11 Amazing Alexa-Compatible Products That Obey Your Voice Commands

Amazon's home assistant
Amazon's home assistant
Amazon

Amazon's Alexa platform—the main selling point of its Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers—is turning the sci-fi fantasy of the voice-controlled home into a reality. Sync these gadgets to your Echo and start barking orders at your locks, your lights, and even your Wi-Fi router. 

1. GARAGE DOOR OPENER; $95

Garage door opener

Is it lazy to ask Alexa if the garage is closed, instead of stepping outside to check? Of course, but that simple, nightly confirmation—with no slippers or bathrobe required—is exactly why a smart garage door opener could become one of your most cherished gadgets.

Find it: Amazon

2. THERMOSTAT; $245

Nest thermometer

The initial appeal of internet-connected thermostats was the ability to adjust and program temperatures with a phone. Alexa takes that a step further, letting you turn the heat up or down with your voice, or even let the thermostat know you're leaving, so there's no delay in switching to an energy-saving “away” mode.

Find it: Amazon

3. LOCK; $280

Touchscreen handles

The appeal here is similar to the garage door opener: instant, voice-activated peace of mind. You can ask Alexa to check that your smart lock is engaged, and to lock it if it isn't already. And not to worry, a random line of TV dialogue won't leave the door unlocked, since you can't actually disengage the lock via Alexa voice command.

Find it: Amazon

4. LIGHT BULB; $70

Smart lightbulb

Add smart LED bulbs to your Wi-Fi network, and wow guests with one of the cooler, the-future-is-now Alexa tricks: asking the lights to turn on, turn off, or go dimmer or brighter.

Find It: Amazon

5. WALL SOCKET; $40

Smart white wall socket

Though not quite as fun as a full-fledged smart bulb, a smart plug is often more affordable, and gives you basic voice control (no dimming, for example) over whatever's plugged into it. This usually means a lamp, but it's possible to cut the power to other devices—such as a TV—in dramatic, hands-free fashion.

Find it: Amazon

6. BLUETOOTH LOCATOR; $28

Orange Bluetooth locator

The premise of Bluetooth locators is ingenious: You clip or stick a tiny doodad to the objects you can never seem to keep track of, then use your phone to trigger a telltale ping the next time said object goes missing. But what happens when it's your phone that's gone AWOL? By syncing trackers to your Echo, you can ask Alexa to sound their alarm, no phone or other intermediary device needed.

Find It: Amazon

7. WI-FI ROUTER; $160

A wi-fi router with three antennae

Ok, this is an obscure use of Alexa, but also a pretty neat one. A select number of Wi-Fi routers can respond to voice commands that range from the very nerdy (asking for current Wi-Fi settings) to the genuinely handy, such as rebooting the router to clear up random connection issues, or activating a guest network when friends and family drop by.

Find It: Amazon

8. ESSENTIAL OIL DIFFUSER; $57

Blue oil diffuser

Like most smart appliances, internet-connected essential oil diffusers tend to require their own, purpose-built phone or tablet app to be controlled remotely. But when company shows up without warning, instead of fumbling through an app on the way to the door, you can just ask Alexa to get the aromatherapy party started (though not in those exact words).

Find It: Amazon

9. SPRINKLER CONTROLLER; $200


Smart sprinkler controllers are a minor miracle, letting you fine-tune when and how much water you apply to your lawn and/or garden. Alexa makes that interaction a little less fussy, accepting quick commands to pause the sprinklers for a set amount of time, activate specific zones, or delay the entire system because of rain.

Find It: Amazon

10. VIDEO DOORBELL; $200


The interaction between Alexa and video doorbells is small, but indispensable. You can ask Alexa to take a picture of the front door, or start recording live video, in case that strange noise outside is worth investigating or documenting.

Find It: SkyBell

11. SMART HOME HUB; $48


We saved the best, but also the most complicated Alexa-compatible gadget, for last. Many smart home products either require a central, Wi-Fi-connected hub to be controlled remotely, or are simply easier to control with one (meaning you can use a single app instead of multiple ones). Smart hubs, in other words, are for true smart home believers, and Alexa only increases the appeal of these device-wrangling products. A synced-up Echo allows for a wide array of voice commands, from controlling lights to activating the air-conditioning, all without reaching for a phone or tablet. For now, this is the closest you'll get to the voice-activated robo-houses that science fiction promised us.

Find It: Amazon

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

HBO Max: Everything You Need to Know About the New Streaming Service

What will you binge-watch first?
What will you binge-watch first?
WarnerMedia

This week, WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, the long-awaited streaming platform that the company hopes can compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+. But with HBO GO and HBO NOW already in existence, the addition of a third platform for HBO content has caused no small amount of confusion among both prospective customers and current HBO subscribers. Here are answers to all your burning questions about the buzzworthy new service.

What is HBO Max?

HBO Max is a direct-to-consumer streaming platform that you can download as an app or access through your cable or internet provider. Just like Apple has Apple TV+ and Amazon has Prime Video, WarnerMedia now has HBO Max.

How is HBO Max different from HBO NOW and HBO GO?

hbo max streaming platform
This user's viewing habits are eclectic, to say the least.
WarnerMedia

Before HBO Max, WarnerMedia had two different apps with the same library of HBO series and certain Warner Bros. films. HBO GO is for viewers who already pay for HBO through their cable TV provider, which is why you have to log in through your TV provider. HBO NOW is for independent subscribers who pay $15 a month for access to the same content. In other words, HBO GO is for customers with cable, and HBO NOW is for those without it.

Like HBO NOW, HBO Max is an independent subscription service that you don’t need a TV provider in order to access. The main difference comes down to content: While HBO NOW and HBO GO only include HBO series and some films, HBO Max offers tons of additional shows and films licensed from other distributors—plus new, exclusive originals (more on that in a minute).

How much does HBO Max cost, and how do I get it?

You can sign up for HBO Max here. Your first seven days will be free, and it will cost you $15 per month after that.

Do I already have access to HBO Max?

If you’re already an HBO NOW subscriber, your app should have automatically updated to the HBO Max app (if you don’t have automatic updates enabled, make sure to update it manually), and you can log into HBO Max using your existing HBO NOW credentials. Your recurring monthly payment of $15 will also now automatically start applying to HBO Max instead of HBO NOW.

If you watch HBO through your TV or mobile provider, there’s a good chance you can access HBO Max at no additional cost, too. Apple TV channels, AT&T TV, DIRECTV, Hulu, Spectrum, Verizon FIOS, Xfinity, and many other providers are included—you can see the full list here.

Which platforms will HBO Max be on?

You can stream HBO Max on your desktop on HBOMax.com, or you can download the app through the Apple app store, Google Play, or Samsung TV. You can also access HBO Max content on your TV through any of the providers listed here.

What's playing on HBO Max?

hbo max channel hubs
Elmo and James Dean in the same place, at last.
WarnerMedia

HBO Max boasts 10,000 hours of content that includes all HBO shows, many Warner Bros. films from the past century, new Max Original series, and other programs from CNN, Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, TCM, Adult Swim, and more.

To name a few highlights, the service currently offers all eight Harry Potter films, all 10 seasons of Friends, an exclusive selection of Studio Ghibli classics like Howl’s Moving Castle (2005) and Spirited Away (2002), and 2019’s Joker. The first few episodes of some highly-anticipated Max Originals are also available, including Anna Kendrick’s rom-com series Love Life, the voguing house reality competition Legendary, and Sesame Workshop's The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo (featuring guests Kacey Musgraves, John Mulaney, the Jonas Brothers, Lil Nas X, and more—so far).

Will I get to see the Friends Reunion?

Yes, the Friends reunion will definitely debut on HBO Max, but no air date has been confirmed yet. Production was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re tentatively hoping to film it sometime this summer. (But hey, at least you have access to all the other Friends episodes to help you pass the time.)