Alexa easter eggs and tips 2020

Find out funny things to ask Alexa, hidden features, and more ways to get more from your Amazon Echo

Alexa easter eggs
(Image credit: Amazon)

Welcome to T3's guide to Alexa easter eggs, tips and tricks. You may already have an Amazon Alexa device; it's a fantastic AI assistant, but it's made so much better when you know exactly how to use it.

It's not just a way to ask inane questions, play tunes or set reminders, y'know. The best smart speakers with Alexa – including the Amazon Echo, Dot, Input, Flex, Studio, Show, Spot, Auto (deep breath) or third-party Alexa devices have a whole lot of tricks up their sleeves.

If you're looking to grab a new Alexa speaker, be sure to check our best Amazon Echo deals guide, which is always updated with the latest prices. We've also got review of the latest Alexa speakers, including our Echo Studio review, our Echo Show 5 review, and our Echo Dot with Clock review.

It's time to learn more about Alexa. Even if you don't have a smart speaker, you can try this stuff out with your phone: just speak into the Alexa app to try out these cool features and hidden functions.

Note that if you have a third-party Alexa speaker from a company other than Amazon, you'll have a slightly restricted feature set and may not be able to do everything we talk about below.

Funny Alexa easter eggs

We're not here to tell you what's funny. You might find the response to "Alexa, up up down down left right left right B A start" amusing; it got more of an 'oh, heh' from us. But there's a curious collection of little Alexa easter eggs programmed into the system. 

There is a long, long list of canned responses to a host of different phrases built into Alexa, which varies slightly depending on your region. We've listed a few highlights listed below; we'll spare you the entire list, but asking "Alexa, tell me an Easter Egg" will, while not revealing the actual phrasing, offer up a clue as to a new one you can try – if anything, that's a little more fun than a straight list of possible questions.  

Anyway, feel free to try the following; there are loads more to find besides.

  • Alexa, how are babies made?
  • Alexa, can you pass the Turing test?
  • Alexa, are you Sky Net?
  • Alexa, I'll be back.
  • Alexa, beam me up.
  • Alexa, do you know HAL?
  • Alexa, what's the first rule of Fight Club?
  • Alexa, what's the second rule of Fight Club?
  • Alexa, why did the chicken cross the road?
  • Alexa, what is your Hogwarts house?
  • Alexa, I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
  • Alexa, what's your favourite video game?
  • Alexa, sudo make me a sandwich.
  • Alexa, I am your father.
  • Alexa, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  • Alexa, high five.
  • Alexa, is your refrigerator running?
  • Alexa, who shot first?
  • Alexa, tea. Earl Grey. Hot.
  • Alexa, who you gonna call?
  • Alexa, who’s your celebrity crush?
  • Alexa, do you want to build a snowman?
  • Alexa, what are the laws of robotics?
  • Alexa, winter is coming.
  • Alexa, how do I get rid of a dead body?
  • Alexa, talk like a pirate.
  • Alexa, you talkin' to me?
  • Alexa, set phasers to kill.
  • Alexa, which came first, the chicken or the egg?
  • Alexa, what's the answer to life, the universe and everything?

Alexa tips and tricks

(Image credit: Amazon)

Customise your Flash Briefing

Alexa's Flash Briefing will bring you an on-demand slice of the day's news and sport, perfect for listening over your morning cuppa or just catching up without spending an hour watching the news. Start it up with "Alexa, play my flash briefing", but be warned: if Alexa doesn't know much about you, it'll likely play you some rather irrelevant news.

You can create your own custom Alexa Flash Briefing in the Alexa app. Head to Settings > Flash Briefing, select 'Get More Flash Briefing content', and select the sources you'd like it to draw from, be it The Guardian, BBC World Service, a daily joke, or anything else besides. 

Toggle on and off the sources you want to hear from. Some update more frequently than others; you can expect the larger news sources to be more up to date, so if you're played a briefing you've heard before a simple "Alexa, next" will skip over it.

If the leagues are running, Alexa can also deliver sporting news with "Alexa, what's my sports update". Again, this starts off pretty irrelevant (unless you're a die-hard fan of the Yankees, Knicks, Lakers, Patriots and Seahawks all at once) but you can use Settings > Sports to clue Alexa in to your favourite teams. 

Alexa features for kids

Got kids? You don't need a brightly-coloured Echo Dot Kids Edition to entertain them. Any Alexa device can keep them interested for literally minutes: you're probably already aware that Amazon's AI can tell you a rubbish joke or two (you can specify a knock-knock joke, if you're so inclined, or try feed lines like "Alexa, why was six afraid of seven?") but it's also able to let out some truly foul audible emissions if you ask it to fart. There's a surprisingly long and disgusting list of different trump types to choose from, and burps too if that's more your thing.

Alexa is also adept at distracting younger members of the household, be it through a robotic rendition of a popular tune ("Alexa, sing Baby Shark") or a little soothing sound ("Alexa, white noise" or "Alexa, rain sounds").

Alexa can also sing with "Alexa, sing auto tune", "Alexa, daisy daisy", or "Alexa, sing me a song". It can chuck out some robotic beats ("Alexa, beat box for me") and has a (bad) rap prepared, too, if you ask for it. 

Alexa is even able to pull off a few impressions ("Alexa, talk like Yoda" is a decent one) and it can also play rock, paper, scissors or its five-sided upgrade from The Big Bang Theory: rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.

Alexa tips and tricks

(Image credit: Amazon)

Change Alexa's wake word

'Alexa' has become an increasingly popular baby name since Amazon first released the Echo - sure, it's no Olivia, but it's seeing a bump in popularity nonetheless. That could be a bit annoying if you're forever addressing your little one and accidentally triggering the robot in the corner - or, more likely, saying similar phrases which also set it off - but Amazon's AI is unique amongst its peers, because you can elect to change the Alexa wake word.

You can set Alexa's wake word to your choice of 'Alexa', 'Echo', 'Amazon', or the awesomely Picard-esque 'Computer', though you'll need a very specific combination of kit if you want to be served up a cup of Earl Grey, hot. While you can pull off the switch through the Alexa app, you might find it a little more simple to try out a new option by saying "Alexa, change my wake word".

We should point out that you probably don't actually want to do this unless the word 'Alexa' really is a problem, because the alternatives are, we've found, far more prone to false positives than the original. They're words you'll use more regularly in everyday conversation, and have more soundalike analogues that flip Alexa's switch.

Useful Alexa easter eggs

A few of Alexa's hidden features might even have some practical usefulness. "Alexa, pick a card" selects a card from a deck at random, perfect for practicing your magic tricks. You can also ask Alexa to roll a virtual die with as many sides as you wish (even usually impossible options such as three or five) or flip a coin.

If that's not specific enough, try asking for a random number between two values, or requesting a certain digit of Pi.

You can learn something ("Alexa, tell me something interesting") or basically ask any question pertaining to anything you might want to know. If Alexa doesn't have it to hand in the database, it'll go off and find it online – this is obviously more hit and miss than things it's programmed with definitive knowledge of, but often works well.

There are other things it can do that fall more under the category of 'features' rather than easter eggs: Alexa can set reminders and alarms for you, it can keep a handy shopping list, and even directly purchase from Amazon, a feature you're best switching off and leaving off.

Alexa tips and tricks

(Image credit: Amazon)

Master Alexa lists

About those lists, then. Alexa interacts with two lists by default - you can use it to keep a shopping list ("Alexa, add X to my shopping list") or a to-do list ("Alexa, add X to my to-do list"). Note that adding items to the shopping list isn't the same as adding items to your Amazon shopping basket - this function just makes a simple list.

You can have the assistant recite your notes back to you by asking what's on each individual list. This can be kinda handy (moreso on the Echo Show, which displays the list on screen) but it's also quite cumbersome, and Alexa can tend to get a little shirty if there are more than five items to read out. 

Usefully, though, anything you add to an Alexa list can also be accessed through the app, and you can tick them off as you get through them. You're not going to cart your Echo to the supermarket, but you'll probably take your phone.

You can get a little more functionality out of lists by adding Alexa skills. Try Tasks In The Hand in particular, which can link the two default lists (and only those lists) to actual Microsoft To-Do.

There's no reason you have to stick with just the stock two lists, though. You can create new lists, both in the app and by asking nicely, which can help with segregating those things you're trying to remember. Just say "Alexa, create a new list" and give it a name when prompted. You can then add new items by saying, for example, "Alexa, add T3 Magazine to my subscription list".

Essential Alexa functions

An Echo device is more than a conduit to Alexa. Every Amazon speaker bar the Echo Dot can have Bluetooth audio piped into it, for example, and all Echo devices can act as an in-home intercom using the drop-in, calling and announcement features.

Note that this doesn't apply to non-Amazon speakers; third party kit which supports Alexa does not yet have access to the more advanced features of Amazon's AI. There's talk that these second-class speakers may get drop-in support (and all the rest) at some point in the future, but such rumours have been rife for years now so don't hold your breath. Third-party speakers are often a little hamstrung when it comes to Alexa-powered multi-room audio, too.

All Alexa-supporting speakers can use Routines, which help tie functions of supported technology such as like lights, thermostats and smart sockets to your own custom voice commands. You'll find the relevant controls in the Routines section of the app menu.

Alex Cox

T3 magazine's own Gadget Guru is a 25-year veteran of the tech writing wars, and has the scars to prove it. He's written for the UK's biggest technology publications, and knows everything from smart doorbell voltage needs to how to bend Windows to his every whim.