In 2016, tens of thousands of developers visited the Alexa GitHub to learn how to build their own Alexa-enabled prototype with the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) and a Raspberry Pi. The community built some amazing projects, from magic mirrors and voice-enabled coffee machines to talking fish and alarm clocks.
If you’re new to voice user interface (VUI) design or you just want to learn more about AVS, the webinar recording below covers key concepts and examples around hardware selection, AVS development tools for commercial developers, best practices for enabling hands-free voice interaction, and how to build a robust Alexa Voice Service client.[Read More]
Guest post by Tom Hudson; Tech Director @thirteen23. Tom writes about new and emerging platforms and other tech-related stuff.
When I started my job as Technical Director at thirteen23, the owner Doug Cook and I were sitting in a room chatting about projects. At some point during the meeting he said “Alexa, is it still raining outside?” Uh what!? Previous to this I had never seen or heard of an Amazon Echo. Somehow I completely missed it. Needless to say, after the meeting I went back to my computer and immediately bought one. Since then I’ve been hooked on it, writing custom skills and taking advantage of all the integrations. I wrote a 3-part series on my experience building Alexa skills, and thirteen23 has played around with custom integrations such as controls for connected speaker systems.
In a couple of months my coworker Nikki Clark and I will be teaching a workshop at SXSW 2017 on how to design for and build an Alexa skill. If you’re in Austin this March for the SXSW Interactive Festival, you should sign up![Read More]
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.
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.[Read More]
Today a speaker is not just a speaker—it’s a connected device we use to play music when we want, where we want, and from whatever service we prefer. New cloud-based, streaming media providers have given us greater control over our music libraries, creating magical and memorable experiences every time we hit “play”.
More than ever, convenience matters, and that’s where Linkplay excels.
Linkplay is a turnkey Wi-Fi audio solution provider that works with device manufacturers to build connected speaker products at various price points and for a growing number of use cases. Whether you want to build a high-end product for the home or a durable portable speaker for camping trips, Linkplay offers customizable product solutions, complete with the latest technologies, to meet your needs.[Read More]
Being a college student is a juggling act. That’s why the inaugural Hack-the-Dorm with Amazon Alexa contest, in collaboration with MindSumo, challenged students to build a new voice controlled Alexa skill to help make life easier and better on campus. A big thank you to the teams of students who submitted their creative and useful skills for the dorm using the Alexa Skills Kit.
The winners are ...[Read More]
Meet the Sugr Cube, a portable minimalist Wi-Fi speaker system now with Amazon Alexa.
With a growing number of smart products found in the home today, form factor design has become just as important as the technology found under the hood. Customers want smart home products that make their lives easier, but not at the expense of personal taste and design aesthetic. That’s where Sugr, a global innovator in high-definition Wi-Fi audio systems, comes in.
Customers can stream music from Spotify with Spotify Connect technology, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more just by tapping and asking. The speaker also responds to unique gestures or movements—customers can play music with simple touch commands, with rocking motions, or with the companion mobile application.
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]
To demonstrate how a voice-forward interface like Amazon Alexa enables frictionless, hands-free control over everything in the home, from the lock on the front door and lights in the hallway to advanced scenes for movie nights and cozy mornings, we’ve collaborated with Intel to showcase a Smart Tiny Home with Alexa at CES.[Read More]
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.
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 >
Today's guest post comes from Jim Kresge from Capital One Engineering.
In March 2016, Capital One became the first company to offer its customers a way to interact with their financial accounts through Alexa devices. With the Capital One skill for Alexa, customers can access in real time all of their Capital One accounts -- from credit cards to bank accounts, to home and auto loans. The skill is highly rated on the Alexa app, with 4/5 stars.
The Capital One team has continued to update the skill since launch, including a recent update to the skill called “How much did I spend?” With the update, Capital One customers can access their recent spending history at more than 2,000 merchants. Customers who have enabled the skill can now ask Alexa about their spending for the past six months--by day, month, or a specific date range--through questions posed in natural language such as:
Q: Alexa, ask Capital One, how much did I spend last weekend?
A: Between December 9th and December 11th, you spent a total of $90.25 on your Venture Card.
Q: Alexa, ask Capital One, how much did I spend at Starbucks last month?
A: Between November 1st and November 30th, you spent a total of $43.00 at Starbucks on your Quicksilver Card.
Q: Alexa, ask Capital One, how much did I spend at Amazon between December 1 and December 15?
A: Between December 1st and December 15th, you spent a total of $463.00 at Amazon on your Quicksilver Card.
The building of the skill was a collaborative effort between product development, engineering and design teams at Capital One. I have the privilege of representing the great work of the entire team in this blog post to give a behind the scenes look at the building of the Capital One skill.
In summer 2015, a group of engineers at Capital One recognized the potential to develop a skill for accessing financial accounts using Amazon Echo. We got together for a hackathon, worked our way through several possibilities, and began building the skill. The Beta version included a server-side account linking mechanism that we built ourselves. We were able to use an enhanced beta version of the Capital One mobile app to provide the account linking interface and created some AWS infrastructure to support it. We then demoed the Beta at the AWS re:Invent conference in October 2015.
Having proved out the Beta version of the skill, we became really driven and focused on building the first skill for Alexa that would enable people to interact with their financial accounts.
We began working on a production version in December, 2015, with the goal of delivering a product by March, 2016. Working in an iterative design model, we found that coding the skill for Capital One financial accounts was relatively straightforward. But, as with anything game-changing, we realized that what we were attempting involved some things no one had done before. First, we were attempting to integrate sensitive data with Alexa, which no company with a skill on Alexa had done yet. It was also the first time we had built a conversational UI. And, the Ask Alexa software was still maturing and evolving as we were building the skill, which meant that we needed to be flexible in quickly making adjustments to code.
We started with the premise that in the first iteration, Capital One credit card and bank customers can ask Alexa things like their current account balance, their recent transactions, and when their next bill is due.
Data security is always top of mind for us, as was creating an experience for customers that was friction-free and simple.
With Amazon, we worked through possible solutions within the Alexa infrastructure to build in a security layer that ensures data integrity while still providing a simple, hands-free experience. In addition to using OAuth to securely link accounts, we added a security solution that involves an in-channel spoken “personal key.” As users set up the Capital One skill and pair their accounts using OAuth, Alexa asks the user if they would like to add a “personal key,” a 4-digit personal identification code.
In addition to wanting users to be able to control access to their account information, we wanted the language Alexa uses in her conversations with customers to be warm and humorous at times. We learned a lot through testing and are using that feedback as we fine tune tone and wording along the way.
We built the Capital One skill using node.js. We also use AWS to host our skill and internal APIs to get customer account information. The basic engineering work is straightforward and the Amazon developer portal documentation makes it easy to learn. Here are a few of the creative technical solutions we added on top of the basic engineering work to help us move fast with high quality:
The Capital One utterance compiler
We created a tool that automatically generates an expansive set of utterances from just a few input parameters. This allows us to avoid maintaining a huge list of individual utterances for our skill. For example, in our "AccountBalance" intent, we have many ways of asking for the balance on an account. To this already long list we then added account types (e.g. checking, savings, etc). After that we added product names (e.g. Venture credit card, Quicksilver credit card). Our list of utterances for that intent is now huge when you incorporate all the different ways customers can ask for their balance across account types and product names. Our utterance compiler makes it simple to generate and maintain all these utterances.[Read More]
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 Alexa’s voice service that makes it a favorite among IoT developers?
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, wouldn’t you be able to act faster if the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on the wall was smart and could talk you through saving that person’s 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 Alexa’s 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: it’s 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, they’re 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 Alexa’s 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]
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”.
“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]
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.
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:
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]
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.
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:
AVS is coming soon to the UK and Germany. Read the full announcement here.