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October 23, 2015

David Isbitski

Since the Alexa Skills Kit Developer Preview launched in June, we’ve continued to roll out new features and documentation based directly on your feedback. Today we are adding three highly requested features as built-in intents for use with your own skills: help, stop and cancel. We’re also adding a new Amazon slot type for US cities. These new intents will enable you to control how Alexa responds to customers requesting her to stop an action or ask for help while running your skill. 

The Alexa Skills Kit provides a collection of new built-in intents. These are intents for very common actions that you can choose to implement without providing any sample utterances. For example, the built-in AMAZON.HelpIntent is automatically mapped to common ways of requesting help from a skill. If you choose to use this intent, users can invoke your skill, say something like “help”, and the Alexa service sends your service an IntentRequest for the AMAZON.HelpIntent. Your service can handle this intent in a way appropriate for your skill. Built-in intents save you the trouble of having to write multiple sample utterances for the intent and give your skill a consistent, common way to work with.

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October 23, 2015

David Isbitski

In August, we started giving customers an early look at some of the Alexa skills built by developers like you. If you own an Alexa-enabled device, such as Amazon Echo, you have probably seen some of these skills become available within in your Alexa app. Today we are announcing automatic publishing for any of your Alexa skills that have passed certification. This update makes it quicker and easier for you to add new voice capabilities to Alexa that customers can begin to enable with their own Alexa devices.

If you're thinking writing a new skill for Alexa, now is the time to submit it for certification. Once certified, your skills will be available to customers on Alexa-enabled devices, like Amazon Echo and Amazon Fire TV, just in time for the holiday season. If this is your first time using the Alexa Skills Kit, we recommend you review the following materials in this order:

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October 14, 2015

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, a new category of device designed around your voice.  We announced the availability of the Alexa Skills Kit at the end of June, and thousands of developers have started building skills to expand Alexa’s capabilities.

More Features for Developers

Since June, we’ve continued to roll out new features and documentation to help you build more easily. Most recently, we launched a submission checklist to clarify our certification process and help you get your skill certified more quickly. This is the most recent in new Alexa Skills Kit releases for developers. In September, we launched account linking, service simulator, custom slot types and SSML support.

  • Get Certified Faster: Our submission checklist includes an overview of policy and security requirements as well as recommended functional, voice interface and user experience tests.
  • Easily Link Accounts: Allow customers to link their existing account with your service to Alexa by simply visiting the skills tab in the Alexa smartphone app.
  • Test Skills without a Device: Test your skill service without an Alexa-enabled device with the new service simulator by inputting text and view the service input and output on the screen.
  • Create Your Own Custom Slots: Reduce your required utterances by creating custom slots and sets of values for items that are not covered by Amazon’s built-in slot types.
  • Influence Alexa’s Inflection: Support for Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML), gives you additional control over how Alexa generates speech from your text response.
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October 01, 2015

David Isbitski

We are excited to announce two new Alexa Skills Kit features have been made available for you to use immediately within your own Alexa skills. This update gives you the ability to create custom slots and values for items that are not covered by Amazon’s built-in slot types. If you have created an Alexa skill before, you may have often relied on the LITERAL slot type for most of your intents. This resulted in a large amount of sample utterances being required for Alexa to consistently understand your requests. With custom slot types you can now define your own slot types resulting in far fewer sample utterances.

With this update we have also added support for Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) allowing you to control how Alexa generates speech from your skill’s text responses. This includes Alexa’s inflection, pauses, periods, interpretation (like how to specify digits, dates or times) and pronunciation. Need her to pause after a long sentence? Now you can!

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September 30, 2015

Jesse Freeman

The London Amazon Appstore Developer Summit is designed to provide you with insights into the Amazon eco-system, emerging user interfaces that are driving new user behaviors, and new business models that are opening up opportunities for customers and the developer community. The event will include developer guest speakers, from disruptive start-ups to established consumer brands who are at the forefront of innovation in their market segments.   

Here are is a sneak peek of some of the key items on the agenda:

Bringing Apps and Games to the Living Room

In this session, we cover what's needed to bring your Android app or game to Fire TV. We walk you through controller support for a game scenario (buttons and analog sticks), controller support for UI (selection, moving between menu items, invoking the keyboard), and how to account for the form factor (overscan, landscape, device and controller detection). By the end of this session, you’ll be able to understand what you need to do if you want to build or modify your own app to work on a TV.

An introduction to using Amazon Web Services and the Alexa Skills Kit to Build Voice Driven Experiences

Come learn firsthand how to build for Amazon Echo and Amazon Voice Service enabled devices using the Alexa Skills Kit and Amazon Web Services. This session will walk through using Amazon Echo and how to build your first Alexa Skill using both AWS Lamda and AWS Beanstalk. We'll also take a look at how to monitor your new Alexa Skill using AWS CloudWatch and how to submit it for certification so it's available to customers later this year.

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September 09, 2015

David Isbitski

 
What is it?
 
A free event that will provide an introduction to using Amazon Web Services with the Alexa Skills Kit to build voice driven experiences on Amazon Echo and other devices. The day will also include an open hackathon providing you time to get your hands on building a new Alexa Skill.
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August 27, 2015

Corey Badcock

Experiences designed around the human voice will fundamentally improve the way people use technology. Since introducing Amazon Echo, we’ve heard from developers, manufacturers, and start-ups of all sizes who want to innovate with voice. The Alexa Fund--named for Alexa, the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo--provides up to $100 million in investments to fuel voice technology innovation.

Amazon today announced two new recipients of the Alexa Fund, Musaic and Rachio. Musaic and Rachio are the latest additions to the growing portfolio of Alexa Fund recipients, and join the seven previously funded companies announced in June, including: Orange Chef, Scout Alarm, Garageio, Toymail, Dragon Innovation, MARA, and Mojio. 

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August 21, 2015

Rohan Mutagi

* Important * - On 5-Apr, we 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 companies including Nest, Ecobee, Sensi, Samsung SmartThings, and Wink in order to gather developer feedback, while extending Alexa’s smart home capabilities to work with their devices. If you’d like to build a smart home skill, learn more about the Smart Home Skill API here.

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, a new category of device designed around your voice.  

We have been receiving a lot of requests for an easy way to extend Alexa’s built-in lighting skill to control more lighting and switch devices, and today we’re excited to announce the launch of the Alexa Lighting API. This new API allows commercial developers, hobbyists, and connected home enthusiasts who can code in Java or JavaScript to teach Alexa how to control their cloud-controlled devices in just a few hours. No experience with speech recognition or natural language understanding is required—Alexa does all the work to hear, understand, and process the spoken requests.

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July 31, 2015

David Isbitski

The free Alexa Voice Service (AVS), the same service that powers Amazon Echo, is now available in developer preview to hobbyists and hardware makers who want to integrate Alexa into their connected devices. AVS enables your customers to speak to Alexa through the microphone on your device and Alexa will respond through the device’s speakers. With the developer preview, you get access to a collection of self-service tools, documentation, and APIs and code samples to enhance your device and delight your customers with new voice experiences. Alexa includes access to information, music, audiobooks, news, weather, traffic and more, including any custom skills you create using the Alexa Skills Kit to differentiate your device. Learn more about the developer preview.

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July 20, 2015

Corey Badcock

Join us on Monday August 10, 2015 at the Hilton Union Square in San Francisco for a full day of learning and activities. Our Developer Evangelists will share tips and best practices on how to build, optimize and monetize your apps and games. The developer day is complimentary and doesn't require Casual Connect event badge access.

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June 25, 2015

David Isbitski

Today, we announced that the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), the same service that powers Amazon Echo, is coming soon to third party hardware makers who want to integrate Alexa into their connected devices. Your customers can simply speak to Alexa through the microphone on your device and Alexa will respond through the device’s speakers. This gives your customers access to Alexa’s skills and capabilities, including both built-in skills and those created by you or other developers using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). Examples of Alexa skills include the ability to answer general knowledge questions, provide weather forecasts, query Wikipedia and much more.

Take Advantage of the Alexa Voice Service

Use AVS to extend your hardware’s capabilities and interact with your customers in new ways. Benefits of AVS include:

  • Create Frictionless Interfaces for Your Customers. Allow your customers to control your device in more intuitive ways with a natural language voice interface. By integrating AVS with your device, your customer no longer needs to get out their phone, find an app, and use their thumbs to invoke a command. All they have to do is ask via the microphone on your device.
  • Scale Quickly in the Cloud. AVS is cloud based and scales as your needs scale. You don’t need to worry about provisioning hardware and managing infrastructure to power your voice experience.
  • Integrate Easily. No experience with voice recognition or Natural Language Understanding (NLU) is required. Using AVS, add Alexa to your device in just a few hours. Leave understanding human speech to us and focus on your differentiated value add to customers.
  • Build for Free. Using AVS to power speech experiences on your devices is completely free.

Want to add Alexa to your device or service? Sign up and we will email you when AVS becomes available.  

The Alexa Fund

Amazon is investing up to $100 million to support developers, manufacturers, and start-ups of all sizes who are creating unique and innovative experiences designed around the human voice. Learn more here

Want Amazon Developer blogs delivered to your inbox? Stay in the loop on the latest industry best practices, Amazon promotions, and new launches by subscribing to our weekly blog summary here.

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

 

June 25, 2015

David Isbitski

Experiences designed around the human voice will fundamentally improve the way people use technology. Since introducing Amazon Echo, we’ve heard from developers, manufacturers, and start-ups of all sizes who want to innovate with voice. The Alexa Fund--named for Alexa, the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo--provides up to $100 million in investments to fuel voice technology innovation. Whether that’s creating new Alexa capabilities with the Alexa Skills Kit, building devices that use Alexa for new and novel voice experiences using the Alexa Voice Service, or something else entirely, if you have a visionary idea, we’d love to talk to you.

What Types of Companies will the Alexa Fund Support?

The Alexa Fund is open to anyone with an innovative idea for how voice technology can improve customers’ lives — from early-stage pre-revenue companies that are just starting out to established brands. We’re launching the Fund with seed investments in seven companies:

We’re launching the Fund with seed investments in seven companies:

 

Orange Chef is a start-up that has created a new product for the kitchen called “Countertop,” a mobile app that connects to an ecosystem of cooking tools such as blenders and slow cookers to measure and track ingredients placed into those devices—all powered by Orange Chef’s cloud service nutrition database. Orange Chef sees an opportunity to use voice instead of a phone app in recognition of the fact that cooking can be messy and is often a two-handed operation. For example, customers can use Echo or another Alexa-enabled device while using a blender to ask “Alexa, how many calories are in this smoothie?” or, with a slow cooker, a customer can ask “Alexa, how much more barbeque sauce do I need to add to the pulled pork?”

 

Scout Alarm is a do-it-yourself home security system provider and connected security device maker. The Scout system includes a hub, entry sensors, motion detectors, and a smartphone companion app. Now, Scout is using the Alexa Skills Kit to enable customers to tell Echo or another Alexa-enabled device “Alexa, arm Sleep Mode” before going to bed or ask “Alexa, what were the last five events?” from the comfort of the couch. With Alexa and Scout, there's no need to fumble for a control panel or app to quickly turn off the alarm—just ask Alexa.

 

Garageio provides a system to control and to monitor the status of a garage door from anywhere. Garageio’s product—the Blackbox—is designed to be simple to install and fits onto existing garage door openers. The Blackbox then connects the garage door via the home’s Wi-Fi network, and an associated smartphone app gives users control of the garage door from anywhere. Using the Alexa Skills Kit, Garageio is adding capabilities to Alexa that help a customer quickly find out if their garage door is open or if the alarm is set. For example, before falling asleep many homeowners think through whether the doors are all locked, the windows are all shut, and the garage door is closed—if they can’t remember, they have to get out of bed and go check all the doors manually. Now, all it takes is a quick question to Echo or another Alexa-enabled device: “Alexa, ask Garageio, is the garage door open?” If the answer is “yes,” just say “Alexa, tell Garageio to close the garage door.”

 

Toymail is creating a new category of connected toys that enable parents and children to communicate without the need for the child to be using a smartphone or tablet device. Parents can talk to a child through a toy called the Mailman that has a speaker, a microphone, and an Internet connection. They simply use the Toymail mobile app to leave voice messages that are delivered to their child on the Mailman. Now, with the Alexa Skills Kit, Toymail is enabling a grandparent to say, “Alexa, send a Toymail for Ben…I love you and remind your mom I’m bringing dinner over at 5 pm tonight. I can’t wait to see you guys.” In addition, Toymail is using the Alexa Voice Service to add Alexa capabilities to the Mailman—just press a button on the Mailman to say “Alexa, read a story” for the family to enjoy a bedtime audiobook together via the toy’s speakers.

 

Dragon Innovation provides a suite of products and services that help hardware start-ups and device makers go from “garage to factory” to make their ideas a reality with a framework that guides them through all stages of production—from prototype through sales. As part of the Alexa Fund, Dragon is establishing expertise in using Alexa Voice Services and the Alexa Skills Kit for new products, and is committed to thinking “voice-first” when working with their customers on new products. Dragon is working with clients to add Alexa capabilities to their devices quickly and easily.

 

MARA is an intelligent, voice-based running assistant that provides performance data and training information during exercise, serving as a virtual running coach or personal trainer. MARA is using the Alexa Voice Service and the Alexa Skills Kit to give users easy access to information about their workouts. For example, ask Echo or any Alexa-enabled device “Alexa, how many miles have I run so far this week?” or “What has my average pace been this week?”

 

Mojio is a leading provider of connected car solutions. The company’s device connects to a vehicle’s OBD-II port and extracts driving performance, on-board systems status, and other diagnostic data. Mojio uses the Alexa Skills Kit to enable customers to use Echo or other Alexa-enabled devices to ask “Alexa, do I need to get gas on the way to work today?” before leaving home or “Alexa, where is my daughter driving the car this evening?”, giving them the peace of mind that the car is healthy and the kids are safe. 

Why Work With the Alexa Fund?

Beyond financial support, the Alexa Fund builds on Amazon’s track record of helping innovative individuals grow ideas into successful products and businesses. With established business and technology expertise, Amazon can help take your ideas from initial concept to the marketplace by offering tools such as early access to SDK capabilities, hands-on development support for hardware or software, enhanced marketing support on Amazon.com, placement at Amazon showcase events, membership in AWS Activate, and more. Tell us about your idea.

It’s Easy to Get Started

You may also want to check out these additional Alexa developer resources:

Order Echo - Amazon.com Page
Alexa Skills Kit (ASK)
Alexa Voice Service (AVS)
Alexa Fund
Alexa Developer Forums
Getting Started with the Alexa Skills Kit
Alexa Skills Kit Voice Design Handbook
Create a developer account on the Amazon Appstore

Want Amazon Developer blogs delivered to your inbox? Stay in the loop on the latest industry best practices, Amazon promotions, and new launches by subscribing to our weekly blog summary here.

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

 

June 25, 2015

David Isbitski

Today, we are announcing the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for you to create new voice-driven capabilities for Alexa. Alexa is the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo, a new category of device designed around your voice. With a few lines of code, you can easily integrate existing web services with Alexa or, in just a few hours, you can build entirely new experiences designed around voice. No experience with speech recognition or natural language understanding is required—Amazon does all the work to hear, understand, and process the customer’s spoken request so you don’t have to.

Quickly Build New Skills with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK)

Now you have the opportunity to easily extend your existing service or create something completely new. Without the need for customers to use their hands or eyes, they only have to “ask” and it’s at their command. Now is the time for you to get started.

  • Get in Early. Natural user interfaces, such as those based on speech, represent the next major disruption in computing. Alexa provides you with an opportunity to take advantage of this new form of interaction.
  • Delight Your Customers. Give your audience a completely new way to interact with your service. Without the need for customers to use their hands or eyes, they only have to “ask” and it’s at their command.
  • Get Up and Running in Just a Few Hours. If you have an existing cloud-based service, you can easily use that to start. If not, AWS Lambda is a compute service that makes it really easy to build a cloud-based service that responds quickly to a voice request. 
  • Build for Free. ASK is free to use. AWS Lambda is also free for the first 1MM calls per month.

Examples of skills you can create with the Alexa Skills Kit include:

  • A hobbyist developer can enable Alexa to access his or her child’s school lunch menu—then, each morning simply ask, “Alexa, ask Ballard Elementary School what’s for lunch today” and decide whether to pack a lunch for the child.
  • A device maker with an Internet-connected sprinkler system can integrate its sprinklers with Alexa, so a customer can say, “Alexa, ask my sprinkler to water my lawn for 15 minutes.”
  • A surf report provider can create a new skill for Alexa that lets customers ask for the latest conditions at their favorite break by saying “Alexa, ask Surf Status for my local forecast.”
  • The maker of a smart vacuum cleaner can create a skill for Alexa that lets customers control their vacuum by saying “Alexa, tell the vacuum to start cleaning the living room.”
  • A fitness service can enable Alexa to access a user’s workout history, so a customer can say “Alexa, ask My Fitness how many miles I have run this week.”
  • A baseball fantasy league can make a new skill for Alexa, so managers can simply say, “Alexa, ask Fantasy Baseball to change my lineup and start Felix Hernandez today.”

Developers Have Already Started Creating Alexa Skills

StubHub, an online marketplace for sports, concert, theater, and other live entertainment event tickets is using Alexa to enable customers to purchase tickets and more using voice. “At StubHub, we are constantly thinking of ways to make the live event experience easier and more fun,” said Parag Vaish, Head of Mobile at StubHub. “By bringing StubHub’s great experience to Alexa, we’re able to reach more fans by allowing our customers to use their voice to engage with our content to do things like ask, ‘Alexa, ask StubHub what events are happening this weekend near me?’ or ‘Alexa, ask StubHub to send event suggestions to me for tomorrow.’”

Pebblebee, a hardware company making customized Bluetooth trackers and sensors, is using ASK to enable customers to track items and check sensors using voice. “We've learned over the past few years that it’s not always intuitive to use a visual app with so many features. Using voice commands simplifies the complexity for customers,” said Daniel Daoura, Co-Founder and CEO of Pebblebee. “We’re thrilled to use the Alexa Skills Kit to integrate Alexa with Pebblebee’s sensor information, so a customer can simply ask, ‘Alexa, find my keys,’ or ‘Alexa, how warm is the baby’s room?’ or ‘Alexa, is my dog nearby?’” 

Glympse, a mobile service that provides a fast, free, and simple way to share your location in real time with the people you trust from a GPS-enabled mobile phone, is using ASK to enable customers to request location details via voice. “We are always looking for innovative solutions to expand our ecosystem, and Alexa’s cutting edge voice technology was a natural fit,” said Steve Miller, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Glympse. “Location information—the question of ‘where are you?’ or ‘when will you arrive?’—is pervasive in daily life. We are excited to use the Alexa Skills Kit to make it even easier for people to request location details by saying ‘where is Bob?’ or ‘when will Jack get here?”

It’s Easy to Get Started

To get started with the Alexa Skills Kit, we recommend you review the following materials in order:

  1. Read the Getting Started Guide, which details how users interact with your Alexa skill and how to conduct a conversation with your customers.
  2. Read the AWS Lambda documentation.
  3. Check out the Voice Design Handbook for best practices on voice user interface design.
  4. Review the Alexa Skills Interface Reference to learn more about the syntax of the requests that will be sent to your service.
  5. Check out the reference skills to see sample code.
  6. Learn how to test your new skill with an Amazon Echo.
  7. Sign up for a free account and register your skill on the developer portal.

Want Amazon Developer blogs delivered to your inbox? Stay in the loop on the latest industry best practices, Amazon promotions, and new launches by subscribing to our weekly blog summary here.

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

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