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March 22, 2016

Amit Jotwani

We are excited to announce an important update to the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) that will enable you to enhance the user experience on your Alexa-enabled products.

Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is an intelligent and scalable cloud service that adds voice-enabled experiences to any connected product – all you need is a microphone and speaker. Users can simply talk to their Alexa-enabled products to play music, answer questions, get news/local information, control smart home products, and more. And with the free Amazon Alexa app, users can easily control and manage their products from anywhere!

Last year, we launched a developer preview of AVS to introduce you to the benefits of voice-powered experiences. With this update, we are making architectural improvements that include updated APIs and message structures, Amazon Alexa App (iOS and Android) support and the ability to send server-initiated messages.

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March 21, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

 

With a community of more than 100,000 developers, makers, and entrepreneurs, Hackster.io enables users to showcase their portfolio, gather feedback on projects, and learn more about internet-connected hardware. Now, users can add Amazon Echo, Alexa Voice Service, and Alexa Skills Kit tags to their projects to be featured on the Amazon Alexa page on Hackster. We are inspired by the community members who have started to share what they built with Alexa from a voice-controlled drone to a dancing robot, and even a stormtrooper blaster. Hackster allows you to share full tutorials with a list of components, schematics, and code so anyone can replicate these projects at home.

I've always been a fan of open source communities. Hackster.io not only allows me to share my projects, but I also get feedback from other hackers with aligned interests. When I showcased Magic Mirror on Hackster I received private messages from members asking about the code and questions about setting up their own. I was happy to help and share knowledge.” - Arlo Carreon, creator of Magic Mirror on Hackster and Amazon employee

Build voice experiences, share your expertise, and connect with the Alexa community by joining the Hackster platform. Follow Alexa to stay tuned to new projects built by the community and powered by Alexa.

We are excited to see what you build next.

-Marion

Get Started Today

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

Special Offer We're offering free Alexa dev t-shirts for all developers who publish their skill and complete our form by March 31, 2016. Quantities are limited. See terms and conditions. Remember, you can get a skill up and running quickly using our Trivia Skill Template.

 

March 03, 2016

David Isbitski

Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, powers voice experiences on millions of devices, including Amazon Echo and Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. Today, Amazon brings Alexa to more devices with its two newest additions: Echo Dot and Amazon Tap. Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that enables you to add Alexa to any room. Amazon Tap is an Alexa-enabled portable speaker.

Amazon Echo Dot: Add Alexa to Any Room

Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses the same far-field voice recognition as Amazon Echo. Dot has a built-in speaker and also connects over Bluetooth or with the included audio cable to your own speaker. Echo Dot ($89.99) is available exclusively for Prime Members through Alexa Voice Shopping. To order your Echo Dot, use your Echo or Fire TV and just ask: “Alexa, order Echo Dot.”

 

Dot

Alexa—the brain behind Echo Dot—is built in the cloud, so it is always getting smarter. The more you use Dot, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences. And because Echo Dot is always connected, updates are delivered automatically. Third-party skills from developers add even more capabilities like ordering a pizza from Domino's, requesting a ride from Uber, opening your garage with Garageio, and more. Enabling skills lets your Echo Dot do even more—simply discover and enable the skills you want to use in the Alexa App.

 

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March 01, 2016

David Isbitski

By Josh Skeen, software developer at Big Nerd Ranch

This is part one of the Big Nerd Ranch series. Read about our free developer training for Alexa Skills Kit here.

If you want to build Alexa Skills, where should you start? You could begin with building one of the sample skills like the color picker or the trivia game. But when you’ve already tackled “Hello, World,” you’re ready to dive in.

Not quite yet. First, let’s set up a local development environment. Why should you use a local development environment over testing on a live server? There are many benefits. Chief among them are the fact that you gain access to the debugger and the stack trace, and you can quickly test changes without uploading files to a remote server, cutting down your iteration time.

In addition to time considerations, there are other concerns: what if the network is running slowly, you’re on a plane, or the Wi-Fi isn’t working? With a local dev environment, you can still get work done.

That’s where this post comes in: it will guide you through setting up a local development environment so that you can work more efficiently, enabling you to rapidly test your skills as you develop them. We will first set up a working environment with Node.js, and then we will build a model for our Alexa Skill. This skill—Airport Info—will track airport flight delays and weather conditions, and will give us a chance to try developing a more complex Alexa Skill locally. 

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February 26, 2016

David Isbitski

When creating an interaction model for your Alexa skill you can utilize several built-in slot types along with your own custom slots. Custom slots provide the ability to add custom values for items that are not covered by Amazon’s built-in slot types. By using built-in and custom slot you can drastically reduce number of sample utterances you need to provide, and increase the overall accuracy of Alexa’s speech recognition.

Based on your feedback, we are happy to announce the addition of extensible built-in slot types starting with AMAZON.US_CITY, AMAZON.US_FIRST_NAME and AMAZON.US_STATE.

Extending a built-in slot type appends the values you provide to the built-in values defined by Amazon. For example, AMAZON.US_CITY automatically recognizes US cities with a population over 100,000. If you need to collect additional cities, such as your hometown, you could add them to the list by extending the type. The slot would then recognize both the original set of values as well as the custom ones you added.

In order to extend a slot type, edit to your skill and click on the Interaction Model tab. Next, scroll down the Interaction Model page and click on Add Slot Type.

 

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February 19, 2016

David Isbitski

Today we announced that Amazon is teaming up with Big Nerd Ranch to deliver immersive, free training for the Alexa Skills Kit.

  

Big Nerd Ranch, known globally for its highly effective immersive application development bootcamps and app development services, is working with Amazon to develop training courses for the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). ASK is a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples that make it fast and easy for you to add skills to Alexa. Using ASK, you can teach new skills to Alexa in just a few hours. No prior experience with speech recognition or natural language understanding is required. All of the code runs in the cloud — nothing is installed on any user device.

This new training will be available to you later this month, at no cost, and we’ll continue to roll out new modules over the coming months. The training will show you how to build Alexa skills from start to finish, beginning with development environment setup, and concluding with the Amazon certification and more complex skill interactions like account linking. Best practices for voice user interfaces will also be taught, along with UI design, database interaction, testing and more.

You can check out the full announcement here.

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

 

February 12, 2016

David Isbitski

Over the past several weeks I have been hosting weekly Alexa webinars offering an introduction to building skills, voice design guidance as well as hands on demos with the latest Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) features. Based on your feedback, some of the most exciting parts of these webinars have been the open dialog we have had together. The webinars have become a place to get your questions answered directly and instantly. With that in mind I am happy to announce new weekly office hours in addition to the weekly webinars.

Office hours, which I had previously called Alexa Dev Chats, will be a place for you talk directly with myself and the Amazon Alexa team every Tuesday at 1pm PST/4pm EST. During these office hours, you will be able to get answers to any technical questions you have, discuss your skill use case, learn voice design best practices and see live code demos to help you troubleshoot. Our hope is to enable you to get help with quick questions, build the right voice design for your use case, get your skill certified more quickly, and learn how to use AWS services like AWS Lambda for your skill. 

We’ll rotate different roles through the office hours so that you can learn about voice design from our VUI experts, new ASK features from our engineering team, as well as skill submission tips from our certification team.

Here are the topics for the next four weeks:

  • February 16th, General FAQ
  • February 23rd, Certification
  • March 1st, General FAQ
  • March 8th, Voice Design

Sign up now. You can sign up for your preferred date or topic here. If you would like to have a chat on a topic not currently listed, please let me know.

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

February 10, 2016

David Isbitski

Here are the upcoming Alexa events scheduled for February 2016:
 

Online

Intro to ASK | February 11th, 10 am PST / 1 pm EST

Learn how to build your first Alexa skill using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) using AWS Lambda. We’ll also take a look at how to monitor your new skill using AWS CloudWatch and how to submit your Alexa Skills for certification so they will be available to customers later this year.
 

Voice Design 101 | February 18th, 10 am PST / 1 pm EST

Alexa enables customers to interact with devices and services in a more intuitive way using their voice. This webinar will teach you best practices for voice user interface (VUI), how to maximize usability of your voice experience, and how to creating compelling voice experiences with the Alexa Skills Kit.


New ASK Features | February 29th, 10 am PST / 1 pm EST

This webinar will go deeper into some of the newly released Alexa Skils Kit features including Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) and new Built-In Intents. You’ll see code samples and explanations of how you can implement thse features within your own skills. Immediately following the talk there will be an open Q&A where you can bring your questions and get help with your own skills. 

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February 05, 2016

Emily Roberts

It's been a big week for our Alexa developer community. Developers have added over 200 skills to the Alexa platform. Amazon Echo and Fire TV customers can now request a car service with Uber or order a pizza from Domino's — just in time for the Super Bowl. Alexa will also join Alec Baldwin for the #BaldwinBowl, starring in Amazon's first-ever Super Bowl commercial. Watch the videos to see how Alexa is helping Alec plan an epic party.

Alexa, Ask Uber to Get Me a Car

Alexa can now call you a car. Whether you're off to the airport or a big night out, get a reliable ride in minutes. Choose among Uber's various ride options, from low-cost to premium. You can check it out on The Verge or learn more details on the API integration on the Uber developer blog here.

To get started, set your Echo's location under "Settings" in your Alexa App, then enable the Uber skill and link your Uber account. If you don't have an account, you'll be prompted to create one. Once set up, just ask:

Spotify

We also announced this week that Spotify subscribers in the U.S. can now listen to their music on Amazon Echo—just ask Alexa to play any playlist, artist, genre and more from Spotify’s catalog. And because Echo also supports Spotify Connect, customers can easily transfer and control their listening experience from the Spotify app to Echo—just select Echo from the list of available devices within the Spotify app. Then, just ask:

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February 04, 2016

David Isbitski

All Alexa skills submitted for publication go through an Amazon Skill Certification process. This process ensures that we provide customers quality content in the Alexa Skills Catalog and that we help you deliver the highest quality experience possible. While we have Voice Experience and User Experience Guidelines available, I wanted to point out an area many skills have consistently been failing certification on. It is my hope that you can avoid the same problem when creating your skill’s Example Phrases.

As part of your skill’s description, we ask you to provide three Example Phrases for customers teaching them how to interact with your skill.


The first phrase should be the easiest way to get started with your skill. It will be displayed with the short skill description in the main list of skills in the Alexa App.

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February 02, 2016

David Isbitski

As the developer community around Alexa has continued to grow (great news), we’ve been getting more feedback. This feedback is important to us, and we’re doing our best to gather as much as possible. Many of us on the Alexa team read our developer forums on a daily basis, and we talk to developers at industry events almost every week. Suggestions are coming in for new Alexa features, and we’re getting questions on our certification and testing process. Specifically, the questions we hear the most are:

  • Why even test Alexa skills? These are different than mobile apps and developers can make changes without resubmitting. So what’s the point?
  • What’s the process by which you test skills? Given the differences from mobile apps, what are the steps being taken?
  • Once a skill is published, how do you maintain any control over the experience?
  • What are the top failures and what help can you offer in those areas?                          

We’ll address those questions here and provide details on how we test, why some skills are failing, and include resources to help you build higher quality skills. We know that Alexa will only succeed with the help of the developer community, so as we build out Alexa, your ideas are important inputs. Thank you for your support.

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January 26, 2016

David Isbitski

The Alexa Skills Kit has been updated with additional features. The changes are listed below and immediately available for you to take advantage of when building your skills. 

Account Linking oAuth 2.0 Support

The Alexa Skills Kit allows your customers to link their existing accounts with you, to Alexa. To link accounts, customers visit the skills tab in the Amazon Alexa app and enable your skill. They are then prompted to log in to your site using their normal credentials. You authenticate the customer and generate an access token that uniquely identifies the customer and link the accounts.
 

 

An update to account linking is now live that enables skills to authenticate in OAuth 2.0 using both authorization grant and refresh tokens. You can find additional details here.

Custom Slots Sizes

The custom slot type is used for items that are not covered by Amazon’s built-in set of types and is recommended for most use cases where a slot value is one of a set of possible values.

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January 13, 2016

David Isbitski

CES is the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. Held in Las Vegas every year, it has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for more than 40 years—the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace. This year’s CES included several Alexa announcements, below is a recap.

Ford Sync Alexa Integration

Ford is looking to use new SYNC Connect technology to link vehicles with the Amazon cloud- based voice service Alexa, which would allow customers to access their vehicle from inside their home. Using Amazon Echo, a hands-free speaker and voice command device that interfaces with Alexa, Ford owners could request assistance with various functions of their car including: 


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January 11, 2016

David Isbitski

Here are the upcoming Alexa events scheduled for Jan 2016:

Online

Voice Design 101 | January 7, 10 am PT / 1 pm ET

Alexa enables customers to interact with devices and services in a more intuitive way using their voice. This webinar will teach you best practices for voice user interface (VUI), how to maximize usability of your voice experience, and how to creating compelling voice experiences with the Alexa Skills Kit.

Intro to ASK | January 14, 10 am PT / 1 pm ET

Learn how to build your first Alexa skill using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) using AWS Lambda. We’ll also take a look at how to monitor your new skill using AWS CloudWatch and how to submit your Alexa Skills for certification so they will be available to customers later this year.

IOT Learn with the Best Conference | January 16, 10am ET

Alexa will be part of the “Learn IoT with the best” conference which brings the world’s top Internet of Things developers to your living room! Learn how to build your first Alexa skill using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) using AWS Lambda and book a 1:1 session to ask your own Alexa questions. Use the speaker code "Amazon1oT" for 50% discount! 

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January 07, 2016

Emily Roberts

The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for you to add skills to Alexa. Alexa is the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo, the #1 seller across all $100+ products on Amazon.com on Black Friday. We announced the availability of the Alexa Skills Kit at the end of June and opened up publishing for all developers on October 23rd.

As TechCrunch reported earlier this week, we now have more than 130 third-party skills for Alexa. Recent skill additions enable Amazon Echo and Fire TV customers to play Jeopardy!, get stock quotes with Fidelity, hear headlines from the Huffington Post, exercise with the 7-minute workout, and test their Star Wars knowledge with a trivia quiz from Disney. We’re excited to see a growing number of developers use the Alexa Skills Kit to expand their reach in the living room and connected home.

Since we launched ASK, we focused on rolling out new features and documentation to help developers build skills more easily. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the Alexa program in 2015. Visit the ASK page to get started or sign up for our Alexa newsletter.

 

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