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We’re ringing in the upcoming weekend with a selection of deals that should put a smile on your face. We have lined up a selection of offers on everything from memory cards to protein powders, plus everything in between. 

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These 10 Amazon Alexa skills are more weird than useful

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You can make your Alexa devices do all sorts of weird, useless things.
You can make your Alexa devices do all sorts of weird, useless things.
Image: christina ascani/mashable

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is a lot of different things at once. To some people, it’s a useful tool that makes daily household life significantly more convenient. 

To others, it’s a bit invasive and creepy to have something listening to all of your conversations at home. 

One thing most people can probably agree on is that Alexa is weird. A voice-powered home assistant with a huge number of community-made skills you can download for it is bound to get a little strange at times. 

We’ve perused Amazon’s Alexa skills marketplace for some of the oddest ones around, and these are the most bizarre picks we could find. 

Cigar Pairing

Alexa can help you find the perfect Cigar pairing.

Alexa can help you find the perfect Cigar pairing.

Image: Roberto Machado Noa / LightRocket via Getty Images

All of the Alexa skills on this list have varying degrees of usefulness, but the Cigar Pairing skill might actually be pretty helpful in the very specific situation it was designed for. Cigars are typically enjoyed with some manner of “adult beverage” as the official description says, and this skill can help you pick the right one to pair with a cigar.

It can make recommendations whether or not your cigar of choice is in its database or not, which is a nice touch. That might be more easily accomplished with a Google search, but this Alexa skill is here just in case that isn’t an option.

Good Night

This could be you, thanks to the power of Alexa.

This could be you, thanks to the power of Alexa.

Image: Shutterstock / Maksym Povozniuk

The Good Night Alexa skill is perfectly harmless in a charming sort of way. It’s simple: You tell it “Alexa, good night” and it tells you “good night” back.

Sometimes it’s just a nice thing to hear. 

‘Skyrim’ Very Special Edition

Imagine this, but without being able to see any of it.

Imagine this, but without being able to see any of it.

Image: Bethesda Game studios

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the most beloved video games of the last decade. It actually became so much of a running joke that Bethesda kept releasing it on new platforms so many years after it first came out that they put together a voice-controlled Alexa version.

The trailer starring Keegan Michael Key is probably all you need to see to get the gist of it, but it’s on the Alexa skill marketplace if you want to play Skyrim in the weirdest way possible.

Countdown to ‘Game of Thrones’

This Alexa skill will only be useful for a little while longer.

This Alexa skill will only be useful for a little while longer.

Image: Helen Sloan / HBO

The wait for the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones has been agonizing for fans. It just isn’t fair for a TV show with so many hanging plot threads to take almost two years off. 

Thankfully, there’s an Alexa skill to remind you exactly when the new season starts. The countdown skill will let you know how many days, hours, minutes and seconds until the April 14 premiere. This one is actually useful, but probably won’t be for much longer.

Egg Facts

Finally, you can learn more about eggs thanks to Alexa.

Finally, you can learn more about eggs thanks to Alexa.

Image: Nasir Kachroo / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Egg Facts has been around for a couple of years and is a good go-to example of a bizarre Alexa skill. There are actually multiple Alexa skills under the same name, somehow. 

Install Egg Facts, tell Alexa to launch the app, and it will give you facts about eggs. It’s beautifully simple.

Cat Food

There are probably easier ways to summon your cat than using an Alexa skill.

There are probably easier ways to summon your cat than using an Alexa skill.

Image: Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Cat owners know that the quickest and easiest way to get the attention of a feline friend is to open a can of their food. The sound alone is enough to stir them from slumber and this Alexa skill aims to take advantage of that.

Its sole purpose is to simulate the sound of a cat food can being opened. That’s it. Perhaps the best part is that user reviews claim their cats weren’t fooled by it.

Unofficial ‘Star Wars’ Galaxy Characteristics

Alexa might be able to tell you how tall Luke Skywalker was.

Alexa might be able to tell you how tall Luke Skywalker was.

Image: John Wilson / Lucasfilm

The Star Wars movies do a lot of things, but one thing they don’t do is regularly dive into things like character height. The Unofficial Star Wars Galaxy Characteristics Alexa skill is a possible solution to that specific issue.

If you want to find out Boba Fett’s eye color or the technical specifications of an X-Wing, this might be the skill for you. 

Golf Quotes

Get motivated before you hit the links with some golf quotes courtesy of Alexa.

Get motivated before you hit the links with some golf quotes courtesy of Alexa.

Image: David Cannon/Getty Images

It may not always be easy to find the time to hit the golf course, but there’s an Alexa skill to help fans stay in the golf mindset. Golf Quotes is exactly what it sounds like: A skill that enables Alexa to recite famous quotes about the game of golf to you.

It’s a simple and somewhat goofy concept that actually seems to be executed well. The skill can spout almost 200 quotes about golf and user reviews are highly positive.

Who’s On First

Alexa can deliver comedy routines now.

Alexa can deliver comedy routines now.

Image: Bettmann Archive / Getty images

Abbott & Costello’s “who’s on first” bit is one of the most famous comedy routines in history. Naturally, there’s an Alexa skill that allows you to hear it delivered in Alexa’s creepily detached robot cadence.

There isn’t much else to say about this one other than that virtual assistants should probably leave it to the professionals.

Ambient Sounds: Snoring

Alexa can simulate this experience for you.

Alexa can simulate this experience for you.

Image: Felix Hörhager/picture alliance via Getty Images

As a primarily sound-based piece of technology, Alexa’s skills marketplace is full of ambient noise generators. One of the more unusual ones is meant to simulate the sound of someone in the same room as you snoring through the night.

Not everyone likes the sound of snoring, but this could potentially make a room feel less lonely at night. Unfortunately, negative user reviews cited technical issues that made it less effective than it could have been.

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How Amazon and Walmart are putting robots to work behind the scenes

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day.

This week Brian Heater, fresh off a trip to Pittsburgh to visit a handful of robotics companies, led a discussion about the current state of robotics and how startups are integrating the machines into our lives. When it comes to our home lives, we really only have the Roomba, that circular disc that moves about our floors on its own sweeping up the dust and dirt. In fact, the jobs being performed behind the scenes are the ones robots are digging into.

Obviously we’ve got some fairly unrealistic expectations about robotics that have been served up to us by sci-fi and things like that. And when we take away the state of consumer robotics and household robotics, the best we can do at the moment right now is the Roomba. Which is obviously quite far away from being Rosie the Robot idea that has been promised to us since the 1960s.The rub of all this, however, is that we tend to not actually see them in action. In automation, there’s a concept of three Ds, which are dull, dirty and dangerous. So they’re the jobs that these robotics are basically designed to adopt.

He also touches upon the fear of robots taking our jobs. What he found is that, no, you don’t have anything to fear — unless you’re an elevator operator, he says, and even that’s not across the board. But there is a political response to that by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said at SXSW last week: “We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should be excited by that. But the reason that we’re not excited is that we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you’ll have to die. And at its core, that’s the problem.”

And it’s not robotics discussion without mentioning Amazon . Heater recently visited an Amazon fulfillment center on Staten Island to give you a peek at how robots help get your packages to you on time.

[embedded content]

For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

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Amify raises its first venture round on a promise: to boost revenue for third party sellers on Amazon

Small businesses have a complicated relationship with Amazon . While they fear the company because they have no control over it, Amazon’s platform is also a great way to reach shoppers, particularly small businesses that rise to the top of its results pages.

Amify, a nine-year-old, Alexandria, Va.-based company, says it can get them there, and investors are buying its pitch. As founder and CEO Ethan McAfee tells us, the 60-person company just raised $5.8 million in Series A funding — its first outside round — led by Mercury Fund, with participation from Dundee Venture Capital, CincyTech, SaaS Venture Capital and Capital One cofounder Nigel Morris.

It all started, McAfee says, with a shoestring operation run out of his suburban townhouse.

As a T. Rowe Price analyst straight out of college, McAfee went on to spend 11 years “doing the investment thing” before deciding that instead of investing in companies, he wanted to start his own. It was 2010 at the time, and Amazon was just beginning its evolution from a place to buy books and CDs into the everything store that it has become. At first, McAfee started selling pickleball paddles at the site from his home, before eventually adding various other items. When he’d established that “we’d gotten really good at it,” it occurred to him that he should sell what he’d learned about how to connect with shoppers on the platform, which was growing more crowded by the day.

Fast forward to today, and McAfee says Amify now works with a long line of customers, from brands you might not recognize to household names like Fender guitars and Brooks, the century-old maker of running shoes, all of which pay Amify a percentage of their revenue in exchange for its services.

What these include, says McAfee, is help with product pages (“10 great pictures versus one can increase sales”), advice on what not to sell (“drones are the worst”), management of sponsored ad campaigns, and a big assist with inventory. To wit, customers of Amify send their goods to the startup when they arrive by container ship from China, for example. Amify — which uses warehouses in Las Vegas and Cincinnati —  then sends the the goods on to one of Amazon’s warehouses so that if there is a return, Amazon sends the item back to Amify to deal with it and not the customer. (McAfee says most returns are donated or destroyed.)

It would seemingly get expensive for the companies, which already pay Amazon a 15 percent commission on their sales and up to 30 percent when orders are shipped through its Fulfilled by Amazon program. McAfee says the increase in sales that Amify is able to generate more than helps defray the cost.

Certainly, it’s an interesting proposition, which explains why Amify is hardly alone in chasing it. In addition to many small players trying to insert themselves into the big business of working with third party sellers – –  more than one million of which now make up more than 50 percent of Amazon’s total sales  — Amify’s more established competitors include Netrush and etailz.

McAfee doesn’t mind the other players, though. “It’s a $500 billion market,” he offers. In short, there’s enough to go around.

At least, there’s enough to go around for now. According to a new CNBC report, Amazon is aggressively blocking money-losing products from advertising on its site and telling brand owners that if Amazon can’t sell their products to customers at a profit, it won’t allow them to pay to promote the items.

Asked if he worries about Amazon banishing companies like his or otherwise putting pressure on them, McAfee say he doesn’t. Though he admits to having “had problems with Amazon” owing in part to its “many moving pieces,” he notes the company’s overarching objective is to make customers happy, an objective the two companies share and that Amify proves every day, he insists. Consider, he says, “With Amazon, you have to speak their lingo. You can spend hours on the phone with them to correct mistakes. But we can do it better than someone trying to figure it out for the first time,” which can presumably save both Amazon, and Amify’s customers, time and money.

Amify can also provide something to its stable of clients that Amazon does not, which is customer data and insights. Though Amify doesn’t offer the service today, McAfee says there may well come a time when it helps customers understand in a granular way what’s selling, what’s not, and why.

The new funding should help. On Amify’s own shopping list, says McAfee: a CTO.

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TC Sessions: Mobility, a one-day session event on the future of transportation

The way people and packages move from Point A to Point B is in the midst of a remarkable transformation driven by technological innovations in AI, robotics, electric battery development, digital platforms and manufacturing.

A mobility revolution is in the making. And TechCrunch is here — and we’re not just along for the ride. We’re here to uncover new ideas and startups, root out vaporware and dig into the tech and people spurring this change.

In short, we’re helping drive the conversation around mobility. And it’s only fitting we dedicate an event to the topic.

TechCrunch is hosting a one-day event on July 10, 2019 in San Jose, Calif., that’s centered around the future of mobility and transportation: TC Sessions: Mobility.

TC Sessions: Mobility will present a day of programming with the best and brightest founders, investors and technologists who are determined to inventing a future Henry Ford might never have imagined. TC Sessions: Mobility aims to do more than highlight the next new thing. We’ll dig into the how and why, the cost and impact to cities, people and companies, as well as the numerous challenges that lie along the way from technological and regulatory to capital and consumer pressures.

Consider changes in the past five years. Automakers are breaking free from the traditional business model of producing and selling vehicles and investing capital and resources into carsharing, ride-hailing, on-demand shuttles and even subscription services. Buying a used car no longer means visiting a dealership; and electric vehicle ownership, driven by Nissan and Tesla and now joined by a bevy of OEMs and startups, is on the rise.

Breakthroughs in AI has prompted large established technology companies, automakers and hundreds of startups to work on autonomous vehicle technology. The rise in e-commerce has Amazon and other startups investing and experimenting with autonomous delivery bots — and on the other spectrum, into self-driving trucks.

Meanwhile, dockless scooters and bikes are flooding cities and startups are popping up to pursue flying taxis and even space tourism. At the center of all of this are people, and the towns and cities they live in.

TC Sessions: Mobility is the latest in TechCrunch’s growing series of Sessions events that feature a deep dive into a specific topic. In the past, TechCrunch has hosted similar events on robotics, the blockchain and social justice. Through intimate interviews and in-depth discussions, attendees of TC Session events hear from the top individuals and companies pushing their respective field forward.

Through the coming weeks, TechCrunch will announce the participants of TechCrunch Mobility’s fireside chats, panels and workshops.


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