Alexa gets 4 new Amazon Echo skills. Here's how they work

Your Echo speaker just got new entertainment routines, while Alexa gained new features.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Katie Teague
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Alexa has more new features for you to try.

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Your Amazon Echo has become an essential part of your home, from securing your house when you're away to listening to music while getting house chores done. Now Alexa has four new features for your Echo speaker to help make your life a little easier.

For example, your Echo has new entertainment routines to make your movie-watching experience on your Fire TV better. Plus, you can now use Alexa hands-free in the Amazon Shopping app.

Here are four new things Alexa can do on your Amazon Echo.

Alexa asks helpful follow-up questions

This newest feature Amazon has added to its Echo devices helps Alexa determine whether it should offer follow-up suggestions to your commands. For example, if you ask Alexa how long it takes to steep tea, it might say something like "Five minutes is a good place to start. Would you like me to set a timer for five minutes?" 

Note that not all questions will yield follow-up suggestions from Alexa. The voice bot determines whether or not to initiate follow-up questions based on the date and time, account status and previous responses to a suggestion.

Here are more examples:
If you ask "When did the Second World War end?" Alexa might say, "The Second World War ended on Sept. 2, 1945" and then follow up by asking "Want to test your history knowledge with Ultimate History Quiz?"

To "What's the stock price of [x]?", Alexa might answer with "When the market closed on Monday, [x] traded at $201.15, down 1.99% since the previous close," and then follow up by asking "Would you like to know the intraday high for [x] from the CNBC skill?"


Alexa has a new feature that lets it ask follow up questions.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Your Echo has new entertainment routines

Your Alexa routines help get you through the day -- from waking up to the morning news to turning off the lights at night time. Now there's a new routine option that includes Fire TV commands you can create. For example, if you're watching a movie and someone says "Alexa, I'm grabbing a snack," Alexa will pause your TV and turn on the smart lights in your kitchen. Once the person says "Alexa, I'm back," the voice assistant will turn off the lights and resume your movie.

Use Alexa hands-free in the Amazon Shopping app

Much like with the Alexa app, you can now use the Amazon Shopping app hands-free. You can ask Alexa to search for products, check your order status and manage your shopping lists. To get started, open (or download) the Amazon shopping app on your phone and tap the Microphone icon in the search bar. Select Continue and tap OK to give Amazon access to your microphone (this is so you can give commands to Alexa). 

Now you can say "Alexa, where's my stuff" to navigate to your orders. If looking for a product, say something like "Alexa, show me espresso machines." To see your shopping list, say "Alexa, show me my shopping list."

Alexa can speak other languages

You can now ask Alexa to switch to a different language on your Amazon Echo. You can set your Echo speaker to speak two languages, which includes combining English with German, French, Italian, Spanish or Japanese. To get started, say something like "Alexa, speak French." Alexa will then ask if you'd like it to speak both English and French -- say "yes" to continue. 

You can also open the Alexa app on your phone and tap Devices > All Devices > and select the Echo you want to add a language on. Scroll down and tap Language, then select your preferred language combination from the list.

For more Amazon Echo tips, here's how to turn your TV into a larger Echo Show and five surprising music hacks to try with your Amazon Echo tonight. Also, if you have more than one Echo speaker, you need to try this out.

Watch this: Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen) review: Dot, Dot, Dot...