Alexa Can Now Add Calendar Events!

There’s a lot of Alexa functionality that I’m not very interested in. You can dig through the Alexa Skills and find a lot of stuff that will make you say, “Meh? Do I really need a Magic Eight Ball?” (Actually, that’s probably a bad example as it does sound kind of fun to play with the kids.)

However, on Friday, Alexa announced some functionality that I’ve been waiting for a long, long time. When I first got my Echo, I wanted the ability to tell it to add things to my Google calendar. Too often, I’ll have a thought that I don’t want to lose. I often add those thoughts to my calendar so that I can investigate them at a later date.

For a long time, we could get Alexa to tell us what’s in our Google calendar… but we couldn’t tell it to add items. That’s all changed. Here’s how it’s supposed to work from the weekly Amazon Echo newsletter.

“Alexa, add an event to my calendar.”

“Alexa, add ‘brunch with Mom’ to my calendar for Saturday at 10 a.m.”

(Unfortunately, the newsletter isn’t easy to link to on a webpage. In addition, the examples of things you can ask are images and not text I can copy and paste. Thus expect transcription errors.)

Unfortunately, in practice, it was a LOT more difficult for me.

First, I noticed that my calendar had become unlinked. I’m not sure when that happened, but now you know how often I use Alexa to get my days’ schedule. I thought that it wasn’t linked because I was trying to use my Echo Dot instead of my Echo where I originally set up my calendar. I presumed that calendars were tied to a device. (That might be nice since my wife could get her own Echo and have it linked to her accounts by default instead of mine.) There’s pros and cons to that and I’m not saying that Amazon made the wrong choice, but just one that I didn’t expect when my calendar became unlinked.

Once I realized that calendars were account specific and not device specific, linking my calendar was very easy. I just wish adding an event was that easy.

I started off with

“Alexa, add an event to my calendar.”

That brings up a dialog asking when you’d like to add. Since this was a test, I said, “In 10 minutes.” I found that works great for Alexa alarms, but Alexa was confused by it for calendars.”

I decided to try to set an alarm for 2PM (which was 45 minutes from when I was writing the article). That initially seemed to go well until I got to the day. I wanted to set an alarm for “today” which didn’t work either.

On the next attempt, I got a little further. I was able to communicate “2PM” and “tomorrow.” That only broke down when I gave Alexa the name of the event at her prompting. Since this was a test I was calling the event, “Test Alexa.” Unfortunately, that triggered to be confused and report that it doesn’t know what I want it to do and shut down. Fair enough, but let’s hope you don’t have to pick-up your daughter named Alexa at the airport.

I was finally able to successfully set up an appointment to say hello to my dog tomorrow at 2PM. Alexa read it back to me (which I wasn’t expecting) and asked if it was correct. Because it was unexpected, I missed the date and time and simply agreed to set it up. Alexa confirmed she added it to my calendar.

Unfortunately when I looked at my calendar, there was nothing added. I tried to search my calendar for any of the words and couldn’t find them.

At that point, I simply gave up. I may try it again with the longer form that I quoted above.

I need to recognize this is just the first version of adding things to calendars… the bugs aren’t really surprising.

Let me know if it works better for you. If not, maybe we should let Amazon put this back in Alexa’s oven and bake it a little longer.

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