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Wireless - Mar 21, 2018

Six helpful things you can do with a virtual home assistant

If you’re considering adding a Google Home or Alexa to your household, here’s a primer on a few things they can do

Digital home assistants are already available, and Amazon Alexa and Google Home currently stand out as the smartest of them all for everyday users. What makes them so convenient is the way in which they deliver information on demand. Speak a command, make a request or ask a question and you get a response or action in return. They’re great for kids and adults alike and safe, too. Here are some of the great ways you can make these virtual assistants work for you.

1. Stay on top of your day

Both Alexa and Google Home have the ability to give you context for your day. Set an alarm to wake up and ask how your day is looking. Either assistant will run down whatever reminders and appointments you’ve set, including weather and traffic information. If you want sports scores or the latest headlines, you can get those, too. It’s a great way to get rolling in the morning.

2. Control your lights

Some smart light brands, including Philips Hue, LIFX and Nanoleaf, are compatible with both assistants. That means you can tell them to turn lights on or off, dim or brighten them, change colours or change scenes. Got your hands full with grocery bags or, say, your child? Just ask Google to get the lights for you. With Alexa, you can go further and integrate them into other smart home devices under what are called “routines.”

3. Request music

Alexa supports Amazon Music, Spotify and TuneIn, while Home supports Google Play Music, Spotify and TuneIn. If you subscribe to those, you can tell either assistant what song, artist, album or playlist you want to hear without touching anything. You can also do this with radio stations and podcasts. Raise or lower volume, skip tracks, pause or stop — all by voice.

4. Listen to your books

Both assistants support audiobooks, letting you listen to them on demand. Whether it’s a Kindle or Audible audiobook via Alexa, or one through Google’s own bookstore on Google Home, you can say the title you want to hear and hear the content recited back to you.

5. Talk on the phone

Either assistant will know the contacts you have on your phone, so you can just state the name of the person you want to reach out to and you’ll then hear the ring. With far-field microphones on Amazon’s Echo and Google Home speakers, you can also be a distance away and keep the conversation going.

6. Get the right answer

Not sure how much oregano to put that sauce you’re cooking? Ask Alexa or Google Home. Need to flip a coin to solve a bet? Tell either assistant to flip a virtual one. Need to convert currency or unit measurement? Both assistants will know.

Yes, they’re smart, but did you know that these voice assistants have a sassy sense of humour, too?