When Amazon's Echo speaker mysteriously appeared out of nowhere last year, it came with another surprise: a voice assistant named Alexa. Like Apple's Siri, you could casually talk to it and it would attempt to infer what you were talking about into simple responses. It turned out to be pretty limited and didn't work so well when we tried it out back in January, but Amazon's kept at it, releasing new updates that added things like Pandora, traffic reports, sports scores, and support for Belkin's WeMo and Phillips' Hue products.
You can now escape the confines of Amazon's walled garden
Today, that list is growing to include support If This Then That, or IFTTT. That's the service that lets you make your own recipes and triggers by basically mashing together two different services. And mashing up is exactly what's happening here, because the IFTTT recipes for Alexa will let you basically escape the confines of Amazon's walled garden of Alexa-connected services, and send your shopping and to-do lists out to third-party services like Google Drive, Evernote, and Todoist. You can even opt to post new to-do items to Twitter, which is a great example of something that really should not exist.
There are 54 combinations in total. Enabling them requires signing up for IFTTT, then linking it up with your Amazon account. You also need to go through the motions of activating the various third-party app channels, and approving your accounts there so IFTTT can link everything up behind the scenes. Some of the really good examples so far are:
- Adding your Echo shopping list items to Evernote
- Sending someone a short email with your voice
- Sending someone an SMS with your voice
- Adding Echo shopping list items to the iOS Reminders app
- Adding Alexa to-dos to Microsoft's OneNote
Short of a public API or SDK for Alexa (which is in the works), this is about as close as we're going to get to opening up Amazon's speaker. In the meantime, this is a pretty good start at turning it into something that plays a lot nicer with other services, and taking it beyond what you get out of the box.
Update May 2nd, 1:30AM: The headline of this post has been changed to point out services Alexa now works with, while an earlier update fixed a broken IFTTT link.