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July 21, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

The Amazon Alexa team has collaborated with Big Nerd Ranch, known globally for its highly effective immersive development bootcamps and app development services, to develop deep technical training courses for the Alexa Skills Kit. Today we launch a new developer education experience that showcases all the free learning materials created in collaboration with Big Nerd Ranch.

Our six educational modules will dive into building voice user interfaces using the Alexa Skills Kit. The training materials will teach you about the Alexa skill architecture and interface configuration, slots and utterances, sessions and voice user interfaces, persistence, account linking, and certification and testing.

Each module page features a variety of learning materials:

  • Short and sweet videos you can easily share, save for later, or add to your own playlist on YouTube,
  • Learning objectives that summarize what you will learn,
  • Reference links to find more about Alexa Skills Kit features and technologies covered in the training,
  • Code samples on GitHub to follow along and build custom Alexa skills,
  • Condensed posts published on the Alexa blog,
  • Complete study guides to learn more and solve bonus challenges.

Start learning: check out our new developer education pages.

Learn More

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

July 19, 2016

David Isbitski

Today we’re happy to announce the new alexa-sdk for Node.js to help you build skills faster and with less complexity. Creating an Alexa skill using the Alexa Skills Kit, Node.js and AWS Lambda has become one of the most popular ways we see skills created today. The event-driven, non-blocking I/O model of Node.js is well suited for an Alexa skill and Node.js is one of the largest ecosystems of open source libraries in the world. Plus, with AWS Lambda is free for the first one million calls per month, which can support skill hosting for most developers. And you don’t need to manage any SSL certificates when using AWS Lambda (since the Alexa Skills Kit is a trusted trigger).

While setting up an Alexa skill using AWS Lambda, Node.js and the Alexa Skills Kit has been a simple process, the actual amount of code you have had to write has not. We have seen a large amount of time spent in Alexa skills on handling session attributes, skill state persistence, response building and behavior modeling. With that in mind the Alexa team set out to build an Alexa Skills Kit SDK specifically for Node.js that will help you avoid common hang-ups and focus on your skill’s logic instead of boiler plate code. 

Enabling Faster Alexa Skill Development with the Alexa Skills Kit for Node.js (alexa-sdk)

With the new alexa-sdk, our goal is to help you build skills faster while allowing you to avoid unneeded complexity. Today, we are launching the SDK with the following capabilities:

  • Hosted as NPM package allowing simple deployment to any Node.js environment
  • Ability to build Alexa responses using built-in events
  • Helper events for new sessions and unhandled events that can act as a ‘catch-all’ events
  • Helper functions to build state-machine based Intent handling
    • This makes it possible to define different event handlers based on the current state of the skill
  • Simple configuration to enable attribute persistence with DynamoDB
  • All speech output is automatically wrapped as SSML
  • Lambda event and context objects are fully available via this.event and this.contextAbility to override built-in functions giving you more flexibility on how you manage state or build responses. For example, saving state attributes to AWS S3.
[Read More]

July 18, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Today, we’re excited to announce a new Alexa skills course available on Pluralsight, a global leader in online learning for technology professionals. The new course is focused on building custom Alexa skills in C# and ASP.NET Web API. In this four-module course, “Developing Alexa Skills for Amazon Echo”, Alexa developer and Pluralsight author Walter Quesada teaches the foundations of developing voice experiences for Amazon Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices. First, you'll learn the differences between Echo and Alexa, as well as the differences between the Alexa Voice Service and the Alexa Skills Kit. Next, you will quickly evaluate the 'Hello World' node.js sample code provided by Amazon. Finally, you will learn the certification process and requirements, publication stages, and how to create new versions of live skills. By the end of this course, you'll be better prepared to build and publish Alexa skills, or capabilities, for Alexa, the voice service that powers Echo.

Watch the video series for free today.

“I’m excited for developers in the Pluralsight community to watch this first ever course on developing Alexa skills in C# and .NET. I can’t wait to see what you build. Let me know in the Pluralsight discussion forums.” – Walter Quesada, Pluralsight author

Watch Alexa Skills Kit Webinar by Alexa Evangelist, Dave Isbitski

If you need more information about Alexa before getting started, Dave Isbitski, Chief Evangelist for Alexa and Echo, has got you covered. In this exclusive webinar created for Pluralsight, Dave will walk you through the world of Alexa Skills Kit and how you can create your own voice-driven experience. The webinar starts by diving into the basics of Alexa, the SDKs, and resources to get started. Next, you’ll learn how to build an Alexa skill quickly by walking through code and interaction models.

Watch this webinar to learn more about the Alexa Skills Kit today.

Learn More

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

July 11, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Last month we released the first two videos in the Alexa video series created by developer education company Big Nerd Ranch. You can find parts 1 and 2 on the official YouTube Alexa Developers channel. Today we are excited to reveal the next two videos in the Big Nerd Ranch series on how to develop Alexa skills locally with Node.js.

In part 3 of 6, “Sessions and Voice User Interfaces”, we will learn about user sessions. This feature allows an Alexa skill to break more complicated data requirements into a series of steps spanning multiple requests to the skill service. We’ll also learn about Amazon’s voice user interface requirements. Following these requirements is important for getting a skill certified for public availability in the Alexa app. Lastly, we’ll introduce home cards. Cards are a graphical user interface element that can be sent from a skill to the Alexa app.

In part 4 of 6, “Persistence”, we will discuss how to link an Alexa skill with a database so that it can save an unfinished user interaction for later use in another session. Having the ability to persist data between Alexa sessions opens the door for far more versatile and sophisticated skills. We will see how to use Amazon DynamoDB to easily read and write data from an AWS Lambda function skill. We will use a library called Dynasty to interact with Amazon DynamoDB and handle asynchronous results more easily and elegantly.

Stay tuned for the last two videos from Big Nerd Ranch later this month.

Learn More

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

June 30, 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 (ASK). The training shows you how to develop Alexa skills locally with Node.js, from setting up your development environment to submitting a skill for certification and more complex ASK features like account linking and persistence. You can find a recap of all the blog posts published for the training series here.

Today we are excited to release the first two videos in the Big Nerd Ranch video series. These videos kick off the official Alexa Developers channel on YouTube.

In the first video, “Hello, Alexa!”, we’ll introduce the Alexa Skills Kit and teach you how to create Alexa skills, or capabilities, for Alexa. We will build and deploy a basic skill. This skill will be called the “Greeter” skill, and will say hello to users when they invoke the skill using the words that we specify.

 

In the second video, “Slots and Slot Types”, we will see several new features of the skill interaction model that let us build more sophisticated skills. We will expand on what we learned with the Greeter skill by building a more feature-rich skill called “Airport Info”. Airport Info will make requests to the Federal Aviation Administration’s JSON backed web service, and inform users if there is any delay at an airport that they specify.

Stay tuned for more videos from Big Nerd Ranch in July.

Learn More

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

June 29, 2016

David Isbitski

Today, we are launching a bi-weekly podcast focused exclusively on the Alexa developer community and the Amazon teams building Alexa technology. Each episode will be 20-30 minutes long and air twice a month. We’ll discuss various aspects of Alexa, including the Alexa Skills Kit, Alexa Voice Service, natural language understanding, voice recognition, and first hand experiences directly from developers like you.  

To kick it off, our first episode is a chat between myself and Charlie Kindel, director of Alexa Smart Home at Amazon. Charlie and I go into the details behind the launch of the Smart Home Skill API and some of the decisions the team had to make along the way. I also had the opportunity to learn about Charlie’s experience  in smart home and his thoughts on how he sees it evolving over time.

Check out the first episode.

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

June 28, 2016

David Isbitski

Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, powers voice experiences on millions of devices, including Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire TV devices, and devices like Triby that use the Alexa Voice Service. One year ago, Amazon opened up Alexa to developers, enabling you to build Alexa skills with the Alexa Skills Kit and integrate Alexa into your own products with the Alexa Voice Service. Today, tens of thousands of developers are building skills for Alexa, and there are over 1,400 skills for Alexa – including Lyft and Honeywell, which were added today.

A New Experience for Discovering Skills
Today, we announced new ways for customers to discover and use your Alexa skills, including a new voice-enablement feature and a completely redesigned Alexa app. Customers can now quickly search, discover and use your skills. Starting today, customers can browse Alexa skills by categories such as “Smart Home” and “Lifestyle” in the Alexa app, apply additional search filters, and access their previously enabled skills via the “Your Skills” section.

         

[Read More]

June 27, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Today, I’m excited to announce a collaboration between Geekwise Academy and Amazon Alexa. Geekwise Academy is an accelerated training program for current and aspiring technologists in Fresno, California. Geekwise Academy gives students in this area an opportunity to fulfill their dreams by way of providing the latest in technical training.  

Since opening their doors in June 2013, Geekwise Academy has educated more than 3,500 students in the areas of robotics, video game design, web design, and application development. Starting July 25, Geekwise Academy students will be able to attend the first Amazon Alexa Skills Course in Fresno, California. During the four-week in-person training, students will learn about the Alexa Skills Kit to develop new voice user experiences called "skills" for Alexa. Alexa is the voice service that powers the popular Amazon Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo Dot and Amazon Tap. Students will gain expertise in voice design and work on their own voice user interactions with the goal to get their Alexa skills live in the Alexa App upon certification.

The training program will cover various topics including setting up a development environment, building the interaction model of a skill, testing and debugging, using AWS Lambda for hosting source code, handling queries to third-party APIs, and connecting to custom hardware. A little bird (Geekwise Academy’s nerdy owl mascot) tells us there will be an exciting robotics project included in the Alexa curriculum!

The course will be held at Geekwise Academy within the Bitwise South Stadium technology hub in Downtown Fresno – home to over 100 technology companies. Sessions will run three hours per day, five days a week, for four weeks.

Sign up to save your spot.

[Read More]

June 22, 2016

Glenn Cameron

Today, we are happy to announce the Internet of Voice (IoV) Challenge on Hackster.io, a developer community dedicated to learning hardware.

We’ve partnered with Hackster.io and Raspberry Pi to challenge DIY artisans of the world to build compelling IoT voice experiences using Raspberry Pi and Amazon Alexa. Makers have already started inventing new IoV products. We’ve seen people open and close their blinds and fully control RGB lights with Alexa. Now, we are excited to see what you can invent. Learn more about the contest and hear from Eben Upton, co-founder of Raspberry Pi.

The contest will be split into two categories:

Best use of the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and Raspberry Pi
Best use of the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) and Raspberry Pi

[Read More]

June 16, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

When I was first introduced to Zach Feldman, Chief Academic Officer and Co-Founder of The New York Code + Design Academy, I knew I was talking with an Alexa connoisseur. Before Amazon publicly released the Alexa Skills Kit, Zach was talking about how to add capabilities to Alexa. Couple this with publishing alexa-home, a popular project on GitHub to use Amazon Echo to control home automation software, before we even released the Smart Home Skill API. Zach has always shown a keen interest in the voice space. Fast forward a year later, it made complete sense to bring Zach’s knowledge of Alexa development to The New York Code + Design Academy.

Today, I’m excited to announce a collaboration between The New York Code + Design Academy (NYCDA) and Amazon Alexa. NYCDA has been training developers – at all levels – with hands-on, intensive workshops in web and mobile app development for the past three years.

This summer, NYCDA students will be able to attend the first in-person training on building Alexa skills with Ruby and Sinatra as the language and framework of choice. Students will begin by gaining an understanding of the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). From there, they’ll move on to building an Alexa skill together as a class with both a simple skill and one that accesses an external API. They’ll be able to test their voice user experiences with Amazon Tap speakers, Alexa-enabled devices provided by the school. The course will wrap up with an independent final project and will walk students through the process of certification and publication of their first Alexa skill. Classes will run from August 9, 2016 through September 27, 2016. To enroll, students can apply here.

Wait, there’s more. Zach will be hosting a free lecture on the Alexa skill infrastructure and what goes into building your first skill on June 21, 2016 at 6:30 p.m ET at NYCDA’s headquarters in New York City. If you’re in the area don’t miss this opportunity to meet him, learn more about Alexa skill development, and ask questions about NYCDA’s 8-week Alexa course. Save your spot.

“Amazon Alexa is one of the most compelling new software and hardware integrations I've seen in a while! I can't wait to bring the power of Alexa to our students and the Ruby development community.” - Zach Feldman, Chief Academic Officer and Co-Founder of The New York Code + Design Academy

Learn more about the Alexa course from NYCDA here.

-Marion

June 16, 2016

Glenn Cameron

We launched the Alexa Skills Contest on Hackster.io in April. Two months later and we’ve reached the successful close of this developer contest. With 760 contestants and 100 published Alexa skill projects, innovative developers showed us how to use voice to remotely turn on a car, track the International Space Station, and more.

The best part is that each project’s instructions and source code are available on Hackster.io. Check out all the project submissions and see how contest participants used the Alexa Skills Kit to enable voice experiences in everyday connected lives.

Winning Hackster.io Projects

First, thanks to all the participants in this contest. The high quality of submissions made selecting winners a difficult decision. Contest submissions were scored on a variety of variables, including creativity, documentation, media quality, skill publication in the Alexa app, and more. Here are the top three winners and some honorable mentions.

First Place:

Morse Coder
An Alexa skill that helps you become an expert at Morse code. Encode any name and learn from among more than 2500 codes.

Second Place:

Tickle Monster
An entertaining, easy-to-understand game that uses voice interactions to reach beyond the Echo. Bringing families and friends together for a good laugh. 

Sub War
Dodge torpedoes as you hunt submarines in this multi-player interactive game for Alexa.

Who Represents me?
Find out who represents you in Congress and Senate by searching by your zip code.

Third Place:

The Pianist
The Pianist is your personal music assistant. Use it to help tune your instrument and warm up your vocals.

Daily Cutiemals
Who doesn’t like pictures of cute animals? Daily Cutiemals will send cute animal pictures straight to your email.

Tracker for ISS
Where is ISS right now? The ISS Tracker Alexa skill will calculate its status as it orbits around the Earth at faster-than-a-bullet speed.

Costa Rica News
Costa Rica news will get you the latest news from Costa Rica, all the information comes from local trusted sources like newspapers.

Opening Bell
An Alexa skill that retrieves the current performance of publicly traded stocks using company names.

Alexa Hurricane Center
Get the the latest data on tropical storms or learn more about storms from prior years.

Don’t forget to check out all the great Alexa projects on Hackster.io. It’s a great way to learn how to build your own Alexa skills and get inspired.

Ready to build your own Alexa skill? Build an Alexa skill with Node.js.

June 16, 2016 Update: After we posted the initial list of winners yesterday, it was brought to our attention that the contest rules allowed for additional winners. This blog post has been updated to reflect the additional winners.

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.

[Read More]

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.

[Read More]

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 Echosim.io – 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, Echosim.io gives users the ability to experience a realistic interaction with Alexa capabilities and skills.

Echosim.io 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 Echosim.io 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 Echosim.io 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, Echosim.io 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 developer.amazon.com. 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.

 

 

April 28, 2016

Amit Jotwani

Last year, we introduced a Developer Preview of Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to hobbyists and device makers to help them integrate Alexa into their connected devices and apps, and then a few weeks back, we released an implementation of an Alexa enabled Raspberry Pi on GitHub. We couldn’t be happier with the response we received from the developer community.

Meet Triby – a new connected family-friendly kitchen device that magnetically sticks to the fridge and can play music, make calls, display messages, and is voice activated.

Built by Invoxia, Triby is one of the first ‘Alexa-enabled’ devices built with AVS, which means that you can do almost everything with Alexa on Triby that you can do with Alexa on Echo. 

You address Alexa through Triby using the “Alexa” wake word, just as you would on Echo. Simply say “Alexa, play Adele” and Triby can play Adele from Prime Music, “Alexa add milk to my list” and Triby will add it to your shopping list, or “Alexa, turn off the kitchen lights” and Triby becomes a way to access and control the smart home.

“Voice recognition capabilities transform the way we interact with music, content and services. Amazon made it available to the world with its first range of Alexa-enabled devices. Now with a diversified Alexa-enabled device offering, more people can enjoy the Alexa experience. We are excited to be at the forefront of many third party devices to integrate the Alexa Voice Service with Triby. It has great communication features, the ability to hear you from across the room while being portable and an always-on display. We can't wait to equip millions of kitchens with it!" says Sebastien de le Bastie, Invoxia’s Managing Director.

Learn More about Alexa on Triby.

If you are a device maker, service provider or application developer interested adding rich and intuitive experiences to your products – AVS is the right choice for you! Get Started

Ready to Get Started?

For more information on Alexa-enabled devices and getting started with Alexa, check out the following resources:

Alexa-Enabled Devices
Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Tap
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV Stick

Alexa Developer Resources
Alexa Voice Service (AVS)
Alexa Skills Kit (ASK)
The Alexa Fund
AVS Developer Forums
Alexa on a Raspberry Pi (GitHub)

Have Questions? We are here to help! Visit us on the AVS Forum to discuss specific questions with one of our experts.

- @amit

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