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June 14, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Today, we are excited to team up with hack.guides() to bring you a Tutorial Contest. Hack.guides() is a community of developers focused on creating tutorials to help educate and share technical knowledge. This contest is the perfect opportunity to share your knowledge, help other developers, contribute articles to an open-source project, and win a prize along the way. Hack.guides() tutorials bring the developer community together to create and curate collaborative content. With the GitHub API backend, hack.guides() tutorials can be forked, improved, and merged by simply using a pull request.

Technical tutorials are a fantastic medium for developers to share their experience and best practices on a variety of technologies. Our guest bloggers have written a variety of tutorials on topics including how to use AWS IoT and Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) to voice control connected devices and how to easily publish changes into AWS Lambda via the command line interface. We also shared some community tutorials from Alexa developers on how to implement Google Analytics to monitor skill performance and storing variables with persistence to create innovative skills.

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June 10, 2016

Amit Jotwani

Last week Pebble announced that they are integrating Alexa Voice Services (AVS) to Pebble Core, a new category of 3G-capable ultra-wearable device that lets you take music, weather, and more on your run. Unlike other Pebble devices, the Pebble Core is not a smartwatch. Instead, it’s a tiny standalone wearable device that’s designed to allow people to listen to music (via Spotify), runners to track runs, and more – all without a smartphone. With over 1,000+ Alexa skills built by developers using the Alexa Skills Kit, Pebble Core can tap into any number of capabilities. Watch the video to see it in action.

Since the Pebble Core has its own 3G connectivity, connecting to Alexa does not require a smartphone and interacting with Alexa is simple. Just use a pair of wired or Bluetooth headphones with a built-in mic and say something like, “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?” Whether you want to get your news briefing while you’re running on the treadmill, or check the weather before going out for a run, the AVS integration with Pebble Core makes it easy to just ask.

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June 10, 2016

Zoey Collier

Experienced Alexa developer Eric Olson (Galactoise in the Amazon developer forums) had a mission to determine whether or not you could really create a custom skill from scratch within 24 hours. Eric did it in less than 12—and did it well—on a weighted, random-number-generator skill called DiceBot that he developed using Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and a Lambda proxy.

By day Eric is an engineer for Disney, but he and his friends at DERP Group also build things on their own for fun and profit. The dice-rolling DiceBot is their third Alexa skill, and Eric shares his experience about the process in this informative blog post. His vision was:

  • DiceBot would skew fairly evenly, instead of clustering on specific numbers.
  • The randomness would be based on subtle differences in speech patterns, so that players could roll the dice loaded or roll them fair without anyone being the wiser.

In DiceBot, you can invoke a different intent by changing the invocation phrase. For example, by prepending the word “me” to your dice-set description, you can tip DiceBot off to weight things a bit differently:

  • Fair: “Alexa, ask DiceBot to roll a 20-sided die.”
  • Weighted: “Alexa, ask DiceBot to roll me a 20-sided die.”

You can also append “for me” to the end of the dice set description to weight the rolls downward:

  • Fair: “Alexa, ask DiceBot to roll a 20-sided die.”
  • Weighted: “Alexa, ask DiceBot to roll a 20-sided die for me.”

Read more about Eric's experience building DiceBot and give it a try yourself. Simply enable the Dicebot skill in the Alexa app and say one of these:

  • “Alexa, launch DiceBot.”
  • “Alexa, tell DiceBot to roll me five dice.”
  • “Alexa, ask DiceBot to roll 3 d 20 for me.”

Share other innovative ways you’re using Alexa in your life. Tweet us @alexadevs with hashtag #AlexaDevStory.

Get Started with Alexa Skills Kit

Are you ready to build your first (or next) Alexa skill? Build a custom skill or use one of our easy tutorials to get started quickly.

June 09, 2016

Zoey Collier

On April 5, 2016, Amazon announced the Smart Home Skill API, the public, self-service version of the Alexa Lighting API, which was introduced as a beta in August 2015. As part of the beta program, we worked with a number of companies to gather developer feedback, while extending the Alexa smart home capabilities to work with their devices.

In 2015, the Alexa team wanted to make it fast and easy for developers to create skills that connect devices directly to our lighting and thermostat capabilities so that customers can control their lights, switches, smart plugs or thermostats—without lifting a finger. So they created a beta program to work with experts in thermostats and home comfort to gather developer feedback, while extending the Alexa smart home capabilities to work with their devices. That naturally led them to ecobee, creator of a smart thermostat that uses remote sensors to optimize the temperature in specific rooms. The engineers at ecobee jumped at the chance to help Amazon define the integration and product requirements for the new feature.

Why? First, ecobee was the first to allow iOS users to control their thermostats with the Siri voice interface when they integrated Apple’s HomeKit API into their smartphone app. “But Alexa’s way different,” said Hesham Fahmy, Vice President of Technology for ecobee. “One of our biggest product benefits is ‘Comfort where it matters,’ which is especially true with our remote sensor capabilities.” To Fahmy, it made perfect sense to connect your ecobee device to Alexa and say, “Alexa, turn up the temperature” without needing to find your phone.

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June 03, 2016

Zoey Collier

Recently an entrepreneur approached software and design firm Macadamian with a unique product concept: an interactive NHL scoreboard. That WiFi-connected, voice-controlled gadget is enough to make any hockey fan drool. And while it was the company’s first foray into the world of Echo and Alexa, it was certainly not the last.

Now Macadamian has launched an Alexa skill to bring “hands-free” to an action performed 6 billion times each day in the U.S. alone: sending a text message. What could have more mass-market appeal? Yet the company says it created the skill to showcase its expertise, not to gain millions of users.

They call their skill Scryb (pronounced “scribe”). To use it, enable Scryb in the Alexa App, and simply say “Alexa, Scryb your-message-here.”

Ed Sarfeld, UX architect at Macadamian, explains the twofold reason behind the name. "As UX designers, we wanted to make the skill simple and natural to use. The word ‘scribe’ means to write, so it's easy to remember. We changed the spelling because of existing trademarks and wordmarks. But this is voice, and it’s still pronounced ‘scribe’.”

Further, “scribe” is also the skill's main verb, and there’s no need to repeat it.  Scryb needs only a single, simple statement: “Alexa, tell Scryb I’m on my way.” Less to remember means it’s simpler for the user.

By design, users have few other commands to worry about. One lets you set or change the recipient – Scryb stores only one number at a time. If that seems odd, it’s not: remember there’s no screen of contacts on a smartphone to tap on here. And having a single, primary recipient is right in line with the expected uses for the skill:

  • To a parent: “I’m home from school” or “I’m going over to Sally’s”
  • To a caregiver: “I need my medicines refilled” or “I’ve fallen and need help”
  • To a partner or spouse: “Making dinner but we’re out of milk. Can you stop?”
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June 02, 2016

Noelle LaCharite

We are excited to announce four new Alexa Skills Kit built-in intents that you can leverage immediately in your own Alexa skills.

Think of the intent schema as the blueprint for what your Alexa skill will do. Built-in intents are common actions that you can choose to implement in your custom skill without providing any sample utterances. If you created an Alexa skill in the past, you may have leveraged some of the other built-in intents for your intent schema. With built-in intents, you can build a more robust skill with less sample utterances required in your interaction model. Leveraging these built-in intents is easy and allows more flexibility.

Here are four new built-in intents available now:


Common Utterances



  • next
  • skip
  • skip forward

Let the user navigate to the next item in a list.


  • pause


Let the user pause an action in progress.


  • go back
  • skip back
  • back up

Let the user go back to a previous item in a list.


  • resume
  • continue
  • keep going

Let the user resume or continue an action.

With these additional built-in intents, you can help users easily and naturally navigate your skills, from being able to pause an intent or request in progress, go back to a previously called intent or resume an existing one. Users can use natural language and phrasing to support these common interactions, allowing you to leverage the built-in intents rather than having to handle these types of requests programmatically.

Already have a skill? This may be a good time to update it with these new intents. Check out the Implementing Built-in Intents page for more information.

For a complete list of built-in intents, see Available Built-in Intents.

Code Happy,

-Noelle (@NoelleLaCharite)


May 27, 2016

Glenn Cameron

It started with Sam Machin’s brainchild, Alexa in the Browser. Born late last year at a hackathon, the project served as an inspiration for – a new online community tool for developers that simulates the look and feel of an Amazon Echo. With 3D JavaScript animations and Alexa Voice Service (AVS) integration, gives users the ability to experience a realistic interaction with Alexa capabilities and skills. lives in your browser, so anyone, anywhere can access it and test their Alexa skills. You no longer need an Alexa-enabled device to test your skills. Developers worldwide can use to experience Alexa. Its simplicity makes it easy for anyone to understand what an Echo is and what it does without having to explain Alexa’s unique UX.

Try for yourself. Simply visit the website and log in with your Amazon account. If you want to test your Alexa skill, be sure to log in with your developer account. Click and hold the microphone button and speak a command. For example, say “Alexa, what’s the weather today?” When you let go of the button, processes and responds to your voice command – give it a try.

The Alexa Voice Service integration puts the power of Alexa behind the 3D Javascript animations. AVS enables you to integrate Alexa's built-in voice capabilities into your connected products. Carve your own little corner in IoT with a speaker and mic, a microcomputer, and the self-service tools at What would you do with Alexa and a Raspberry Pi?

Haven’t built a skill yet? Get started with our step-by-step tutorials and build your first skill in under an hour.

  • Trivia Skill template - A great place to start for any first time Alexa skills developer. This tutorial steps you through the end-to-end process of building a solid trivia skill and submitting it for certification.
  • Fact Skill template - Another easy tutorial for both developers and non-developers to build an Alexa skill similar to "fact of the day" or "flash cards". 
  • How-to Skill template - This tutorial makes it easy to create a simple, direction-based skill for Alexa.



May 27, 2016

Zoey Collier

The Alexa Skills Kit is a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples that make it fast and easy for developers to add skills to Alexa. Justin Kovac, developer of 7-Minute Workout and Technical Program Manager for Alexa Skills Kit shares his experience and tips for diving head-first into building your own skills.

Prior to his current role, Justin was a Developer Advocate for multiple services across Amazon where his core responsibility was to serve as a voice of the developer community. This includes gathering community feedback to help guide initiatives and providing technical guidance to anyone seeking help via Amazon's Developer Forums and Contact Us support channels. "When I began supporting Alexa, I needed to get my bearings quickly," Justin remembers. “How can you advocate on behalf of a new developer community if you haven’t been in their shoes?”

To get started, Justin attended a hackathon – the perfect opportunity to learn the whole process, from concept to certification.

"The 7-Minute Workout skill is extremely simple in concept," Justin believes. "After some brainstorming, I remembered an iOS app I used based on a New York Times article. It worked, but it felt awkward to have my phone on the table or floor while looking for the next exercise in the routine." That's when Justin began creating a proof of concept of his skill using Node.js and AWS Lambda, an Amazon Web Service where you can run code for virtually any type of application or backend service with zero administration.

“To me, the most important benefit of 7-Minute Workout was getting hands-on knowledge of how to develop an Alexa skill, end to end. Knowing that, I was able to better support the developers who are just joining our community.”

Below Justin discusses the top seven lessons he learned while developing the 7-Minute Workout.

1.  Understand Voice User Interface (VUI) Concepts First

One of the things that the experience at the hackathon made very clear to me was the need to start with the voice experience, not the code. While skills are developed using the same tools and resources as you would use when creating an app, designing for voice feels distinctively different which makes it essential to understand VUI concepts first. The idea of triggering an action, like you traditionally would by the press of a button in an app, is now a variable of hundreds of potential values based on the customer’s request. So a customer could potentially say, “start a new workout” or “begin a workout” or “let’s exercise.” This guide is a great starting point to help you better understand Alexa Skills Kit, VUI, and how to keep users on the "happy path" when interacting with your skill via voice.

2.  Check out the Alexa Skills Kit's Included Samples

With no prior experience building an Alexa skill, I needed the ability to dive right in. What I quickly realized was that there was no need to reinvent the wheel. Amazon’s included samples provide a great variety of functional building blocks to kick start your skill, including DynamoDB integration, multi-stage conversations, RESTful request to third-party APIs and more. Personally, I used 'Wiseguy' as a starting point for the 7-Minute Workout skill because of its simplicity and intent structure. For each sample, read the overview of features and don't forget to follow the files for step-by-step instructions.

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May 26, 2016

Zoey Collier

Adrian Bolinger is a Bloc student and has developed three Alexa skills thus far. His most recent, Date Ninja, builds upon Alexa’s ability to convert a spoken date into a slot formatted as a date in order to make day, week, month, and year calculations on the fly.

With each skill, his need to monitor skill performance, optimize, and rollout subsequent releases has been a top priority. Adrian found a simple way to monitor the performance of his Alexa skills, to see which intents are being used and identify invocation issues with intents. He did it using the open source universal-analytics node module, with five lines of code per intent.  

Using the Big Nerd Ranch series as a basis, Adrian developed Date Ninja locally with a Node.js environment using the moment.js library. Installing universal-analytics with npm, Adrian found the process of implementing Google Analytics to be very easy.

[Read More]

May 25, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Earlier this year, we announced that Amazon was teaming up with developer education company Big Nerd Ranch to deliver immersive, free training for the Alexa Skills Kit. The training shows you how to build Alexa skills from start to finish, from setting up your dev environment to certification and more complex skill interactions like account linking. Here's a recap of the six-part blog training series.

Setting Up Your Local Environment (part 1 of 6): This post will guide you through setting up a local development environment so that you can work more efficiently, enabling you to rapidly test your Alexa 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, Airport Info. We will use Chai and Mocha, two JavaScript assertion and test libraries to build our tests.

Implementing an Intent with Alexa-app and Alexa-app-server (part 2 of 6): In this second post, we’ll be using alexa-app as a framework to build our Alexa skill and alexa-app-server will allow us to test interacting with the skill locally. We will be using these libraries because they grant a path to supporting a local development and testing workflow with an Alexa skill, which allows us to rapidly test and develop.

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May 21, 2016

Zoey Collier

The Stanley Cup playoffs are underway—a perfect time to share the new Fantasy Scoreboards skill built by Macadamian, an international UX design and software development firm with offices in the U.S., Canada, Armenia, and Romania. Using the skill on NHL-connected Fantasy Scoreboards devices that are paired with an Amazon Echo or Fire TV, now Alexa can tell you the score of a specific game, what games are coming up, who played yesterday and even lets you set your favorite team. Here’s a demo of the skill in action.

As described by Chief Architect Martin Larochelle, voice mapping was an important component of making the user experience as natural as possible, given that fans refer to their teams in many different ways—e.g., “Montreal,” “Canadiens,” and “the Habs.” Macadamian identified about 150 variations for the 30 NHL teams, and configured two maps. The first contains all the possible values mapped to a unique team code—e.g., MTL for the Montreal Canadiens—and the second specifies how Alexa says the name of a team—in the case above, “Montreal Canadiens.”

Because the city of New York has two teams, Macadamian needed to create an extension that supports resolving to multiple values. As a result, if a user asks for the score for “New York,” Alexa can ask for further clarification by responding, Do you mean the Islanders or Rangers?”

The Macadamian crew discovered that in some domain-specific cases, the Alexa sample utterances needed alternate spellings to make the voice recognition work. As an example, initially Alexa couldn’t distinguish between “the Avs” (nickname for the Colorado Avalanche) and “the Habs” (Montreal Canadiens). With Avs as a value in the custom slot, Alexa always thought the user said Habs, even when testing in a noise-free room with a native English speaker. What solved the problem was to spell the nickname Avs as Aves.

Martin says that, in the beginning, the detection of Canadiens was not as reliable as desired. Again, the solution was to add Canadians as one of the slot values (although, interestingly, Alexa always sends Canadiens as the spelling).

Read Martin’s blog post for more tips on resolving “fuzzy entry” points using the session.attributes functionality of Alexa Skill Kit (ASK) and adding special handling for misheard values with hexadecimal numbers.

If you have a Fantasy Scoreboards device and want to check out this skill, say “Alexa, ask Fantasy Scoreboards what games are playing today?”

Share other innovative ways you’re using Alexa in your life. Tweet us @alexadevs with hashtag #AlexaDevStory.

May 20, 2016

David Isbitski

When creating a custom Alexa skill, you will need to provide an invocation name that users will use to invoke and interact with your skill. The invocation name does not need to be the same as your skill’s name but it must meet certain criteria to ensure a positive user experience. The invocation name you provide should also easily identify your skill’s capabilities, be memorable and also be accurately recognized by Alexa herself.

Invoking Your Custom Skill

Your service gets called when customers use your invocation name, such as “Alexa, ask dungeon dice for a d20.” In this example, users invoke the custom Alexa skill by using the Invocation Name ‘dungeon dice’ along with a supported phrase for requesting the service.

You can change your invocation name at any time while developing a skill. You cannot change the invocation name after a skill is certified and published.

Note that the invocation name is only needed for custom skills. If you are using the Smart Home Skill API, users do not need to use an invocation name for the skill. For more about the different types of skills you can create, see Understanding the Different Types of Skills.

It is also important to think about how the rest of the invocation phrase will sound when using your invocation name. Remember, there are three ways in which users will always invoke your skill. A good invocation name will make sure it works well in all of these contexts:

  • Invoking the skill with a particular request. For example, “Alexa, Ask Daily Horoscopes for Gemini.”
  • Invoking the skill without a particular request, using a defined phrase such as “open” or “start.” For example, “Alexa, open Daily Horoscopes.”
  • Invoking the skill using just the invocation name and nothing else: “Alexa, Daily Horoscopes.

Here are some additional examples of the supported phrases for requesting an Alexa skill. For a complete list of all launch phrases, see Understanding How Users Invoke Custom Skills.

Starting Phrase


<invocation name>

Alexa, Daily Horoscopes

Ask <invocation name>

AlexaAsk Daily Horoscopes

Begin <invocation name>

AlexaBegin Trivia Master

Do <invocation name>

AlexaDo Trivia Master

Launch <invocation name>

AlexaLaunch Car Fu

Load <invocation name>

AlexaLoad Daily Horoscopes

Open <invocation name>

AlexaOpen Daily Horoscopes

Play <invocation name>

AlexaPlay Trivia Master

Play the game <invocation name>

AlexaPlay the game Trivia Master

Resume <invocation name>

AlexaResume Trivia Master

Run <invocation name>

AlexaRun Daily Horoscopes

Start <invocation name>

AlexaStart Daily Horoscopes

Start playing <invocation name>

AlexaStart playing Trivia Master

Start playing the game <invocation name>

AlexaStart playing the game Trivia Master

Talk to <invocation name>

AlexaTalk to Daily Horoscopes

Tell <invocation name>

AlexaTell Daily Horoscopes

Use <invocation name>

AlexaUse Daily Horoscopes


New Invocation Name Requirements

In order to simplify the process for choosing acceptable invocation names, we are providing new guidance. You’ll need to meet the following requirements in order to pass certification starting 5/25.

  1. The skill invocation name must not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of an entity or person.
  2. One-word invocation names are not allowed, unless the invocation name is unique to your brand/intellectual property.
  3. Invocation names which are names of people or places (for example, “molly,” “seattle”) are not allowed, unless they contain other words in addition to the name (for example, “molly’s horoscope”).
  4. Two-word invocation names are not allowed if one of the words is a definite article (“the”), indefinite article (“a,” “an”) or preposition (“for,” “to,” “of”). For example, “a bicycle,” “an espresso,” “to amuse,” “for fun.”
  5. The invocation name must not contain any of the Alexa skill launch phrases and connecting words. Launch phrase examples include “launch,” “ask,” “tell,” “load,” and “begin.” Connecting word examples include “to,” “from,” “by,” “if,” “and,” “whether.” See Understanding How Users Invoke Custom Skills for a complete list of skill launch phrases and connecting words.
  6. The invocation name must not contain the wake words “Alexa,” “Amazon,” “Echo,” or the words “skill” or “app.”
  7. The invocation name must contain only lower-case alphabetic characters, spaces between words, possessive apostrophes (for example, “sam’s science trivia”), or periods used in abbreviations (for example, “a. b. c.”). Other characters like numbers must be spelled out. For example, “twenty one.” The name must be easy to pronounce correctly and be phonetically distinct to avoid being misinterpreted as other similar sounding words. 
  8. The invocation name must not create confusion with existing Alexa features. If your invocation name overlaps with common Alexa commands, users may get confused by Alexa's response and not enable your skill. For example, if your invocation name is too similar to the built-in "weather" command, Alexa may sometimes respond with your skill and sometimes respond with the built-in weather feature, providing an inconsistent user experience.

The following recommendations are not required for certification, but will provide your users with a better experience and are highly recommended:

  • The skill invocation name should be specific to the functionality of the skill, unless the invocation name is unique to your brand or intellectual property (for example, “uber,” “dominos”). One way to achieve relevance is to qualify the invocation name with something that describes the skill’s functionality or something relevant to your company or developer name. For example, “boston transit,” “cricket trivia,” “math tutor,” “magic eight ball,” “baby stats,” “tim’s jokes.”
  • The invocation name should also fit smoothly with at least one of the Alexa skill launch phrases (for example, “launch,” “ask,” “tell,” “load,” “begin”) to allow customers to naturally invoke the skill.

Finally, plan on spending some time testing your invocation name once you have an initial version of your service up and running. When testing with an Alexa-enabled device, you can see how Alexa interpreted your invocation name by reviewing the history in the Amazon Alexa App (in the app, navigate to Settings and then History).

For more guidance on creating a Custom Skill for Alexa, check out the following additional assets:

Voice Design Handbook

Understanding How Users Invoke Custom Skills

Steps to Build a Custom Skill

Voice Design Best Practices

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)


May 17, 2016

Noelle LaCharite

Testing your skill is a critical phase in skill development. When building your skill you should following these testing guidelines to ensure that your skill is set up for success when it goes through certification. Once you have completed this initial phase of testing, you may want to add a collection of developer accounts to allow other developers to test your skill on their devices before your skill goes live. These developers will then be able to use their own developer accounts and connected Alexa devices to perform user testing and provide feedback. This is a great way to ensure you are delivering a skill that will function as expected and also catch any bugs that functional testing might miss.   

Note: When you set someone up as a developer on your account, they will be able to test and change any skill in development under your account. Right now there is no way to specify testers for a specific skill in your account.

In This Tutorial You Will:

  • Get an introduction to account settings
  • Learn how to set up test users in the user permissions area
  • Understand what each tester has to do to enable the skill on their device
  • Revoke the ability to test skills from users
[Read More]

May 13, 2016

David Isbitski

By Juan Pablo Claude, software developer at Big Nerd Ranch

Editor’s note: This is part six of the Big Nerd Ranch series. Check out parts five, four, three, two, and one.

One of the greatest features of Alexa is that it functions as a personal assistant you can interact with without having to physically touch the device. This allows you to get information or accomplish tasks while you are, for example, baking a cake. One of the tasks you could accomplish in such a sticky situation could be to post a tweet about your baking adventures.

From an Alexa developer’s point of view, the task of posting a tweet is a pretty sophisticated operation because the skill needs to authenticate with the user’s Twitter account on the web, then get authorization to access the API in order to make a posting.

From a convenience and security point of view, it would be a terrible idea for the skill to ask for the user’s credentials verbally every time access to the Twitter API is needed. Furthermore, an Alexa-enabled device does not have a way to store these credentials locally, so another approach must be used.

Fortunately, the Alexa Skills Kit features account linking, which lets you access user accounts on other services, Twitter among them, using the OAuth protocol. In this post, we will use account linking and OAuth to grant delegated authority to our Airport Info skill so that it can post an airport’s flight status to a user’s Twitter account. Delegated authority means that the Airport Info skill will be granted permission to post to the user’s Twitter account without ever having access to the actual account credentials.

Note that Alexa uses the OAuth 2.0 protocol, and some services like Twitter still use version 1.0. The differences in the implementation are not great. Essentially, dealing with OAuth 1.0 requires an additional token request step that will be handled in this exercise by a separate web application.



Registering Airport Info as a Twitter App

If you haven’t already built an Alexa Skill, check out our previous posts on building Airport Info to get started.

The first step in enabling Twitter delegated authority to the Airport Info skill is to let Twitter know that the skill exists. We must register Airport Info as a Twitter App, so that Twitter knows the skill will later ask for authorization to post on a user’s behalf. To accomplish this, first log in to your Twitter account and visit the Twitter Apps page.

[Read More]

May 12, 2016

Zoey Collier

When Daniel Rassiner contemplated what he wanted his custom Alexa skill to do, he decided to build a voice experience based on a popular internet topic – enter Daily Cutiemals. With the skill enabled, anyone can ask Alexa to send them an email every day featuring an image (cute, naturally) of their requested animal species from the Imgur library.

Bloc, an education company with mentor-led programs in software engineering and design, recently enhanced several of their curriculums by adding an Alexa Project module. In this new module, Daniel and other students like him, learn how to build compelling voice experiences with the Alexa Skills Kit and thereby create Alexa skills they can add to their portfolios.

With an understanding of Alexa and an idea for his custom skill, Daniel’s first order of business was to determine whether Alexa could interact properly with the Imgur API. To do this Daniel tested using static data. The test was successful, so he delved into interaction with the AWS DynamoDB and using ES6 fetches/promises to find the appropriate picture.

Because Alexa uses JSON files to organize its communications, creating the intent schema for the skill enabled Rassiner to beef up his Java expertise. He used the Custom Slots and Sample Utterances capabilities to give users a list of animals and adjectives to choose from.

The Alexa Skills Kit provides several samples of custom skills written in Node.js (JavaScript) and Java. You can deploy and test these samples as AWS Lambda functions on AWS Lambda (a service offering by Amazon Web Services). Daniel used the Amazon Score Keeper sample provided as a basis for reading and writing to a database using AWS DynamoDB, which is very easy to access from a Lambda function.

[Read More]

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