Amazon Alexa can now help find a COVID test or ruin your morning with Minions

By Mitchell Clark

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Amazon added a few abilities to Alexa last month, introducing a variety of Super Bowl-related skills and the ability to do home automation on its own, but today the company’s telling us about some new alarm and COVID skills that snuck under the radar.

You’ve been able to set custom alarms and alarm sounds using Alexa devices for a while now, but now you can do it with Minion sounds, if you just haven’t been waking up angry enough. The sounds include such classics as “Peep Peep Peep”, “Banana,” or “Boing Boing Boing!” Lovely.

There are now a variety of branded alarms available for Alexa, including sounds from Disney, Spongebob, Jurassic World, and Harry Potter. They can be set by saying “Alexa, wake me up to Minions/Jurassic World/Spongebob/etc alarm tone.” Some of the alarm tones are free, some can be expanded with in-skill purchases, and some cost money, starting at $1.99.

The alarm sounds can be added by asking your Alexa device for them, and you can also browse and add them in the Android version of the Alexa app. If you’re using the iOS version of the app, you’ll just have to read the list and ask your smart speaker to install them. It seems Amazon was able to work out a deal with Apple to get Prime video rentals working, but not Alexa skill payment processing.

Turning to skills that could be slightly more useful, Alexa can now help you find the nearest COVID testing site, or help you find vaccine trials. Asking Alexa “where can I get tested for COVID” will make it read out a list of the nearby places you can get tested at. You can then have Alexa call one of the locations if you want more information.

If you’re looking for vaccine trials, you can also ask “Alexa find a COVID trial”, and it’ll look for any within 30 miles of you, using research organization IQVIA to search for trials. Of course, this is information that you could find on the internet yourself, but it might be a convenient option if you don’t mind Amazon knowing.