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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.

 

March 03, 2016

David Isbitski

Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, powers voice experiences on millions of devices, including Amazon Echo and Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. Today, Amazon brings Alexa to more devices with its two newest additions: Echo Dot and Amazon Tap. Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that enables you to add Alexa to any room. Amazon Tap is an Alexa-enabled portable speaker.

Amazon Echo Dot: Add Alexa to Any Room

Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses the same far-field voice recognition as Amazon Echo. Dot has a built-in speaker and also connects over Bluetooth or with the included audio cable to your own speaker. Echo Dot ($89.99) is available exclusively for Prime Members through Alexa Voice Shopping. To order your Echo Dot, use your Echo or Fire TV and just ask: “Alexa, order Echo Dot.”

 

Dot

Alexa—the brain behind Echo Dot—is built in the cloud, so it is always getting smarter. The more you use Dot, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences. And because Echo Dot is always connected, updates are delivered automatically. Third-party skills from developers add even more capabilities like ordering a pizza from Domino's, requesting a ride from Uber, opening your garage with Garageio, and more. Enabling skills lets your Echo Dot do even more—simply discover and enable the skills you want to use in the Alexa App.

 

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February 26, 2016

David Isbitski

When creating an interaction model for your Alexa skill you can utilize several built-in slot types along with your own custom slots. Custom slots provide the ability to add custom values for items that are not covered by Amazon’s built-in slot types. By using built-in and custom slot you can drastically reduce number of sample utterances you need to provide, and increase the overall accuracy of Alexa’s speech recognition.

Based on your feedback, we are happy to announce the addition of extensible built-in slot types starting with AMAZON.US_CITY, AMAZON.US_FIRST_NAME and AMAZON.US_STATE.

Extending a built-in slot type appends the values you provide to the built-in values defined by Amazon. For example, AMAZON.US_CITY automatically recognizes US cities with a population over 100,000. If you need to collect additional cities, such as your hometown, you could add them to the list by extending the type. The slot would then recognize both the original set of values as well as the custom ones you added.

In order to extend a slot type, edit to your skill and click on the Interaction Model tab. Next, scroll down the Interaction Model page and click on Add Slot Type.

 

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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 12, 2016

David Isbitski

Over the past several weeks I have been hosting weekly Alexa webinars offering an introduction to building skills, voice design guidance as well as hands on demos with the latest Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) features. Based on your feedback, some of the most exciting parts of these webinars have been the open dialog we have had together. The webinars have become a place to get your questions answered directly and instantly. With that in mind I am happy to announce new weekly office hours in addition to the weekly webinars.

Office hours, which I had previously called Alexa Dev Chats, will be a place for you talk directly with myself and the Amazon Alexa team every Tuesday at 1pm PST/4pm EST. During these office hours, you will be able to get answers to any technical questions you have, discuss your skill use case, learn voice design best practices and see live code demos to help you troubleshoot. Our hope is to enable you to get help with quick questions, build the right voice design for your use case, get your skill certified more quickly, and learn how to use AWS services like AWS Lambda for your skill. 

We’ll rotate different roles through the office hours so that you can learn about voice design from our VUI experts, new ASK features from our engineering team, as well as skill submission tips from our certification team.

Here are the topics for the next four weeks:

  • February 16th, General FAQ
  • February 23rd, Certification
  • March 1st, General FAQ
  • March 8th, Voice Design

Sign up now. You can sign up for your preferred date or topic here. If you would like to have a chat on a topic not currently listed, please let me know.

-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 26, 2016

David Isbitski

The Alexa Skills Kit has been updated with additional features. The changes are listed below and immediately available for you to take advantage of when building your skills. 

Account Linking oAuth 2.0 Support

The Alexa Skills Kit allows your customers to link their existing accounts with you, to Alexa. To link accounts, customers visit the skills tab in the Amazon Alexa app and enable your skill. They are then prompted to log in to your site using their normal credentials. You authenticate the customer and generate an access token that uniquely identifies the customer and link the accounts.
 

 

An update to account linking is now live that enables skills to authenticate in OAuth 2.0 using both authorization grant and refresh tokens. You can find additional details here.

Custom Slots Sizes

The custom slot type is used for items that are not covered by Amazon’s built-in set of types and is recommended for most use cases where a slot value is one of a set of possible values.

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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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