Right out of the box, Amazon's-- which was previously available by invitation only, but is -- can perform some pretty cool tricks.
Indeed, once you start asking the Echo's virtual assistant Alexa to do stuff -- start a playlist, read some news, check the weather -- you'll wonder how you ever got along without her.
You'll also wonder what else she's capable of. As with so many modern gadgets, the answer lies in IFTTT.
For those unfamiliar with it, IFTTT stands for If This Then That. You use it to create conditional "recipes" that trigger some kind of action. For example, if there's a new story on CNET about the Amazon Echo (using the Feed channel with a keyword option), then send yourself that story via email (using the Email or Gmail channel). CNET has many suggestions as to how to use it, such as 9 ways to automate your life with IFTTT and useful recipes for social network services and specifically Facebook and Instagram.
Thanks to a recently added Amazon Alexa channel, you can link your Echo to IFTTT for some pretty nifty functions. By way of example, here's how to automatically make any additions to your shopping list (as dictated to the Echo) appear in your iOS Reminders app.
Step 1: Head to the Alexa channel page and click Connect. (This assumes, of course, that you already have an IFTTT account. If not, you'll need to create one.) From there, you'll need to consent to sharing a bit of Amazon account info (name, e-mail address and so on) with IFTTT. Click Okay and you'll be directed back to IFTTT.
Step 2: Now head to the iOS Reminders channel and click Connect. From here you'll need to download and install IFTTT for iOS (which for whatever reason goes by IF), then connect the channel following the instructions provided. Click Done when that's done.
Step 3: Now it's time to create your recipe, which starts by clicking "this," then clicking Amazon Alexa to make it your trigger channel.
Step 4: Next, choose a trigger, which in this case is, "Item added to your To Do list." Click Create Trigger to complete that part of the process.
Step 5: Click "that," then scroll down to and click the iOS Reminders Action Channel. (You can also search for it by typing the first few letters into the search field.) Now select the only available action, which is "Add reminder to list."
Step 6: Finally, tweak the Reminder settings as desired. For example, you might want all your Alexa-driven additions to go into a list called "Alexa." And give them a particular priority. When you're done, click Create Action, then finish the whole process by clicking Create Recipe.
Now for the good news: IFTTT is already home to more than two dozen Echo-oriented recipes, so your work may already be done for you. Indeed, there's already a recipe for what I just described above, so you don't have to create it yourself (though you'd still need to perform steps 1 and 2).
Now that you know the basics of recipe creation, what hoops will you ask Alexa to jump through? Share your ideas (and/or recipes!) in the comments.