Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa can stream music, read off the day's headlines, or take control of your smart home, but half of the fun is asking questions out of left field to see if she can keep up.
And, in a lot of cases, she can.
It turns out that Alexa loves a good inside joke, and with good reason. The ability to play along with your favorite Star Wars reference or awkwardly deflect questions about where babies come from is all part of Alexa's charm. Without it, the Amazon Echo would be a less successful voice platform -- after all, no one likes talking to a stuffy, out-of-touch know-it-all.
To that end, Alexa's cloud-powered smarts are packed with Easter eggs, and Amazon's seemingly adding in new ones every day. Here are some of our current favorites:
Alexa's geek cred
Think of your favorite geeky show or film, and there's a good chance Alexa's a fan. Trekkers in particular will appreciate the following Alexa commands:
- "Alexa, beam me up."
- "Alexa, set phasers to kill."
- "Alexa. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot."
The Star Trek references are the tip of the iceberg. Alexa will respond to several classic Star Wars quotes (and she'll maintain that Han shot first in the original theatrical release of "A New Hope," too). She'll explain the theoretical consequences of crossing the streams. Fans of "Game of Thrones" can tell Alexa "Winter is coming" to hear one of several quotes from the show in response. If you're a fan of "The Big Bang Theory," she'll even take you on in a game of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.
Alexa's oddly fond of any piece of science-fiction that depicts artificial intelligence gone awry. That includes obvious classics like "2001: A Space Odyssey" ("Alexa, open the pod bay doors") and "Terminator" ("Alexa, are you Skynet?"), along with titles that might be a bit more obscure for some, like 1983's "WarGames" ("Alexa, I want to play global thermonuclear war.")
And don't worry. If you ever start to fear that Alexa might be getting too powerful for her own good, you can always ask her to initiate the self-destruct sequence.
It's not just sci-fi, though. Try out any of the following film references, and Alexa will know exactly what you're talking about:
- "Alexa, my name is Inigo Montoya."
- "Alexa, I want the truth."
- "Alexa, party on, Wayne."
- "Alexa, show me the money."
- "Alexa, what's the first (or second) rule of Fight Club?"
- "Alexa, surely you can't be serious."
Some of my favorites are Alexa's Monty Python references. You can, for instance, ask her for the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, and then follow up by asking how she knows so much about swallows. Or, you could cut right to the chase and tell her that her mother was a hamster.
Alexa is gamer-friendly, too. In addition to downloadable Alexa skills that can remind you of crafting recipes in Minecraft or tell you what armor is up for sale this week in Destiny, Alexa will recognize several classic gaming references.
For instance, if you're a fan of the Portal series, you could try asking Alexa if the cake is a lie, or if she knows GladOS (yet another evil-AI with whom Alexa has an unsettling degree of familiarity).
If you've played through the Mass Effect series, you can get some fan service, too -- try asking Alexa, "Does this unit have a soul?"
For something a little more classic, try telling Alexa to do a barrel roll -- or try using the Konami code on her (that's Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start; in case you've never cheated your way through Contra).
Celebrities are starting to get in on the fun, too. Following their appearance in Amazon's first-ever Super Bowl ad, you'll hear guest appearances from Alec Baldwin and from Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Dan Marino if you ask Alexa how many Oscars Baldwin has won or how many Super Bowl rings Marino has (the answer in both cases is "zero," though neither Baldwin nor Marino are content to leave it at that.)
So far, those two are the only voices other than Alexa's that you can hear by asking Echo a question, but as the voice platform becomes more and more ubiquitous, don't be surprised to see other stars follow suit with Easter eggs of their own.
All the right answers
Not every Easter egg is an obvious pop culture reference or a play at a movie star's ego. Sometimes, Alexa will offer surprisingly spot-on answers to tough questions, or nuanced evasions to questions you might not want her to answer.
This might come in handy if you have small children -- if they ask Alexa about Santa Claus, she'll play along and tell them she's heard great things about the guy. Ask her how babies are made, and she'll stammer out an awkward reply instructing you to try asking Mommy or Daddy.
Alexa also has a handle on the types of scientific questions you'd hope she'd be familiar with. Ask her about the laws of robotics, and she'll give you a pitch perfect rundown. Ask her about the Turing test (and whether or not she passes it), and she'll explain that she doesn't need to pass it because she isn't trying to pass as a human. No word yet on whether or not she could beat you in a game of Go, though.
Like Alexa's other Skills, the list of Easter eggs will likely keep growing. Found any we missed? Let us know.