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In-depth

17 hidden secrets of the Amazon Echo

Amazon’s voice assistant can do a lot more than just play music and tell you the weather.

Who would have thought that an online bookshop would end up winning the AI game? Google and Apple are playing catch-up, but Amazon's Alexa is way out in front. The company's almighty retail presence, and its ability to sustain deep price cuts, has helped make Alexa unstoppable.

Once the Echo is settled in your home, though, what exactly do you use it for? For many of us, Alexa is little more than an interactive replacement for the radio. Yet there's a lot more that your always-listening, ever-ready assistant can do. Here's a guide to some of the clever ways you can customise the Echo and make the most of its extensive capabilities.

Change Alexa's wake word

Out of the box, your virtual assistant is called Alexa - but opening vowels can be problematic for some stammerers, and there's plenty of scope for confusion if you have a child or pet with the same name. Happily, while Google, Apple and Microsoft are quite precious about what you call their assistants, Amazon gives you options: instead of addressing your Echo as "Alexa", you can choose to say "Echo", "Amazon" or - for Star Trek fans - "Computer".

To change this setting, open the Alexa smartphone app, click Settings and tap on the device whose wake word you want to change. Click Edit on the wake word line and choose from the drop-down list. We're using "Alexa" throughout this feature, but obviously if you've chosen a different name then swap it as appropriate.

Set up Multi-Room Music

If you have multiple Echo devices in your home, you can easily stream one playlist or radio station to several (or all of them) at once. First though you need to put them into groups; you can do this within the Alexa app, by clicking Settings followed by Multi-Room Music.

You can create as many groups as you like, but note that each device can only appear in one group. So, if you have two Echo downstairs and two upstairs, you could create a "downstairs" group for the first two - but you couldn't then also add them to a "whole house" group.

To set up your first group, all you need to do is tap the Create Group button, followed by Multi-Room Music, give the group a name and tick the boxes beside the devices that should be included.

Now, if you want to play music on your two downstairs Echo devices, you can simply say "Alexa, play Kylie downstairs". If Kylie's not to your taste, modify the instruction as appropriate.

Read on to find out how to play other kinds of audio content...

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