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January 06, 2017

Ted Karczewski

Today at CES, Nucleus demonstrated new Display Cards for Alexa that offer complementary visual content alongside voice responses from the Alexa Voice Service.

For screen-based devices like the Amazon Fire TV with Alexa, Display Cards for Alexa offer the ability to render a “Now Playing” interface for music and books, as well as graphical information for weather, to-do and shopping lists, calendar updates, and Alexa skills when a user engages with Alexa.

[Read More]

January 06, 2017

Ted Karczewski

Volkswagen unveiled its plans to integrate with Amazon Alexa at CES yesterday during a moderated press event and booth tour.

The company will collaborate with Amazon to bring Alexa into the car through a voice integration on the head unit. In addition to the in-car Alexa integration, Volkswagen also announced a new Alexa skill that will help car owners get information about their vehicle from inside the home using an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or any Alexa device.

[Read More]

January 05, 2017

Ted Karczewski

Huawei announced today at CES that its Mate 9 model will be available in the United States starting on January 6, 2017. Building on the company’s history of innovation, the Mate 9 will be the first introduced smartphone with an app featuring Amazon Alexa.

The pre-installed application will provide users with a natural, convenient way to set alarms, build to-do lists, get weather and traffic reports, and more—all they have to do is ask. For existing Mate 9 owners, the app will be available through an over-the-air update.

[Read More]

January 05, 2017

Ted Karczewski

The Ford Motor Company announced a two-phased approach to integrating Amazon Alexa into its 2017 line of vehicles.

 

 

The first gives electric Ford vehicle owners the ability to connect to their cars from the comfort of their homes through Alexa devices such as the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Amazon Tap. The second phase, which starts this spring, enables Ford drivers with SYNC 3 AppLink to ask Alexa to search and transfer destinations to navigation, resume audiobooks, request news, add items to Amazon shopping list, and more—all from their car.

[Read More]

January 04, 2017

Ted Karczewski

LG Electronics announced today at CES its Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerator, a smart refrigerator now with Amazon Alexa.

The Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerator comes equipped with a 29-inch translucent touch LCD screen. Its Knock-On feature enables users to easily check the content inside by simply knocking on the screen twice.

The 2017 model will incorporate the Alexa Voice Service, allowing users to plan an entire dinner party, grocery shop, and more just by using their voice. Users will be able to search recipes, add any ingredients they’re missing to a shopping list, place orders from Amazon.com, and even control smart home products by enabling Alexa skills.

The kitchen is often one of the busiest rooms in the house. With Alexa, Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerator owners can manage their entire homes without lifting a finger.

Learn more about the Alexa integration and product availability by visiting LG’s press page

Get Started with Alexa

Alexa is always getting smarter with new capabilities and services. Learn how AVS can add rich, voice-powered experiences to your connected products.

Have questions? We’re here to help. Visit us on the AVS Forum or Alexa GitHub to speak with one of our experts.

January 04, 2017

Ted Karczewski

DISH announced yesterday at CES that customers will soon be able to watch hands-free, voice-controlled TV by pairing a Hopper DVR with the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot.

DISH will introduce a new Alexa skill in the first half of 2017 that allows customers to navigate, search, and quick play TV on a Hopper DVR based on channel, title, actor, and genre just by using their voice. 

[Read More]

December 23, 2016

Zoey Collier

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Today’s guest post comes from the Alexa Skills Marketing Team.

This year, developers have created thousands of skills for Alexa, expanding Alexa’s capabilities and⁞ offering consumers novel new voice experiences. As the year draws to a close, we're pleased to share the top customer picks for Alexa skills this year. From home automation to bringing zen into your life, here's a list of the most popular, innovative, and entertaining skills that customers enabled in 2016.

Smart Home
Control a wide range of connected devices with smart home skills. Set the temperature in your living room with SmartThings skill or adjust the lighting with Wink skill. See all customer picks >

Lifestyle & Fitness
Start your day right with exercise and intention. The Focus Word skill provides an inspirational word or phrase and 7-Minute Workout skill lets you get in your exercise quickly and efficiently. See all customer picks >

Music, Movies & TV
Relax at night while listening to Rain and Ocean sounds or catch up on your favorite series, like you can with The Voice skill. See all customer picks >

Education & Reference
Learn more and gain knowledge in new areas of interest with the help of these Alexa skills. Expand your vocabulary with Daily Buzzword skill or learn all about canines with Dog Facts skill. See all customer picks >

Food & Drink
Planning dinner is a lot easier with the help of the Campbell’s Kitchen skill. Don’t forget the cocktail with the help from The Bartender skill. See all customer picks >

[Read More]

December 15, 2016

Jen Gilbert

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Guest Blog post by Lauren Marinaro, Director of Smart Cities and Developer Engagement, ReadWriteHack. ReadWrite, a leading tech editorial platform for IoT and the Connected World, works to connect IoT thought leaders, influencers, and innovators in meaningful ways, including hackathons.

This year, Amazon Alexa teamed up with ReadWrite for two major hackathons — the IoT for Cities Hackathon at IoT World and the Industrial IoT Hackathon at SEMICON West. Each one connected over 100 developers with the latest IoT technology to create innovative, life-changing products over the course of two days.

"The IoT for Cities Hackathon is a place where developers can innovate around technologies that are actually making a difference in people's lives. We are excited to be part of these kinds of initiatives, as developers are constantly showing us new and valuable ways to use Alexa,” said Paul Cutsinger, Head of Alexa Voice Design Education.

And Amazon Alexa APIs were used in five out of eight of the winning solutions at SEMICON West and seven out of nine of the winning solutions at IoT World, including the Grand Prize.

What is it about Amazon Alexas voice service that makes it a favorite among IoT developers?

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As we move towards a more connected and streamlined world, we expect more seamless interactions with our devices. For instance, if the person sitting next to you drops to the ground and you need to provide emergency services, wouldnt you be able to act faster if the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on the wall was smart and could talk you through saving that persons life — all while calling the Emergency Response team for you in the background?

That’s what Team Ciklum built, winning the Grand Prize at the IoT for Cities Hackathon at IoT World. They also incorporated three other products from GE, Pitney Bowes, and Cisco to create the ultimate Smart AED. But what stood out in their demo was Amazon Alexas voice-activated, life-saving support in a situation where seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

At the Industrial IoT Hackathon at SEMICON West, Team EcoByte took the Grand Prize by creating a pollution awareness service that provides interactive environmental information to enable enhanced well-being. The main selling point: its interactive, voice-activated, and hands-free, thanks to Amazon Alexa.

In a hackathon environment, where you typically have little time to create something, the opportunity to actually demo your project can determine if you win or lose.

Developers are not only competing for the top prize, theyre competing for the attention of sponsors, influencers, and decision-makers. This is an opportunity to get your hands on the latest technology, prove your skills and ability to take complex IoT products and platforms and create something connected, useful, and marketable.

Alexa gives competitors a chance to create something quickly (check out their easy to maneuver skills here: and have something to demo, even as a beginner coder. It really helps that Amazon’s team has used the Alexa Skills Kit to build skills on their own. Great Alexa evangelists, like Noelle LaCharite, have created capabilities of their own, such as an in-home voice-activated robot bartender.

Voice command is the interface of the future. Leading developers have figured this out, and that is probably a big reason why over two-thirds of the IoT solutions created for our hackathons incorporate Amazon Alexas APIs.

To meet with Amazon Alexa Evangelists and Solutions Architects and start creating your own Smart City projects using the Alexa Skills Kit, be sure to sign up for the Smart Cities Hackathon at CES in Las Vegas, January 7th + 8th. Sign up here

[Read More]

December 13, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

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Today, we’re excited to announce a new, free video series on Alexa development by Coding Dojo, a pioneer in the coding bootcamp space that offers in-person and online classes. These Coding Dojo YouTube videos will help aspiring and established Python coders learn about building skills for Alexa, the voice service that powers Amazon Echo.

Here is what you can expect to learn in Coding Dojo's Alexa Skill Training series:

  • The videos will introduce Alexa-enabled devices like Echo and talk about the Alexa Skills Kit, a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples that make it fast and easy for you to add skills to Alexa.
  • The video instructor will take you through the process of creating an Alexa skill built in Python using an AWS Lambda function as the backend to handle the skill's requests. You will learn the steps to create a Coding Dojo skill that can tell you about the coding bootcamp and their instructors.
  • The videos will cover how to configure a skill in the Amazon developer portal, and will discuss setting up the interaction model, intent schema, and sample utterances, and testing the skill.
  • With a code walkthrough you will take a closer look at the code that’s allowing your Alexa skill and Lambda function to interact.
  • Finally, the video training will walk you through creating your own backend using Flask-Ask, a Python framework and Flask extension created by John Wheeler, an Alexa Champion. You will also learn how ngrok can allow you to test your skill locally. The series will end with an overview of AWS Elastic Beanstalk and its advantages.
“At Coding Dojo we want to give people hands-on experience building apps and programs for popular technologies in order to help them further their careers,” said Richard Wang, CEO at Coding Dojo. “The new videos will give both novice and existing developers invaluable project experience for their resumes and portfolios. With a number of our graduates already working at Amazon, we're hopeful that these types of real world projects will help more of our students get the opportunity to work on exciting new technology like Alexa.”

Watch the Alexa video series for free on YouTube today.

Learn more about Alexa with Coding Dojo

In addition to the videos, Coding Dojo announced a new in-person and online class, as well as an Alexa hackathon that will train Python developers to create skills. The Alexa skill building class is available as a module in the Python stack at Coding Dojo’s 14-week onsite and 20-week online coding bootcamp. Finally, Coding Dojo will host an Alexa skills hackathon led by Amazon Alexa employees on February 20, 2017 in San Jose. Anyone interested in participating should contact Coding Dojo's San Jose campus.

Check out the full announcement by Coding Dojo here.

December 09, 2016

Ted Karczewski

Voice is one of the most natural ways we can control and interact with the technology we use every day. From the kitchen to the beach, customers have told us that they love the ability to simply ask Alexa to stream their favorite songs, check weather and news reports, and access thousands of Alexa skills.

Today we’re excited to announce the Alexa Fund has added Vesper, developer of the world’s most advanced acoustic sensors, to the Alexa family by contributing to its Series A funding. The $15 million round was led by Boston-based venture capital firm Accomplice, and also includes investment support from Hyperlane, Miraenano Tech, and other undisclosed investors.

Vesper’s MEMS microphones use a patented piezoelectric design to prevent dust, water, solder flux vapors, and more from impacting performance, presenting a unique opportunity for manufacturers to build products for a variety of environments and use cases. Vesper’s latest product, VM1010, is the only wake-on-sound MEMS microphone on the market, introducing the possibility of always-listening devices at next-to-zero power draw.

According to Marwan Boustany, senior technology analyst, MEMS and Sensors, at IHS Markit, “MEMS microphones are growing so quickly because voice interaction is becoming ubiquitous. Microphones such as Vesper’s, which improve ruggedness and performance and support well-matched microphone arrays, may well accelerate many more use cases where voice is the standard user interface.”

As part of its commitment to invest up to $100 million in companies fueling voice technology innovation, the Alexa Fund is constantly looking for startups enabling new and exciting voice-activated capabilities for their customers. Vesper’s technology opens the door to adding Alexa to new device types, such as portable electronics where environmental resistance is an important attribute or where in-home devices require far-field applications for truly hands-free experiences.

Are you the next Alexa Fund business?

The Alexa Fund builds on Amazon’s track record of helping innovative individuals grow ideas into successful products and businesses. Amazon helps accelerate ideas by offering unique benefits to development teams, such as early access to Alexa capabilities and enhanced marketing support across channels.

Learn more about the Alexa Fund and its portfolio of companies on the Amazon Developer Portal.

December 08, 2016

Ted Karczewski

We’re excited to announce the Conexant AudioSmart™ 2-Mic Development Kit for Amazon AVS, a commercial-grade reference solution that streamlines the design and implementation of audio front end systems. This solution works with our updated Java sample client for Raspberry Pi, which also includes music certification enhancements. This kit features Conexant’s AudioSmart™ CX20921 Voice Input Processor with a dual microphone board and Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree™ wake word engine tuned to “Alexa”. 

Learn more about Conexant’s AudioSmart™ 2-Mic Development Kit for Amazon AVS

“Conexant’s AudioSmart 2-Mic Development Kit for Amazon AVS unlocks serious voice capture capabilities, allowing developers to achieve a far better AVS user experience through voice processing technologies that overcome acoustic and distance challenges,” said Steve Rabuchin, Vice President Amazon Alexa. “Utilizing Conexant’s AVS solutions will help third-party manufacturers quickly innovate with Alexa.” 

[Read More]

December 07, 2016

David Isbitski

Earlier in the year, we introduced built-ins with 15 different intents (such as Stop, Cancel, Help, Yes, No) and 10 slot types (such as Date, Number, City, etc.) that made it easier for developers to create voice interactions.  Today, the US preview of our new Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) built-in library is available to developers. This expands the library to hundreds more slots and intents covering new domains including books, video and local businesses. We chose these based on feedback from our developer community, as well as our own learnings with Alexa over the past year.

When you’re building a skill, it’s challenging to think of all the different ways your customers might ask the same question or express the same idea – all of which your skill would ideally need to understand. The new built-in intents and slots reduce your heavy-lifting by providing a pre-built model. For example, just including the following statement “SearchAction” makes your skill understand a customer’s request for phone numbers for local businesses. 

Customer usage and your feedback is important for us to improve the accuracy of the library, which will increase over the course of the preview. To provide feedback during this developer preview or submit your questions, visit our Alexa Skills Kit developer forums, create a question, and use the “built-in library” topic. We appreciate your help!

Getting Started

The built-in intent library gives you access to built-in intents that fall into categories, such as the weather forecast which I will walk through below (check out the full list of categories here). You can use these intents to add functionality to your skill without providing any sample utterances. Using one of these new built-in intents in your skill is similar to using a standard built-in intent like AMAZON.HelpIntent:

  1. Add the intent name to your intent schema.
  2. Implement a handler for the intent in your code.

The differences are:

  • Intents in the library are named according to a structure using actions, entities, and properties. Understanding this naming convention can help you understand the purpose and use of each intent.
  • Intents in the library also have slots for providing additional information from the user’s utterance. The slots are provided automatically, so you do not define them in the intent schema. In contrast, the standard built-in intents like AMAZON.HelpIntent cannot use slots.

Our weather example would have an intent schema like this:
 

{

  "intents": [

    {

      "intent": "AMAZON.SearchAction"

    }

  ]

}

Although no slots are defined in the above schema, an utterance like “what’s the weather today in Seattle” would send your skill a request with slots containing today’s date and the city “Seattle.”

These intents are designed around a set of actions, entities, and properties. The name of each intent combines these elements into an intent signature. In the above example the action is SearchAction, its property is object, and the entity is WeatherForecast.

[Read More]

December 02, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

The name of Harrison Kinsley may not ring a bell but if you’re into Python programming you’ve probably heard the name “Sentdex”. With over 125,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel and about 800 free tutorials on his associated website, Harrison has become a reference for learning materials on Python programming.

Today, we’re excited to share a new Alexa skills tutorial for Python programmers available for free on PythonProgramming.net with companion video screencasts to follow along. This three-part tutorial series provides the instructions and code snippets to build an Alexa skill in Python that goes to the World News subreddit, a popular feed on news aggregator Reddit, and reads the latest headlines. To follow along, you will need an Alexa-enabled devicengrok or an https enabled server, and an Amazon Developer account.

In this tutorial, you can expect to learn:

Get started with the Alexa tutorial series here. For more Python tutorials, head to Harrison’s website.

Happy coding!

Marion

Learn more

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

December 01, 2016

Ted Karczewski

The home is rapidly evolving thanks to the proliferation of connected devices and advancements in voice recognition technology. Together, new smart home products and voice control services are giving customers greater control over their homes.

Amazon and Intel see a tremendous opportunity to bring the benefits of a personal voice experience to millions of new consumers and are collaborating to encourage developers and device manufacturers to extend natural voice interaction to more products via Amazon Alexa.

The collaboration will enable partners to build new devices with Alexa using an Intel-based smart speaker form factor reference design coming in Q1 2017, as well as make it easier to create skills that work with the Intel-based Smart Home Hub.

Enabling Product Development with Intel and Amazon Alexa

Intel is working with Amazon to deliver smart speaker form factor reference designs (FFRD) with Alexa that make it easier for device manufacturers to build products with high-performance, far-field voice interaction. The first FFRD will be available starting in Q1 2017 and will offer device makers:

  • Accelerated development of Alexa voice-enabled smart speakers on Intel architecture.
  • Voice as the primary interface, allowing Alexa skills developers to build capabilities that reach even more end users.
  • Requisite speakers and microphone arrays expected from smart speakers, as well as the home radios that support the standards needed for PAN connectivity in the home, including Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth, and is extensible enough to add video capabilities and environment sensors for an all-in-one customer experience.
  • An SDK that enables developers to add voice and video capabilities to connected products.

The FFRD combines Intel’s platform technology advancements with Amazon’s ever-smarter Alexa Voice Service to accelerate innovation among device manufacturers and the developers building new skills for all Alexa-enabled products. 

[Read More]

December 01, 2016

Ted Karczewski

We are excited to announce a new addition to the Alexa family—JAM Voice.

JAM Voice is a portable speaker system with Alexa that serves as a complete hub for music and information. It’s a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-connected speaker that features touch-activated integration with the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), giving customers the ability to push a button and just ask Alexa to play music, check the weather, get the news, or even order a pizza.

Whether entertaining a group of friends or relaxing after work, the JAM Voice system can play music from one or many rooms in the house. You can pair multiple speakers when connected to Wi-Fi, streaming music from Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn just by asking Alexa. The Alexa integration also makes it easy for customers to access thousands of third-party skills, built using the Alexa Skills Kit, including smart home controls through Philips Hue, Belkin Wemo, SmartThings, Insteon, and Wink.

Buy JAM Voice on Amazon.com now.

Getting Started with AVS

Alexa is always getting smarter with new capabilities and services through machine learning. Your product also gains access to new capabilities with Alexa through API updates, feature launches, and custom skills. Learn how AVS can add rich voice-powered experiences to your connected products, and read how some of our partners below have integrated with Alexa already:

Have questions? We’re here to help. Visit us on the AVS Forum or Alexa GitHub to speak with one of our experts.

AVS is coming soon to the UK and Germany. Read the full announcement here.

 

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