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April 13, 2016

Paul Cutsinger

Hackster is a developer community dedicated to learning hardware and they’ve shared some pretty amazing projects using Alexa. Now, Hackster announced the Alexa Skill Contest to give developers like you a chance to connect your favorite hardware, IoT platform, and everyday life using Alexa.

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 the new form of interaction. Alexa, the voice service that powers Amazon Echo, provides capabilities, or skills, that enable customers to interact with devices in a more intuitive way using voice. You can build skills using the Alexa Skills Kit

We’re excited to see what you create with the Alexa Skills Kit. Submit your great skill ideas for our Alexa Skill Contest – extra points when your skill is published by May 30, 2016.

To get started, check out the details of the contest. Here are a few other resources to help you get started quickly:

I’m curious to see what you’ll build. Keep in touch, @PaulCutsinger.

April 05, 2016

David Isbitski

Today we are introducing the Smart Home Skill API, a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit, which enables developers to add capabilities, called skills, to Alexa. Developers can now teach Alexa how to control their cloud-controlled lighting and thermostat devices so customers can simply say, “Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights” or “Alexa, turn up the heat.” You no longer need to build a voice interaction model to handle customer requests. This work is now done for you when you use the Smart Home Skill API. You create skills that connect your devices directly to our lighting and thermostat capabilities so that customers can control their lights, switches, smart plugs or thermostats—without lifting a finger.

We first introduced the Smart Home Skill API as a beta called the Alexa Lighting API 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.

It’s easy and free for developers to use the Smart Home Skill API to connect Alexa to hubs and devices for both public and personal use. Get Started Now >

Creating Your Skill with the Smart Home Skill API

When you create a custom skill, you build the voice interaction model. When using the Smart Home Skill API, you tap into Amazon’s standardized language model so you skip the step of creating an interaction model. Alexa understands the user’s speech, converts it to a device directive and sends that directive to that skill adapter that you build in AWS Lambda.

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April 04, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Editor’s Note: Due to popular demand, we have extended the promotion period for the Envato Tuts+ offer for one month. Your skill will be eligible for this exciting promotion if you get it certified by May 31st, 2016. See terms and conditions

Today, I’m excited to announce a limited-offer with Envato Tuts+ for the Alexa developer community. Envato Tuts+ is an e-learning platform that teaches creative and technical skills by providing free how-to tutorials, video courses and e-books to millions worldwide.  

To thank you for adding new skills to Alexa, we are offering three free months of Envato Tuts+ monthly subscription to the first 500 developers who get an Alexa skill certified and fill out this form by May 31, 2016.

How to Build an Alexa Skill with No Development Experience

If you’re just getting started with the Alexa Skills Kit, Envato Tuts+ has published a new step-by-step tutorial that will make it easy and fast to build a trivia quiz for Amazon Echo or any Alexa-enabled device. No experience with Alexa development tools required. This template can be used by non-programmers as well as beginners and intermediate developers. You just need to come up with a trivia idea, plug in your questions, and edit a few lines of script. It is a valuable way to quickly learn the end-to-end process of building and publishing an Alexa skill. 

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March 25, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Today, I’m excited to announce a collaboration between Bloc and Amazon Alexa. Bloc has been providing online coding bootcamps and mentor-led courses in design, web, and mobile development since 2011. With Bloc’s industry-vetted curriculum, students can gain knowledge of modern, practical programming skills and build portfolios of real projects to prepare them for their careers as developers and designers. Now Bloc students can learn about voice design and apply their knowledge by creating new Alexa skills.

Bloc’s new Alexa Project module is now integrated into the following curriculums:

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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.

 

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 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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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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December 23, 2015

David Isbitski

There are now over 100 Alexa skills available across Alexa enabled devices like the Amazon Echo and Amazon Fire TV and Stick.  On its first Black Friday, Amazon Echo was the #1 best seller across all $100+ products on Amazon.com. Soon, lots of customers will be unboxing their Echo for the first time and exploring Alexa’s skills. To help these new Alexa customers find your skill easier, we have added the ability to do a skill search and added a skill review system. Both of these features are available inside the Alexa app today and you will notice reviews for your skill are already being displayed next to your skill’s name and icon.

New Search Feature Makes It Easier for Customers to Find Your Skills

We’ve made it easier for customers to find and discover new skills by integrating a search feature into the Alexa app. To do a search across all available Alexa skills, open up the Alexa app and navigate to the Skills tab in the side menu.

Across the top of the skills list will be a new search box that allows customers to type in search text. For example, searching for trivia returns a list of available skills that match the trivia search string.

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November 27, 2015

David Isbitski

I am excited to announce a new Voice Simulator that you can use to create SSML (Speech Synthesis Markup Language) without having to make calls to your Alexa skill or the need for an Alexa device. This new tool will let you experiment with SSML speech tags and then immediately hear how Alexa will say them. In addition, we have updated the Service Simulator tool to let Alexa speak responses from your skill directly within the console.

We are also adding four new built-in intents for use within your own skills: Yes, No, Repeat and StartOver. These new intents will enable you to control how Alexa responds to customers requesting that she repeat or start over an action as well as a standard way to respond to questions that require a yes or no answer.

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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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