Unnecessary Alexa tricks: Controlling a picture frame with your Echo

In a world where a sentient Pringles can listens to our every utterance and grants our every wish (subject to certain restrictions), do we really need to enable even more laziness? Heck to the yeah!
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Custom Alexa skills: How the average person can make one in minutes

Can we be honest with each other? Do we really need Alexa?

Alexa came out three years ago, so anyone older than three has some basic caveman skills. Back BAE (Before Alexa Era), we used our fingers to tap numbers on a calculator to do math, we fired up our opposable thumbs to turn the dial on a thermostat, and we actually flipped light switches to light up our rooms.

Can you imagine? We were so primitive.

Today, when I want to set an alarm for the next morning, I just ask Alexa. When I want the house to be warmer, I just ask Alexa. When I get up, I ask "Alexa, start my day," and everything I need is made ready. Alexa even automatically turns off the bedroom lights, in case I forget.

Every day, in every way, Alexa makes life better and better.

Today, Alexa removed yet one more arduous, unnecessary task from my overburdened shoulders. I no longer need to control my digital picture frame with my digits.

Last year, I introduced you to the Meural Canvas, provided to me by the nice folks at Wellbots. As I mentioned, it was surprisingly cool. The nice image quality combined with the ability to not only upload my own pictures, but also use a rich collection of great art from the Meural art library, has been a joy -- up to a point.

I mean, seriously, what good is owning a $600 smart picture frame if you have to choose the art by touching your phone or clicking on a browser window? Can we all finally, please, agree that touching and clicking is all so BAE (Before Alexa Era)?

Why should I, or you for that matter, be required to touch a screen to turn the Meural on or off? How dare they require me to wave my hand or flick my finger to move to a new artwork? And, brightness. Really? It is an affront, nay, an outrage to be required to slide a slider to increase or reduce the vividness of an image.

Thankfully, sanity and civility is returning to the art world.

There is now an Alexa skill (still in beta, apparently) that provides Alexa voice control to the Meural Canvas. Saying "Alexa, next on Meural" shows a new artwork. Saying, "Alexa, previous on Meural" returns you to the previous image.

Also: Amazon's Alexa could be tricked into snooping on users, say security researchers

Say "Alexa, turn on Meural" to turn on the Canvas. Saying "Alexa, turn off Meural" allows you to end your art experience. You can even say "Alexa, set Meural to 50 percent," (or any other percentage you like) to control brightness.

I've been trying to find a way to reflect on my preferences it comes to preserving my precious pinkies. I find myself turning to skill reviewer Joanna who says it far better than I ever could: "That I can control the Canvas with the sound of my voice truly blows my mind."

She's right. Mind: blown. At least for now. Frankly, I don't think my overblown sense of entitlement will be fully satisfied until I can say, "Alexa, bring me a sandwich," and it actually happens.

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