Learn English, donate meals amid COVID-19 pandemic, stream Rekhta poetry – things you can do with Alexa during lockdown

Here are all the features the Seatle-based ecommerce company Amazon added to Alexa — some of them relevant to the COVID-19 situation.

If you have an Amazon Echo or an Alexa, you may already be using it various things — talking to it, asking information, news, setting time, alarms, playing music, or just for relaxing. However, are you aware of all the features that Amazon’s virtual assistants are capable of carrying out?

Over the last few months, the Seatle-based company added several features to Alexa – some of them relevant to the current COVID-19 situation.

We, at YourStory, tried and tested some of Alexa’s new features, Here’s what we found:

Learn English

Yes, you can learn English with Alexa. Recently, Pearson India introduced an interactive skill on Amazon Alexa for students and learners of all age groups to learn the English language.

The Pearson MyPedia skill offers a collection of stories coupled with fun facts, trivia, quizzes, and rewards. The interactive format can help improve your English vocabulary, listening, speaking, comprehension, and storytelling skills.

To get started, users can say, “Alexa, open MyPedia,” or simply, “Alexa, I want to learn English.”

Donate meals

Since the country has been in the grip of the deadly coronavirus, many people are in need of basic essentials such as food and shelter. Amazon has partnered with The Akshaya Patra Foundation to launch an ‘Essentials Box’ donation programme.

Each box contains basic non-perishable grocery items like rice, dal, and sugar. These boxes cost Rs 200 each, and serve up to 20 meals, which will be delivered directly to the NGO.

Alexa users can contribute to this cause by just asking, “Alexa, donate essentials box” to add the box to their Amazon shopping cart. The transaction can be completed using Amazon Pay by saying, “Alexa, order it now.”

Make donations

Similarly, Amazon’s virtual assistant can now help you make donations to NGOs, working directly to provide aid for people affected because of the COVID-19 pandemic — the PM Cares Fund, HelpAge India, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, among others.

Just say, “Alexa, donate now,” or “Alexa, I want to contribute to fighting coronavirus,” on your Echo and Fire TV devices. You will receive an SMS and a notification on your mobile phone with a link to the donation page, where you can select the charity and complete the transaction.

Enjoy poetry

Poetry lovers can now enjoy hundreds of Urdu poems, and shers categorised according to poets, and genres like love, sadness, and humour, with simple voice commands.

The new Alexa feature by Rekhta Foundation has a rich repertoire of over thousands of shayaris from famous poets. Interestingly, the Rekhta skill can be launched in both English and Hindi languages by saying, “Alexa, open Rekhta,” or “Alexa, Rekhta shuru karo.

Users can also listen to couplets by genres, moods, or poets. Just ask, “Alexa, tell me a love shayari,” or “Alexa, play a shayari by Rahat Indori.”

Shopping and billing

On the Amazon Shopping app, you can now ask Alexa to pay your bills across categories such as electricity, water, postpaid mobile, cooking gas, broadband and DTH recharges, etc., via Amazon Pay.

Currently, the new feature is exclusively available on Android devices, and can be accessed by tapping the microphone icon on top of the page, from anywhere on the app. Customers can get started by just saying, “Alexa, pay my mobile bill,” or “Alexa, pay the DTH bill.”


Alexa now can help you with step-by-step cooking instructions. By saying, “Alexa, give me the recipe for Palak Paneer,” or “Alexa, start the recipe for the Chocolate cake,” it will walk you through popular recipes curated by popular chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

To maintain your pace, you can also use instructions like “Alexa, pause,” “Alexa, play,” “Alexa, next step,” and “Alexa, repeat step” — removing the need to manually refer the recipes, while your hands are busy cooking.

You can also set a timer or ask for nutrition information about food items. Just ask, "Alexa, what is the nutrition in a banana?" or "Alexa, how many calories in a mango?" etc.
Edited by Suman Singh