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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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