5 Alexa skills to try this week

Below find a carefully chosen selection of five Alexa skills worth trying from new, trending, and otherwise noteworthy voice apps available in the Alexa Skills Store on Amazon.com, which now has more than 20,000 skills.

In case you missed it, Alexa Routines for the creation of scheduled tasks or custom commands launched for the first time in the United States last week and in the United Kingdom and Germany this week.

Experian

Experian launched an Alexa skill Monday that allows you to check your FICO credit report score with your voice, but it’s not easy, or free.

To check your score you need a paid monthly subscription Experian account and to generate a pin that only lasts five minutes per use. On top of all that, some people may be hesitant to share this credit score with family, neighbors, or a significant other so receiving that info from a smart speaker may lack privacy for some people.

Until this becomes free or requires less friction, seems like a voice app that isn’t much of an improvement upon a web or mobile app experience to get your credit score.

Amazon Storytime

Amazon Storytime plays a collection of stories, including some narrated by Aidy Bryant from Saturday Night Live and Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob. Stop and come back and Alexa will ask if you want to resume your previous story.

Since becoming available earlier this fall, Storytime has become ranked among the most popular Alexa skills available today, part of a larger strategy by Amazon to hook young users and make more games available for Alexa users of all ages.

For all skills beyond those made by Amazon, $250,000 in prize money has been made available to third-party developers making Alexa skills, so expect to see more in this category in the future.

NBA skills

Last month, every basketball team in the National Basketball Association (NBA) got their own Alexa skill. Each skill provides things like team schedule, live score, team standings, and statistics about team players.

Ask for news and Alexa may read you a latest article from the team’s NBA website. The skill says it’s made by the NBA so that’s not really surprising, but it’s probably not the source of news the typical fan seeks out to hear the latest about their favorite team.

Should skills become incorporated into Routines or notifications made possible for the skill from your favorite team, Alexa could play a more proactive role in telling you about how your favorite teams are doing.

Sadly, this skill doesn’t launch as a visual skill, the new form of Alexa app made available to developers this summer and can incorporate things like visual cards or video. If you’re a sports fan, you probably want the sort of highlight video and other near-live progress delivered by, say, the Warriors Messenger bot.

To find a skill for your favorite NBA team, just search their name on the Alexa app or Alexa Skills Store.

Oprah’s Favorite Things

Technically this isn’t a skill, but say “Alexa, shop Oprah’s favorite things” and Oprah Winfrey will talk to you about her list of more than 100 favorite things from a Greenberg smoked turkey to truffle salt to a 23andMe DNA test.

Would you like to buy it? At the end of each segment, Alexa will ask if you want to buy it. Say yes and Alexa will say thanks and tell you when the package will be delivered. Say no and Oprah will tell you about the next item on her list.

This is, of course, is a holiday promotional campaign (and of course one of her favorite things is an Echo Show), but it’s also an indication of just how quickly a transaction can take place on Alexa.

The Oprah Magazine Alexa skill launched in April, the first from Hearst Corporation magazines.

Night Light

Pretty basic stuff, but the Night Light skill turns that glowing rings around an Echo to pulsate shades of blue and green anytime you say “Alexa open Night Light.” Depending on where you place an Echo, this can be helpful at those times of night when you don’t want other sources of light that can feel obtrusive at night.

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