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6 surprising things you didn't know your Amazon Echo could do

Alexa can't give your pet a treat, but it can entertain them.

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The Amazon Echo will keep your pets entertained.

Ian Knighton/CNET

You ask your Amazon Echo ($52 at Amazon) to do the basics -- play music, control your smart home devices and make you laugh. But Alexa has so many more unusual skills that you may not be tapping into. For example, did you know that Alexa can help you figure out what to wear based on the weather?

And you can use these Alexa skills to help you out when you're too busy to remember to take your medications or check the weather before you leave the house. Read on to learn how these surprising tips can be an asset to your day-to-day schedule.

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Place an RFID device on your keychain to track your keys.

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Alexa can find your keys that always go missing

When you get home, it's easy to just plop your keys down somewhere without thinking. However, all that time spent searching for your keys can become tiresome. Fortunately, you can use Alexa to help you find your keys when you're in a hurry. You'll need to attach an RFID device to your keychain and then pair it with Alexa.

Another option is to set your keys down somewhere and immediately activate your Echo to let it know where you've placed them. For example, say "Alexa, remember that I placed my keys in the basket by the TV."

Alexa can talk to your cats and dogs

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Your pets get into everything, so keep them entertained with your Amazon Echo.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Worried about your furry best friends when you're at work all day? They're probably missing you too, so why not have Alexa entertain them while you're gone? You'll need to download a skill in the Alexa app, like Meow! for cat lovers and Woof! for dog lovers.

The way it works is Alexa acts as a virtual cat or dog and converses with your pet by meowing or barking. Alexa can start the "conversation" and once your pet responds, the virtual assistant will continue mimicking the animal sounds. Just say, "Alexa, enable Meow or Bark" and your pets will be entertained all day. 

If you prefer talking to your pets, you can always use the drop-in feature to get your dog's tail wagging. You'll need to turn that function on in the Alexa app in the Communicate tab. Once it's enabled, you can say "Alexa, drop in on the Echo Plus ($150 at Amazon)."

Alexa, what should I wear today?

Not everyone has time to check the weather in the morning. If you are pressed for time, ask Alexa if you should wear rain boots or sandals, pants or shorts, jacket or T-shirt. Enable the Dress Right skill in the Alexa app so you can get the wardrobe info that you need.

Start by saying "Alexa, ask Dress Right for an outfit idea" or "Alexa, ask Dress Right what should I wear today." It will then give you the weather forecast and an outfit based on the weather. For example, Alexa may tell you to consider a white dress or gray shirt and linen shorts.

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Hey Alexa, what should I wear today?

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Medication reminders

Much like the keys you always misplace, Alexa can remind you to take your medication and which medication to take. You can set a reminder to, say, take your blood pressure medicine at 4 p.m. and Alexa will remind you. You can also tell Alexa that you took your medicine and if you later can't remember if you took it, Alexa will let you know you already did. 

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See ya, writer's block

We've all been there -- you're pushing the clock trying to get that essay or report finished before tomorrow morning, but you can't even get a sentence out. It's called writer's block and most people experience it at some point. Fortunately, there's an Alexa skill called Writing Motivation that can help give you a motivation boost.

Once you've enabled the skill, say "Alexa, open Writing Motivation" and you'll get a writing coach. Alexa will start giving you witty motivation like "Think in one hour, you could've written 1,000 words, instead of having a blank piece of paper." Alexa will ask if you need more motivation, at which you can reply "yes" or "no."

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Alexa can give you the motivation to kick your writer's block to the curb.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Donate to a charity

If you'd like to give back to your community but you don't have time to volunteer, you can always donate to the cause. To get started, say "Alexa, I want to make a donation." Alexa will ask which charity you want to donate to (there are over 300 options). Alexa will ask how much you want to donate. Make sure you have Amazon Pay set up before you donate.

Want to know more things you can do with your Amazon Echo? Check out these six essential Amazon Echo tips you'll use every day.

Originally published earlier this year.