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April 05, 2017

Jeff Blankenburg

New Device Address API and Metrics Dashboard

We are excited to announce two new features that will help you build skills that are even more engaging. Incorporate location information into your interactions using the new Device Address API. And gain deeper insights into your skill’s usage with the new metrics dashboard.

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March 28, 2017

Dean Bryen

Today, we are happy to announce Alexa developers can now add skills to the Flash Briefing on Alexa in UK English and German using the Flash Briefing Skill API, a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit.Flash_briefing_UK_DE_blog.png

With the Flash Briefing Skill API, you no longer need to build a voice interaction model to handle customer requests for the news. When you configure your compatible RSS feed and build skills that connect directly to Flash Briefing, customers will be able to easily access your content via the Alexa Flash Briefing, which delivers pre-recorded audio clips and text-to-speech (TTS) updates.

The availability of Flash Briefing skills in local languages means that you can now deliver truly localized content to customers via voice. Here are a few ideas to get started with Flash Briefing skills:

  • Create a skill with news from any provider that authorizes you to use their content, and provides a public API.
  • If you’re a blogger you can configure your RSS feed to build a skill for your readers.
  • Podcast host? Simply host the audio for your podcast and provide a JSON feed to allow your listeners to hear your latest episode as they get ready for the day.
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March 17, 2017

Jeff Blankenburg

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We all hold interesting data in our heads. Maybe it's a list of all the action figures we played with as a kid, specific details about the 50 U.S. states, or a historical list of the starting quarterbacks for our favorite football team. When we're with friends, sometimes we'll even quiz each other on these nuanced categories of information. It's a fun, interactive way to share our knowledge and learn more about our favorite topics. 

You can now bring that experience to Alexa using our new quiz skill template. You provide the data and the number of properties in that data, and Alexa will dynamically build a quiz game for you.

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March 16, 2017

Marion Desmazieres

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We’re pleased to announce our collaboration with Makers Academy on a new Alexa Skills Kit training course for Ruby developers.

Makers Academy is a leading web developer bootcamp based in London, UK. Its highly-selective, full-time program teaches the principles of software craftsmanship. Makers Academy has graduated over 700 students into their dream jobs as junior developers.

We believe natural user interfaces such as those based on speech represent the next major disruption in computing. Now is a great time for developers to take advantage of this new form of interaction and to learn to build voice-first experiences for Alexa, the voice service that powers Amazon Echo. Makers Academy’s mission is to teach students the most used technologies in today's marketplace, and we’re excited to team up to prepare you for the future of voice computing.

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March 15, 2017

David Isbitski

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Amazon today announced a new program that will make it free for tens of thousands of Alexa developers to build and host most Alexa skills using Amazon Web Services (AWS). Many Alexa skill developers currently take advantage of the AWS Free Tier, which offers one million AWS Lambda requests and up to 750 hours of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) compute time per month at no charge. However, if developers exceed the AWS Free Tier limits, they may incur AWS usage charges each month.

Now, developers with a live Alexa skill can apply to receive a $100 AWS promotional credit and can also receive an additional $100 per month in AWS promotional credits if they incur AWS usage charges for their skill – making it free for developers to build and host most Alexa skills. Our goal is to free up developers to create more robust and unique skills that can take advantage of AWS services. We can’t wait to see what you create.

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March 03, 2017

Michael Palermo

Today we are happy to announce lock control and query, a new feature in the Smart Home Skill API now available in the US, with support for the UK and Germany coming soon. This feature is supported with locks from August, Yale, Kwikset, and Schlage as well as hub support from SmartThings and Wink. Now any developer targeting devices with locking behavior can enable customers to issue a voice command such as, “Alexa, lock the front door.” In addition, developers can build in support for customers asking for the status of a smart locking device with a voice command such as, “Alexa, is the front door locked?” LockAPI_blog.png

Much like the recently announced thermostat query feature, the lock query feature simplifies development efforts by enabling specific voice interactive experiences straight from the Smart Home Skill API. This is accomplished under the new Alexa.ConnectedHome.Query namespace.

Developers can report errors using the same namespace. These errors are then used to guide the customer with the proper corrective actions. It’s crucial that developers return meaningful and correct errors so that customers can feel confident about the status of their locks. For example, if the smart locking device is unable to provide a stateful value because a door is open, developers should report this in their directive response as shown below.

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March 02, 2017

Douglas Booms

Voice technology carries enormous promise, as many people know from their interactions with Alexa, the voice service that powers devices like Amazon Echo. Our teams here at Amazon are working hard to unlock that potential, but innovation requires a collective effort, from large companies like ours to two-person startups, and from casual hobbyists to major academic institutions.

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Today, we’re excited to announce the Alexa Fund Fellowship, a new program to support universities and researchers focused on transformative voice technologies such as text-to-speech (TTS), natural language understanding (NLU), automatic speech recognition (ASR) and conversational artificial intelligence (AI).

Alexa Fund Fellows will receive funding, access to Alexa devices, and mentoring from an Alexa Science team member to develop an undergraduate or graduate curriculum around one or more of these disciplines. The year-long program culminates in a demo day where students can showcase their work for peers, university faculty and members of the Alexa team.

We’re also pleased to announce our first group of university participants: Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Johns Hopkins University, University of Southern California (USC), and University of Waterloo. Both Carnegie Mellon and Waterloo have already chosen fellows and begun offering classes for engineering students, while courses from Johns Hopkins and USC will begin in fall 2017.

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February 23, 2017

David Isbitski

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Today we’re happy to share that developers have published over 10,000 skills, making Alexa even better for customers. We’ve been blown away by the innovation and activity in the Alexa developer community. To put it in perspective, we’ve seen a 3x increase in the number of skills available since September 2016 alone. We’ve come a long way in the short time that the Alexa Skills Kit has been available for developers, and we’ve seen a wide range of unique skills that allow customers to do everything from reorder their favorite morning coffee, stay mindful through meditation, control smart home lighting or check their bank account balance.

In November we unveiled a new way for customers to discover Alexa skills and explore the breadth of the Alexa skills catalog. With Alexa skills on Amazon.com, customers can enable skills directly through the website and leave reviews, just like other items on Amazon. Many skills have hundreds of reviews and are rated 4-star or higher by customers. We’ve also added ways for customers to enable and find popular skills, just using their voice.

To celebrate this 10k milestone of skill selection, here are a few Alexa skill highlights:

  • Beat the Intro has the honor of being the 10,000th skill published. It’s a music game by Musicplode Media that tests your knowledge and love of music.
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February 17, 2017

Michael Palermo

Today we are happy to announce support for thermostat query, a new feature for Alexa skills developed using the Smart Home Skill API. The feature is now available in the US, with support for the UK and Germany coming soon. With thermostat query, customers can issue a voice command to an Alexa-enabled device, such as the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, and hear Alexa say the response. For example, a customer with a single thermostat could say, “Alexa, what is the temperature in the house?” and Alexa would respond with the current inside temperature. This complements thermostat commands that already allow customers to set the temperature value.

This new feature simplifies development efforts by enabling specific voice interactive experiences straight from the Smart Home Skill API. In the past, smart home skill developers had to create two skills (one for smart home, the other for custom voice interactions to allow querying data) to provide this overall experience.

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February 16, 2017

Marion Desmazieres

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A few months ago we shared a free video course on Alexa development by A Cloud Guru, a pioneering serverless education company in the cloud space. Today, we’re excited to announce a new advanced course on Alexa skill building instructed by Alexa Champion Oscar Merry for A Cloud Guru. As the co-founder and head of technology at Opearlo, a voice design agency, Oscar has extensive experience with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). He has worked with the technology since November 2015, designing and building skills for clients across a number of industries and use cases. He’s also been giving back to the community and sharing his ASK knowledge by running the London Alexa Devs meetup since July 2016.

In this Advanced Alexa Skills Kit course, Oscar gets you started with the ASK SDK for Node.js and shares a practical project that any meetup organizer can implement to use Alexa as their event assistant.

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February 15, 2017

Glenn Cameron

Alexa Developer Contest

We are happy to announce a new Amazon Alexa Skills contest with DevPost, the developer-focused job search and hackathon company. We are challenging developers and designers to create unique new skills that make Alexa smarter. To compete for over $40,000 in prizes, you will need to create an original Alexa skill. This is our most open-ended challenge yet. Will you turn Alexa into a concierge, sous chef, fitness coach, personal shopper, or DJ? You decide. The challenge starts now – sign up!

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February 10, 2017

David Isbitski

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Speech Synthesis Markup Language, or SSML, is a standardized markup language that provides a way to mark up text for changing how speech is synthesized. Numerous SSML tags are already supported by the Alexa Skills Kit, including: audio, break, p, phoneme, s, say-as, speak, and w.

Alexa now understands SSML Speechcons, which are special words and phrases that are pronounced more expressively by Alexa. Speechcons can be used in English (US) skills by adding a <say-as interpret-as="interjection"> tag around the speechcon you would like to use.

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February 07, 2017

Ted Karczewski

Today we’re excited to announce that the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) is now available for developers building voice-enabled products for the UK and Germany. AVS localization provides you with language and region-specific services to expand your audience and delight new customers. With a few lines of code, you can upgrade any product with Alexa to access localized languages and skills in the UK, Germany, and US. Now your end customers can speak with Alexa and receive responses and content in their preferred language and region.

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February 07, 2017

Gagan Luthra

Today we are announcing the expansion of the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to the UK and Germany. This update enables device manufacturers to reach and delight even more customers with localized language models for the cloud-based ASR, NLU and TTS engines, and region-specific skills and content. Your AVS device can now converse in German, get a Flash Briefing from Sky Sports, or call for an Uber in London.

Follow the steps in this blog to prepare your product for use in the UK and Germany.

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February 07, 2017

Glenn Cameron

In September 2016, we announced that Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Alexa were coming to the UK and Germany. Since then, developers have created hundreds of great new skills for customers in these countries. Today we’re excited to announce that the community website Echosim.io has made it even easier for you to build and test your skills by adding new language models for English (UK) and German.

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