To stay tuned to the latest events near you, check out our new events page. There you’ll be able to find information about hackathons where you can get hand-on education and build Alexa skills, conferences and presentations where you can join the conversation and meet Alexa team members, as well as community-run meetups where you can connect with fellow developers.
Bookmark the events page today, register for one near you, and we’ll see you there.
The beta is now closed. Sign up to be notified when the List Skill API is publicly available.
Today we announced a limited participation beta for the List 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 interface with their list applications so that customers can simply say, “Alexa, add bananas to my Shopping List” or “Alexa, add ‘Go for a Jog’ to my To-do list.” The List Skill API taps into Amazon’s standardized language model so you don’t have to build a voice interaction model to handle customer requests. You create skills that connect your applications directly to Alexa’s Shopping and To-do list capabilities so that customers can add or review items on their lists—without lifting a finger.
The List Skill API has a bi-directional interface that ensures lists are updated across all channels. That means the API notifies developers when a customer tells Alexa to add something to their list or makes a change to an existing item. Alexa understands the user’s speech request, converts it to a To-do or Shopping item, and sends you a notification with the new item that was added to the list. The List Skill API also updates the lists for Alexa when users make changes to their lists online or in your mobile application.
Customers are increasingly using voice interfaces as a hands-free way to manage their lives. By using Alexa’s built-in Shopping and To-do lists to keep track of items to buy and things to do, customers on millions of Alexa-enabled devices only have to "ask" and it's at their command, often becoming a daily habit. By integrating with the List Skill API, you will make it easier for your existing customers to keep track of their important tasks and shopping items in the home, and introduce your brand to a new group of Alexa customers.
Today we announced that Any.do and Todoist created the first skills using the List Skill API.
“We’ve been huge fans of Alexa for a long time. Once the opportunity to work with Alexa in a deep way presented itself, we we’re extremely happy to push it forward" says Omer Perchik, the Founder and CEO of Any.do. "The work with the new Alexa List Skill API was simple, straightforward and our experience as a beta participant was smooth due to the support from Amazon.”
“At Todoist, we're very excited about the potential of AI and AI-powered services. Amazon’s Alexa is one of the earliest and best examples of making this technology useful in people's everyday lives,” says Doist founder and CEO Amir Salihefendic. “That's why we're thrilled to have collaborated with the Amazon team as part of their limited participation beta for the Alexa List Skill API. We’re sure our customers will find Alexa extremely helpful in staying organized and productive, and we're looking forward to working with Amazon to make the Todoist skill even more useful as Alexa continues to evolve and get smarter.”
Going forward, we’re excited to open the List Skill API to more developers as part of our limited participation beta.
For more information about getting started with the Alexa Skills Kit and to apply to participate in the List Skill API beta, check out the following additional assets:
What makes the Amazon Echo so appealing is the fact that customers can control smart home devices, access news and weather reports, stream music, and even hear a few jokes just by asking Alexa. It’s simple and intuitive.
We’re excited to announce an important Alexa Voice Service (AVS) API update that now enables you to build voice-activated products that respond to the “Alexa” wake word. The update includes new hands-free speech recognition capabilities and a “cloud endpointing” feature that automatically detects end-of-user speech in the cloud. Best of all, these capabilities are available through the existing v20160207 API—no upgrades needed.
You can learn more about various use cases in our designing for AVS documentation.
To help you get started quickly, we are releasing a new hands-free Raspberry Pi prototyping project with third-party wake word engines from Sensory and KITT.AI. Build your own wake word enabled, Amazon Alexa prototype in under an hour by visiting the Alexa GitHub.
And don’t forget to share your finished projects on Twitter using #avsDevs. AVS Evangelist Amit Jotwani and team will be highlighting our favorite projects, as well as publishing featured developer interviews, on the Alexa Blog. You can find Amit on Twitter here: @amit.
Learn more about the Alexa Voice Service, its features, and design use cases. See below for more information on Alexa and the growing family of Alexa-enabled products and services:
AVS is coming soon to the UK and Germany. Read the full announcement here.
Today we are introducing the Flash Briefing Skill API, a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit, which enables developers to add feeds to Flash Briefing on Alexa, which delivers pre-recorded audio and text-to-speech (TTS) updates to customers. When using the Flash Briefing Skill API, you no longer need to build a voice interaction model to handle customer requests. You configure your compatible RSS feed and build skills that connect directly to Flash Briefing so that customers can simply ask “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing” to hear your content.
The Flash Briefing Skill API is free to use. Get Started Now >
To get started, you’ll configure a JSON or RSS feed and submit descriptive information about your skill in the portal. This can be done through the following steps:
2. Click on Add a New Skill
3. Select Flash Briefing Skill API, fill out a name and then click Next.
4. Unlike custom skills, the interaction model for Flash Briefing Skills will automatically be generated for you, simply hit Next.
5. Now we will need to define our Content Feed(s). Your Flash Briefing Skill can include one or more defined feeds.
Then, click on the Add new feed button.
6. You will then enter information about your content feed including name, how often the feed will be updated, the content type (audio or text), the genre, an icon as well as the URL for where you are hosting the feed.
7. Repeat these steps each feed you wish to include in the skill. The first feed you add will automatically be marked as the default feed. If you add more feeds, you can choose which feed is the default, by selecting it in the Default column.
8. Click Next when you are finished adding feeds and are ready to test your skill.
For additional information check out the Steps to Create a Flash Briefing Skill page here.[Read More]
Today we are happy to announce the support for scenes, a new feature in Alexa skills developed with the Smart Home Skill API. With scenes, customers can issue a single voice command to an Alexa-enabled device such as the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot to set a predefined configuration of one or more devices to a desired state. For example, a customer could say, “Alexa, turn on bedtime” resulting with specific lights turning off, a bedroom light changing color to a low-lit orange-hue, a ceiling fan turned on, and the temperature changed to an ideal setting for sleep.
At first glance scenes might appear similar to the groups feature found in the Smart Home section of the Alexa app as both allow control over multiple devices with one voice command. However, scenes differ from groups in the following ways:
With scenes customers have another option to groups for controlling multiple devices. Customers may already have scenes configured in device manufacturer apps such as those provided by Control4, Crestron, Insteon, Lutron Caseta, SmartThings, or Wink. Prior to today, these scenes were invoked by using the device manufacturer’s app. Now customers can find these scenes listed as devices in their Alexa app after requesting device discovery and control via voice interaction.
Figure 1: Scene control process
Once a customer has configured a scene through the device manufacturer’s app and requests a device discovery to Alexa, the scene name will appear in the device list in the Alexa app. Consider what happens from a developer perspective, when a voice command is made to turn a scene on.
Let’s examine each step above in more detail.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming ubiquitous. With advances in technology, algorithms, and sheer compute power, it is now becoming practical to utilize AI techniques in many everyday applications including transportation, healthcare, gaming, productivity, and media. Yet one seemingly intuitive task for humans still eludes computers: natural conversation. Simple and natural for humans, voice communication in everyday language continues to be one of the ultimate challenges for AI. Human conversation requires the ability to understand the meaning of spoken language, relate that meaning to the context of the conversation, create a shared understanding and world view between the parties, model discourse and plan conversational moves, maintain semantic and logical coherence across turns, and to generate natural speech.
Today, we are pleased to announce the Alexa Prize, a $2.5 million university competition to advance conversational AI through voice. Teams of university students around the world are invited to participate in the Alexa Prize (see contest rules for details). The challenge is to create a socialbot, an Alexa skill that converses coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics for 20 minutes. We challenge teams to invent an Alexa socialbot smart enough to engage in a fun, high quality conversation on popular topics for 20 minutes.
Participating teams will advance several areas of conversational AI including knowledge acquisition, natural language understanding, natural language generation, context modeling, commonsense reasoning and dialog planning. Alexa users will experience truly novel, engaging conversational interactions.
Up to ten teams of students will be selected to receive a $100,000 research grant as a stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services to support their development efforts, and support from the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) team. Additional teams not eligible for funding may be invited to participate. University teams can submit their applications between September 29 and October 28, 2016, here. The competition will officially start on November 14, 2016 and run until November 2017, concluding with an award ceremony to be held at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, NV.
As we say at Amazon, this is Day 1 for conversational AI. We are excited to see where you will go next, and to be your partners in this journey. Good luck to all of the teams.
Learn more about Alexa Prize.
Last month, we announced the launch of Nucleus, the smart home intercom that’s always getting smarter with Alexa. Designed to bring families closer together, Nucleus makes two-way video conferencing between rooms, homes, and mobile devices instantaneous. Following the successful launch of Nucleus on Amazon.com and in hundreds of Lowe’s home improvement stores throughout the US, we’re excited to announce that Alexa Fund has led a $5.6 million Series A investment round in Nucleus, with additional participation from BoxGroup, Greylock Partners, FF Angel (Founders Fund), Foxconn, and SV Angel.
“It’s incredible to receive this level of support in such a short period of time,” said Jonathan Frankel, co-founder and CEO of Nucleus. “It speaks to the importance of our shared vision: Bringing families closer together through intuitive and intelligent interfaces. Amazon has been a stand-out supporter since day one and recognizes the value Nucleus is bringing to families nationwide, and the rapid market traction we’re seeing within our growing community.”
The Alexa Fund provides up to $100 million in venture capital funding to fuel voice technology innovation. We believe experiences designed around the human voice are a more natural way for people to interface with technology. Nucleus combines ease-of-use and the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to create an intuitive voice experience where customers can stream music, access custom Alexa skills, and more just by asking Alexa. Nucleus joins past Alexa Fund recipients Luma, Sutro, Invoxia, Musaic, Rachio, Scout Alarm, Garageio, Toymail, Dragon Innovation, MARA, Mojio, TrackR, KITT.AI, DefinedCrowd, and Ring.
Nucleus is the first touchscreen device to incorporate AVS, making it easy for customers to stream music, control smart home products such as SmartThings, Insteon and Wink, and access the library of 3,000 Alexa skills. Read more about how Nucleus and the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) worked together to bring the company’s smart video intercom system to life in this morning’s featured developer spotlight interview.Read More]
Today, we’re excited to announce a new, free video course on Alexa development by A Cloud Guru, a pioneering serverless education company in the cloud space. Instructed by Ryan Kroonenburg, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Community Hero, the “Alexa development for absolute beginners” course allows beginner developers and non-developers to learn how to build skills for Alexa, the voice service that powers Amazon Echo.
Here is what you can expect to learn in this two-hour course in 12 lessons:
“All in all, it's a great course and it’s even accessible to non-developers, mums and dads who haven’t used Alexa or Amazon Web Services before! We made this available to the general public and give them an everyday use case for AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, and S3. We can’t wait to see what people build for Alexa.” – Ryan Kroonenburg, instructor and founder of A Cloud Guru.
Watch the course for free today.
A Cloud Guru also offers an extended version of the course. Cloud Solution Engineer Nick Triantafillou will teach you how to build your own Alexa device with a Raspberry Pi, a MicroSD card, a speaker, a USB microphone, and Alexa Voice Service. Learn how to make Alexa rap to Eminem, how to read Shakespeare, how to use iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets with Alexa, and more. This five-hour video course in 47 lessons also covers additional skill templates available on GitHub to customize and build new capabilities for Alexa.
Watch the extended course.
The Internet of Voice Challenge on Hackster.io has officially come to a close. Our spirits are high after seeing the heights of creativity, the quality of code, and the compelling narratives of the 101 entrants. Simply put, we are impressed with how developers connected Alexa with Raspberry Pi.
After careful deliberation, we are announcing the winners!
The cold efficiency of a pitching machine is a great way to learn to hit a ball, but it’s so impersonal. Instead, Robot Roxie is powered by Alexa and lets you ask for the next pitch.
Watch Robot Roxie in action.
2nd Place: Voice-Controlled K’nex Car by Austin Wilson
This developer revived his old builder set and decided it was more fun to control it with his voice. Watch the Alexa-enabled K’nex buggy show off some of its moves.[Read More]
We teamed up with hack.guides() to bring you a Tutorial Contest in June. Hack.guides() is a community of developers focused on creating tutorials to help educate and share technical knowledge. The purpose of the contest was to provide developers the opportunity to share knowledge, help other developers, contribute articles to an open-source project, and win a prize along the way.
Today we’re excited to announce the winner of the hack.guides() tutorial contest.
Alexa developer, ”piratemrs”, built a tutorial that outlines how to build a working, voice-controlled device that can be used to feed pet fish while you are away. The tutorial helps developers learn three broad technical areas: hardware, AWS, Alexa.
Both cloud and hardware technologies were integrated to build this project. The tutorial starts with a lesson on how to add external circuits and motors (servos) to a Raspberry Pi computer. Next, the tutorial steps through how to create an AWS Lambda function and Alexa skill. Finally, the skill and Raspberry Pi system are tied together via a configuration guide using the AWS IoT service. At the end, piratemrs says “Alexa, ask fish tank to feed the fish” and a custom Alexa skill activates a small motor to shake some food into the fish tank.
The tutorial does a great job of breaking down components into separate sections and includes YouTube videos to show the results of testing each piece of the solution. Watch the videos and focus on testing and understanding each component of the solution before moving on.
Read the full tutorial to learn how you can build your own voice-controlled system to feed your fish, control your fish tank lights remotely, and more.
We’d like to thank all the participants who created Alexa tutorials for this contest. The high quality of submissions made selecting a winner a difficult decision. Tutorial submissions were scored using the contest rules provided by hack.guides(), including writing style, communication ability, effective use of technologies/APIs, and overall quality. Here are some honorable mentions.
This tutorial shows you how to design, build, and test an Alexa skill that implements an adventure game. If you are an experienced Node.js developer, but new to Alexa, you will appreciate the thorough breakdown of the ASK functionality and recommended project structure. Read more
This tutorial shows you how to navigate the Amazon developer screens and create your first Alexa skill. If you are a novice developer, you will appreciate the clear screenshots and fun animated GIFs that appear throughout the text. Read more.
To get started, we’ve created easy-to-use skill templates that show new developers the end-to-end process of building an Alexa skill. Visit our trivia game, fact skill, how-to skill, flash cards skill and user guide skill tutorials.
Or check out these Alexa developer resources:
Amazon is happy to announce that Alexa, Echo, and the all-new Echo Dot are now available for customers in the UK and Germany. Developers and hardware makers around the world can create Alexa skills for UK and German customers with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) today or integrate Alexa into their hardware with the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) starting in early 2017. Popular European brands have already announced they’re building Alexa skills, including JustEat, the BBC, The Guardian, Jamie Oliver, MyTaxi, Hive, Netatmo, National Rail and Deutsche Bahn. There are over 3,000 skills for Alexa in the US, and now developers can extend their experiences to more customers in Europe. If you publish a skill for the UK or Germany by October 31, 2016, you’ll receive a free, limited edition Alexa t-shirt.
Today we also introduced an all-new version of the groundbreaking Echo Dot for under $50, so you can add Alexa to any room in your home. Both Amazon Echo and Echo Dot are voice-controlled speakers designed entirely around your voice—they’re always ready, hands-free, and fast. Alexa is the brain behind Echo and Echo Dot—just ask, and she’ll answer questions, play music, read the news, set timers and alarms, recite your calendar, check sports scores, control lights around your home, and much more. With far-field voice control, Echo and Echo Dot can do all this from across the room. Echo and Echo Dot will start shipping in the UK in the coming weeks. In Germany, Echo and Echo Dot are available by invitation for customers who want to help shape Alexa as she evolves—the devices will start shipping next month.
It’s easy to get started. Explore our simple tutorials to learn how to build a skill quickly: trivia, flash cards, instructions, facts, decision tree and game helper. If you want to build a multi-language Alexa skill read our technical documentation to learn how to create a skill in all language models (US English, UK English, and German). If you’re already an Alexa developer, you can enhance your existing skill by extending it to support both UK and DE language models.
Join us at an Alexa event or in our webinars and office hours in the coming weeks. These sessions are an opportunity for you to have your questions answered by an Alexa Evangelist or Alexa Solutions Architect.
We have scheduled three introductory live webinars.
We host ASK the Expert sessions to help answer your questions. Join the next one for live Q&A with an Alexa Evangelist.
Technical staff from the Alexa team will be speaking at a number of upcoming events in the UK and Germany. Come join us to get hands-on training, learn about voice design and meet other local developers.
We are offering a free Alexa Dev t-shirt to developers who publish an Alexa skill between September 14, 2016 and October 31, 2016. There are custom, limited edition designs for the UK and Germany. Quantities are limited. See terms and conditions.
Before today, the Alexa Skills Kit enabled short audio via SSML audio tags on your skill responses. Today we are excited to announce that we have now added streaming audio support for Alexa skills including playback controls. This means you can easily create skills that playback audio content like podcasts, news stories, and live streams.
New AudioPlayer and PlaybackController interfaces provide directives and requests for streaming audio and monitoring playback progression. With this new feature, your skill can send audio directives to start and stop the playback. The Alexa service can provide your skill with information about the audio playback’s state, such as when the track is nearly finished, or when playback starts and stops. Alexa can also now send requests in response to hardware buttons, such as those on a remote control.
To enable audio playback support in your skill you simply need to turn the Audio Player functionality on and handle the new audio Intents. Navigate to the Alexa developer portal and do the following:
In addition to the required built-in intents, your skill should gracefully handle the following additional built-in intents:
Note: Users can invoke these built-in intents without using your skill’s invocation name. For example, while in a podcast skill you create, a user could say “Alexa Next” and your skill would play the next episode.
If your skill is currently playing audio, or was the skill most recently playing audio, these intents are automatically sent to your skill. Your code needs to expect them and not return an error. If any of these intents does not apply to your skill, handle it in an appropriate way in your code. For instance, you could return a response with text-to-speech indicating that the command is not relevant to the skill. The specific message depends on the skill and whether the intent is one that might make sense at some point, for example:
Note: If your skill uses the AudioPlayer directives, you cannot extend the above built-in intents with your own sample utterances.
We are excited to launch a recognition program that honors the most engaged developers and contributors in the community. These individuals are educating and inspiring other developers in the community online and offline. They are actively and independently sharing their passion and knowledge of Alexa with the community. We’re proud to call them our “Alexa Champions”.
Today we recognize the initial group of ten Alexa Champions and showcase their contributions to the Alexa community in a dedicated gallery. We thank them for all the knowledge they have shared with others and for the tools they have created to make it easier for developers to use the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and Alexa Voice Service (AVS).
Join me in welcoming the Alexa Champions:
There are many ways you can share educational and inspiring content about AVS and ASK with the Alexa community through your own blog or newsletter, open-source development tools, tutorials, videos or podcasts and social media. You can also organize local meetup groups for like-minded Alexa enthusiasts and developers.[Read More]
We are excited to announce a new addition to the Alexa family—Nucleus.
Nucleus is an Alexa-enabled connected home intercom system designed to bring families closer together by giving people the ability to make room-to-room, home-to-home and mobile-to-home calls. The average family today is spread across geographies and constantly caught up in daily responsibilities. Nucleus aims to redefine family communication by making it instantaneous. Now you can quickly video chat with grandma on her Nucleus from your smartphone as you’re leaving the office, or never miss family dinner when you’re traveling away from home.
The Alexa integration on Nucleus makes it easy to check the latest weather report or add items to your shopping list from anywhere in the house. You can talk to Alexa hands-free through Nucleus using the “Alexa” wake word or tap-to-talk using the button on the screen. Simply say, “Alexa, play Adele” or “Alexa, add milk to my list.” You also have access to a growing number of Alexa skills, built by developers using the Alexa Skills Kit, including smart home controls through SmartThings, Insteon and Wink.
You can purchase Nucleus on Amazon.com.
Developing the next breakthrough consumer tech product? Learn how AVS can help you add rich and intuitive Alexa-enabled experiences to your connected devices, services or applications.[Read More]
Today, we're pleased to make a tool with source code available to allow you to graphically design interactive adventure games for Alexa. Interactive adventure games represent a new category of skill that allows customers to engage with stories using their voice. With these skills, you can showcase original content or build compelling companion experiences to existing books, movies and games. For example, in The Wayne Investigation skill (4.7 stars, 48 reviews), you’re transported to Gotham City a few days after the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. You play the part of a detective, investigating the crime and interrogating interesting characters, with Alexa guiding you through multiple virtual rooms, giving you choices, and helping you find important clues. The Magic Door, an original adventure series for Alexa, enables you to tell Alexa what choices to make as you navigate a forest, a garden or an ancient temple. Learn more about game skills on Alexa.
This tool provides an easy to use front-end that allows developers to instantly deploy code for your story, or use the generated code as a starting point for more complex projects. It was written in Node.js by Thomas Yuill, a designer and engineer in the Amazon Advertising team. The tool is available now as a Github project: https://github.com/alexa/interactive-adventure-game-tool
If you want to get started quickly, you can use our Trivia or Decision Tree skill templates that make it easy for developers or non-developers to create game skills. These template makes it easy for developers or non-developers to create a skill similar to “European Vacation Recommender” or “Astronomy Trivia." The templates leverages AWS Lambda and the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) while providing the business logic, use cases, error handling and help functions for your skill. You just need to come up with a decision tree-based idea or trivia game, plug in your questions and edit the sample provided (we walk you through how it’s done). It's a valuable way to quickly learn the end-to-end process for building and publishing an Alexa skill.[Read More]