawaken your interest in Amazon Echo, at least for a while.
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