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Showing posts tagged with How To

April 18, 2017

David Isbitski

We are excited to announce our new beta testing tool for Alexa skills which makes it easy for you to get beta feedback on your skill. You can now invite users to test your Alexa skill and provide feedback before you publish your skill.

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April 08, 2017

Marion Desmazieres

Makers-training-03_blog-01.pngToday's post is by Sam Morgan, Head of Education at Makers Academy

This is part three of our Makers Academy series for Ruby developers. Learn more about this free training on the Alexa Skills Kit and read the first module and second module.

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April 06, 2017

Marion Desmazieres


We’re excited to announce a new beginner course by Treehouse. The “Build an Alexa Skill” course will help guide both developers and non-developers alike through the skill-building process.

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March 30, 2017

Marion Desmazieres


By Sam Morgan, Head of Education at Makers Academy

Editor’s note: This is part two of our Makers Academy series for Ruby developers. Learn more about this free training on the Alexa Skills Kit and read the first module.

Welcome to the second post in our series designed to take you from zero to hero using Alexa with Ruby. In our first module, we:

  • Set up a simple Alexa skill
  • Set up a tunneled Sinatra application
  • Hooked the two together to say "Hello, world"

In this module, we'll handle variable data from users using slots. This module introduces:

  • Slots
  • Custom slot types

This module uses:

  • Sinatra
  • Ruby's JSON library
  • Ruby's HTTP library
  • The Numbers API

We’re going to build a fact-checking mechanism so users can ask for facts about particular numbers. Here are some things users will be able to ask Alexa:

Alexa, ask Number Facts to tell me a trivia fact about 42.

Alexa, ask Number Facts to tell me a math fact about 5.

Users will be able to choose:


  • a number (any number!)
  • a fact type 

Alexa will respond with an interesting fact about that number that is specific to that type of fact.

[Read More]

March 27, 2017

David Isbitski


We recently announced a new program that makes it free to build and host most Alexa skills using Amazon Web Services (AWS). The program aims to help you build engaging skills by giving you access to more AWS infrastructure beyond the AWS Free Tier. Here are five ideas for using AWS services to unlock your skill's potential.

[Read More]

March 23, 2017

Marion Desmazieres


By Sam Morgan, Head of Education at Makers Academy

Editor’s note: This is part one of our Makers Academy series for Ruby developers. Learn more about this free training on the Alexa Skills Kit in this blog post

Welcome to the first module of Makers Academy's short course on building Alexa skills using Ruby. Amazon's Alexa Skills Kit allows developers to extend existing applications with deep voice integration and construct entirely new applications that leverage the cutting-edge voice-controlled technology.

This course will cover all the terminology and techniques required to get fully-functional skills pushed live to owners of Alexa-enabled devices all around the world using Ruby and Sinatra.

What's in This Module?

This module contains a basic introduction to scaffolding a skill and interacting with Alexa. This module introduces:


  • Intent schemas
  • Utterances
  • Alexa communication paradigm
  • Tunneling a local application using ngrok over HTTPS
  • Connecting Alexa to a local development environment
  • Alexa-style JSON requests and responses 

During this module, you will construct a simple skill called “Hello World.” While building this skill, you will come to understand how the above concepts work and play together. This module uses:


  • Sinatra
  • Ruby's JSON library



Let's get started! 

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March 17, 2017

Jeff Blankenburg


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.

[Read More]

March 16, 2017

Marion Desmazieres


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.

[Read More]

February 27, 2017

Marion Desmazieres

Champions_John_blog.pngA few months ago we introduced Flask-Ask, a new Python framework for rapid Alexa skill development created by Alexa Champion John Wheeler. Today, due to popular demand, John shares how you can deploy your Alexa skills built with Flask-Ask to AWS Lambda, a service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, which you can use to build serverless applications. Check out John’s technical tutorial below, connect with him on Twitter, and hear more about Flask-Ask in the Alexa Dev Chat podcast episode 10.


In our first post, Flask-Ask and ngrok were used to rapidly create a memory game skill and test it locally. This post shows how to use Flask-Ask with the Zappa framework to quickly deploy skills to AWS Lambda. As of this writing, AWS Lambda supports Python 2.7. This tutorial assumes Python 2.7 is installed on your Windows, Mac, or Linux system.


Zappa, a serverless Python framework, uses a combination of AWS components to emulate the WSGI environment on Lambda that Python web frameworks require. Since Flask-Ask is a Flask extension and Flask requires a WSGI environment, Zappa is the perfect fit for deploying Flask-Ask skills to AWS Lambda. To demonstrate, we'll create an Alexa skill that uses the GitHub API to return how many stars, watchers, and forks a repository has.

Let's get started!

[Read More]

February 16, 2017

Marion Desmazieres


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.

[Read More]

January 11, 2017

David Isbitski

The Alexa Skills Kit provides the ability to display visual information, both text and images, via skill cards. These cards are a useful way to provide your users with additional information from your Alexa skill that may be too verbose or too difficult to include in the voice user interface. Skill cards can be displayed in many form factors across different types of devices. This includes the Alexa app via iOS and Android devices, the Alexa app via a web browser, on Fire Tablet, and on the big screen while interacting with skills on Fire TV.[Read More]

December 20, 2016

Jeff Blankenburg

We all have our favorite places. It may be your childhood hometown, an exotic place you visited, or even your college town. Regardless of why a city is your favorite, we all have our favorite spots to visit and want to tell others about, and that’s exactly what this new skill template helps you do.

This new template uses AWS Lambda, the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), and the Alexa SDK for Node.js, in addition to the New York Times Search API for news. We provide the business logic, error handling, and help functions for your skill, you just need to provide the data and credentials.

For this example, we will create a skill for the city of Seattle, Washington. The user of this skill will be able to ask things like:

  • “Alexa, ask Seattle Guide what there is to do.”
  • “Alexa, ask Seattle Guide about the Space Needle.”
  • “Alexa, ask Seattle Guide for the news.”

You will be able to use your own city in the sample provided, so that users can learn to love your location as much as you do. This might also be a good opportunity to combine the knowledge from this template with our Calendar Reader sample, so that you can provide information about the events in your town, as well as the best places to visit.

After completing this tutorial, you’ll know how to do the following:

  • Create a city guide skill - This tutorial will walk Alexa skills developers through all the required steps involved in creating a skill that shares information about a city, and can search for news about that location.
  • Understand the basics of VUI design - Creating this skill will help you understand the basics of creating a working Voice User Interface (VUI) while using a cut/paste approach to development. You will learn by doing, and end up with a published Alexa skill. This tutorial includes instructions on how to customize the skill and submit for certification. For guidance on designing a voice experience with Alexa you can also watch this video.
  • Use JavaScript/Node.js and the Alexa Skills Kit to create a skill - You will use the template as a guide but the customization is up to you. For more background information on using the Alexa Skills Kit please watch this video.
  • Manage state in an Alexa skill - Depending on the user’s choices, we can handle intents differently.
  • Get your skill published - Once you have completed your skill, this tutorial will guide you through testing your skill and sending your skill through the certification process so it can be enabled by any Alexa user. You may even be eligible for some Alexa swag!
  • Interact with the Bing Search API.

Get started and build your first—or next—Alexa skill today.

Special Offer: Free Hoodies

All published skills will receive an Alexa dev hoodie. Quantities are limited. See Terms and Conditions.

[Read More]

December 13, 2016

Marion Desmazieres


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 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 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!


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