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  • Writer's pictureRon Jaworski

Life in quarantine: 4 skills to help you pass the time

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

It’s pretty surreal to see how the entire world is affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Yet, a lot of voice-first people’s light bulbs started glowing in relation to how voice technology can help.

Bret Kinsella made a quick AAA session on Twitter where a lot of good opinions were shared about the voice industry and coronavirus. Of particular interest was the part about how voice technologies can make a broad impact on pandemics, offering various insights from relieving capacity issues like integrating voice bots in contact centers to removing touchscreens entirely out of the equation as potential carriers of the virus, and so on.

The consensus is that there is more room for meaningful use of voice technology than ever before. While we’re still away from any applicable resolution via voice to the ongoing scenario, here’s my little contribution to the resulting social distancing – four different Alexa skills to help you get through this difficult time or simply help kill a few hours a day (you can binge Netflix only so much).

For the spirit: Headspace

I absolutely adore Headspace, so much so that I’d be an active spokesperson for the skill. If there was one skill I couldn’t live without, it’s this one.

For those not familiar with it, Headspace is a meditation skill that provides a new meditation exercise every day, as well as a sleep exercise to help you fall asleep easier (or quicker, depending on how you look at it). There are also guided walks and runs but those are not an option at this time unless you have a farm-like garden or a farm.

Being fairly busy, Headspace helps me relax and stress out whenever I feel the need to wind down. The unassuming sessions offer plenty of time to concentrate on every part, making it very easy to squeeze meditation into your daily schedule, however busy or crowded it might be. Also, there are a number of voices you can choose from. For me, the British male voice is very relaxing and soothing.

All things considered, it’s a very effective skill that is easy to use, if somewhat limiting with specific options. If you’re looking for a guided meditation and/or something to help you sleep, I wholeheartedly recommend you give this one a go.

For the body: My Workouts

Being quarantined means canceling a lot of activities, including working out. If you aren’t the gym type, it’s all too easy to fall into a comfort zone (for many – the couch) and procrastinate what free time you have. There are plenty of Alexa skills that can help you either start or get back on the right track. My recommendation: My Workouts.

I’m edging toward this particular skill and not the 7-Minute Workout (another great skill that offers plenty of variety and control and it’s arguably more attuned to people who are in the more advanced stage of working out) because I find My Workouts more attuned to beginners and their fitness goals. It lets you create custom workouts specifically designed to meet your fitness level and goals. In all honesty – you can’t go wrong with either.

Every workout offers guidance on a step-by-step basis to properly perform each exercise, accompanied by an inspirational tune for additional motivation. The skill also keeps track of your starting weight and other useful metrics for a complete progress report on your way to a healthier you. There’s also a neat option of Alexa picking a workout for you if you want to switch it up a bit every once in a while.

Bottom line: My Workouts is a solid option for those looking to work up a good sweat that comes as close to their personal needs as possible. Also, it proves that Alexa can be a dependable workout partner with plenty of engaging and demanding workout regimens.

For the family: Mighty Trivia – a guessing game for kids

To paraphrase Loverboy’s 80s hit – everybody’s working from the home, and being a working parent in that situation is not easy. Luckily, there are plenty of skills that facilitate wholesome family fun, one of them being Mighty Trivia – a guessing game for kids

It caters specifically to kids but we adults can have fun with it too. The premise is very simple: you get three guesses per question and up to five hints to guess what Alexa is pretending to be. The fewer hints you use and the faster you answer, the more points you get. Points will also vary depending on the difficulty.

Most of the questions are randomly chosen (sometimes they repeat) and the topics are quite diverse so both the little ones and the big ones will have plenty of fun with it. Saying “another hint” will provide you with exactly that. If answered incorrectly to a lower difficulty question, Alexa will reveal the answer. All in all, it’s a neat skill for spending some time with kids and if possible, keeping them away from a screen.

I also suggest you give Kids Court a go – I can see how having Alexa (Judge Lexy) as a judge can be helpful in situations where your kids need someone “objective” for a change. It can create some really funny situations, plus the skill is educational too.

For the brain: Health Tips

Initially, I wanted to put a coronavirus-centric skill here, one that offers advice on best practices, updates on the current status, maybe a constantly expanded FAQ, and so on. It’s what makes most sense information-wise right now but Amazon did a sweep of such skills for reasons I can understand (the veracity of facts is paramount), even if the method of execution seems a bit harsh.

So, I opted for the next best thing – Health Tips by VoiceFirst Health, a flash briefing skill that provides “practical health and wellness tips” on a variety of topics such as healthy habits, nutrition, hydration, exercise, mental health, and more. The skill’s creator and host Teri Fisher (the guy who knows what he’s talking about) assures me the focus of the skill will largely be on the ongoing pandemic for the foreseeable future. If you want accurate, evidence-based information about health and coronavirus – tune in!

That’d be it for now. Feel free to let me know on Twitter what are some of the skills I should try – I’m sure there are a lot of them.

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