Invocations: "Alexa, ask 1-800-Flowers to order Chloe flowers" or "Alexa, tell 1-800-Flowers I want to send flowers to Chandra on May 28th" or "Alexa Amazon Prime members in select major US cities get access to Amazon Restaurants, a part of Prime Now, which is all about getting fast deliveries.

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With Ask My Buddy, get a spoken-word lifeline to personal responders.

Link the free account you set up at come up when you click the Enable skill button); once the account is registered, you'll get a welcome email. You can then ask Alexa to alert responders one at a time by name, or all of them at once if you're deep in trouble.

Invocations: "Alexa, open Big Sky." Ask for "more details" if needed. A hilarious memory for a serious subject, as personal alert services have waxed and waned over the years.

Or ask any question you can think of as long as you start with "Alexa, ask Big Sky...." Remember the classic "I've fallen! You see fewer of them in the age of smartphones, but if a smartphone isn't an option, there's the Echo.

It gets smarter and more powerful as Amazon adds features—Echo owners get a weekly newsletter spelling out those new options. Amazon's opening up of Alexa to all developers has created a boom in skills.

Over 10,000 entirely free skills are now available—up from 1,000 back in June 2016 and 7,000 in January 2017. There is even a skill for finding new skills, appropriately named Skill Finder, and third-party ways of navigating skills (Amazon's setup is not easy), such as Alexa Skills Store. Whether from a giant corporation or developed by a kid with some scripting knowledge, skills are not yet turning a profit for anyone directly (though Uber, Dominos, and others don't mind the money generated after you talk on their behalf).

However, there are also a number of aural diamonds in the digital rough.

We've combed through them for this look at the best skills currently available on Alexa. Get your world news from a source I think it's safe to say we all trust (because of the English accents): the BBC World Service.

A recent update to our Echo review shows that the original speaker is still a winner, and Alexa is found in other Amazon products—the Amazon Echo Dot and the portable Amazon Tap.

It's also in the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote media hubs (even the first generations)—and is moving into many others, including appliances and vehicles. Think of Alexa as the cloud-based brain behind the Echo, akin to Siri, Cortana, or Google Now. Think of them as the third-party apps you can add to Alexa, like you add apps to a smartphone.

If you want more about a trend, ask "Alexa, tell me more about trend number 5," (or whatever).