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Showing posts by Emily Roberts

August 02, 2016

Emily Roberts

For inspiration on developing innovative Alexa skills, check out the Wayne Investigation, a skill developed by Warner Bros. to promote the recently released Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice feature film. In this audio-only, interactive adventure game, 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 game, created using the Alexa Skills Kit, is collaboration between Amazon, Warner Bros., head writers at DC Comics, and Cruel & Unusual Films (the production house run by Batman v Superman’s director Zack Snyder and executive producers Debbie Snyder and Wes Coller). With these companies behind the game and its affiliation with a superhero film franchise, it’s not surprising that The Wayne Investigation was a big hit.

But it’s become enormously popular on its own accord. Launched on March 1, this was the first Alexa skill to combine Alexa technology with produced audio assets—namely, compelling music and sound effects—and the response has been extraordinary. During its first week, the Wayne Investigation was engaged 7x more (per weekly average) than all other skills combined. Currently the Wayne Investigation rates in the top 5% of skills (earning 4.8 out of 5 stars) and is the #1 skill for both total time spent engaging with the skill and average time spent per user.

The team scripted the experience by building it around a gaming map with directions and actions in each room. Once the script was finalized, they used a decision tree model to translate the experience into code, which is hosted in AWS. From three starting actions, users can make up to 37 decisions, each taking the user down paths that lead to new and iconic Gotham characters and locations before completing the game. An efficient (and lucky) walkthrough of the Wayne Investigation takes 5 to 10 minutes, but fans who want to explore every nook and cranny can spend as long as 40 minutes in this Gotham City.

An added benefit of creating the Wayne Investigation skill is that it led to the creation of a tool that allows developers to graphically design interactive adventure games. Today, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve made a tool with source code available to make it easier for the Alexa community to create similar games.

To experience the skill, simply enable it in your Alexa companion app and then say, “Alexa, open the Wayne Investigation.”

 

June 16, 2016

Emily Roberts

Experiences designed around the human voice will fundamentally improve the way people use technology. The Alexa Fund—named for the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo—provides up to $100 million in investments to fuel voice technology innovation from developers, manufacturers, and start-ups of all sizes.

Today, Alexa Fund recipient Luma Inc. announced that its home WiFi system is available for purchase and will begin shipping to preorder customers. Luma’s routers create a mesh network that surround the home with fast and secure internet to eliminate dead zones and buffering and to safeguard connected devices. You can pre-order your Luma device today on Amazon.com for $149. Luma also plans to create fun and unique Alexa skills for Luma customers. The skill will be released in the coming weeks and will initially allow Luma customers to pause and unpause their home internet.

“It’s exciting to see Luma’s vision to bring better and faster WiFi to customers come to life with the availability of its first home system,” said Steve Rabuchin, Vice President, Amazon Alexa. “We saw great promise in Luma to push forward IOT and voice technologies when we invested in the company through the Alexa Fund. The addition of an Alexa skill will bring increased functionality and make it seamless for customers to better control their home internet through their voice.”    

Alexa Fund Companies

Luma joins 16 companies—Sutro, Invoxia, Petnet, Musaic, Rachio, Scout Alarm, Garageio, Toymail, Dragon Innovation, MARA, Mojio, TrackR, OrangeChef, Kitt.ai, and Ring—that have already received investments from the Alexa Fund. And, recipients MARA, Rachio, Mojio, Garageio, and Scout Alarm have already launched new skills for Alexa. Most recently, MARA Running Assistant released their skill for Alexa that makes it easy to interact with MARA Running Assistant, a hands-free voice-controlled assistant that will support and coach you while you exercise. Customers can ask the skill questions like “Alexa, ask MARA how many miles have I run so far this week?”

[Read More]

April 29, 2016

Emily Roberts

Alexa is the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo. Companies can add new skills to Alexa using the Alexa Skills Kit. The Alexa Fund is a $100M investment fund to fuel innovation in voice technology. Both were announced in June 2015.

After the birth of their first son, Joel Wetzel and his wife decided to start running as a way to get out of the house and get healthy. He soon grew tired of squinting at a watch screen on dark mornings or pulling his mobile phone out of his pocket to check his times or adjust settings. He saw a way to combine his passion for voice design with a love of a healthy lifestyle. Joel is the CEO and Founder of MARA, an intelligent, voice-based running assistant that provides performance data and training information during exercise, serving as a virtual running coach or personal trainer. MARA launched as a mobile app on iOS in May 2014 and Joel continues to expand MARA’s reach to new technologies.

Investing in the Future with Voice

Joel has been interested in voice interaction since childhood. He was fascinated by HAL from Space Odyssey, KITT on Knight Rider, Data on Star Trek, and the computer on the Starship Enterprise. It was all science fiction back then, but fast forward thirty years and Joel realized that it was something he could help make happen. MARA is a next generation running assistant for smart running. The name of both the app and the assistant, MARA uses cutting-edge voice recognition to proactively coach runners to reach new personal bests. As a personality, MARA provides motivation, encouragement and even competition. With the MARA app, runners can talk to her using their earbuds, ask questions about their speed, pace, location, duration or the weather, ask for music, and track run progress over time.

 “At MARA, our goal is to push digital interaction beyond mere voice commands - to craft conversations, experiences, and personalities,” said Joel. “We were obviously delighted to be selected by the Alexa Fund because our goals are very similar. We want to see voice interactions become pervasive.” 

[Read More]

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:

[Read More]

January 07, 2016

Emily Roberts

The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for you to add skills to Alexa. Alexa is the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo, the #1 seller across all $100+ products on Amazon.com on Black Friday. We announced the availability of the Alexa Skills Kit at the end of June and opened up publishing for all developers on October 23rd.

As TechCrunch reported earlier this week, we now have more than 130 third-party skills for Alexa. Recent skill additions enable Amazon Echo and Fire TV customers to play Jeopardy!, get stock quotes with Fidelity, hear headlines from the Huffington Post, exercise with the 7-minute workout, and test their Star Wars knowledge with a trivia quiz from Disney. We’re excited to see a growing number of developers use the Alexa Skills Kit to expand their reach in the living room and connected home.

Since we launched ASK, we focused on rolling out new features and documentation to help developers build skills more easily. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the Alexa program in 2015. Visit the ASK page to get started or sign up for our Alexa newsletter.

 

November 13, 2015

Emily Roberts

Alexa is the voice service that powers Amazon Echo. Companies can add new skills to Alexa using the Alexa Skills Kit. The Campbell’s Kitchen skill was announced at AWS re:Invent in October 2015, and Campbells created custom skinned Echos to celebrate.

Based on their customer research, Campbell’s knew that customers wanted help with a simple question – what should I make for dinner? Born out of that original insight was Campbell’s Kitchen, an online experience that helps customers answer that very question. The site offers healthy recipes, seasonal meal suggestions, and cooking tips, as well as special savings.

Campbell’s Kitchen is already available online and via an app, and after the Alexa Skills Kit launched over the summer, Umang Shah, Director of Digital Marketing and Marketing Innovation at Campbell Soup Company, saw potential to make the content available in the kitchen hands-free. Campbell’s Digital Marketing agency RAIN, who originally pitched the idea to Umang, then set to work creating a skill to make dinnertime easy. The Campbell’s Kitchen skill launched just six weeks later.

[Read More]

October 14, 2015

Emily Roberts

The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for you to add skills to Alexa. Alexa is the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo, a new category of device designed around your voice.  We announced the availability of the Alexa Skills Kit at the end of June, and thousands of developers have started building skills to expand Alexa’s capabilities.

More Features for Developers

Since June, we’ve continued to roll out new features and documentation to help you build more easily. Most recently, we launched a submission checklist to clarify our certification process and help you get your skill certified more quickly. This is the most recent in new Alexa Skills Kit releases for developers. In September, we launched account linking, service simulator, custom slot types and SSML support.

  • Get Certified Faster: Our submission checklist includes an overview of policy and security requirements as well as recommended functional, voice interface and user experience tests.
  • Easily Link Accounts: Allow customers to link their existing account with your service to Alexa by simply visiting the skills tab in the Alexa smartphone app.
  • Test Skills without a Device: Test your skill service without an Alexa-enabled device with the new service simulator by inputting text and view the service input and output on the screen.
  • Create Your Own Custom Slots: Reduce your required utterances by creating custom slots and sets of values for items that are not covered by Amazon’s built-in slot types.
  • Influence Alexa’s Inflection: Support for Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML), gives you additional control over how Alexa generates speech from your text response.
[Read More]

May 27, 2015

Emily Roberts

Today, we announced a new Amazon Fire TV web app kit for Brightcove, a company that offers cloud services for delivering and monetizing video across connected devices. Brightcove has over 5,500 customers in over 70 countries. Read the full press release here.

The Brightcove-specific web app kit for Amazon Fire TV is a new HTML5 template available to Brightcove Video Cloud customers that optimizes the delivery of Brightcove Video Cloud customers' content directly to Amazon Fire TV. The kit enables content owners to leverage their existing Brightcove-based workflows for Amazon Fire TV. For Brightcove customers, the template provides a way to seamlessly pull in content that’s hosted and organized in Video Cloud and use the Brightcove Player. Because of the integration with the Brightcove Player, customers can run ads against their content on Amazon Fire TV using the Google IMA3 advertising plugin and also capture analytics about video consumption on Amazon Fire TV in Video Cloud. Learn more about Brightcove and Amazon Fire TV.

RLJ Entertainment is an example of a Brightcove customer that is eager to leverage the new template across its multiple properties. Titus Bicknell, Chief Digital Officer at RLJ Entertainment said:

"We're excited about the reach and high-quality experience we'll be able to provide our audience on Amazon Fire TV. As we look to launch our Acorn TV (British TV), UMC (Urban Movie Channel), and AcaciaTV (Fitness) apps, the new template will greatly simplify the release of our current and future niche channels.”

Quickly Publish a Fire TV App

It’s easy for Brightcove customers to get started using the sample project on GitHub. The Brightcove example is in the src/projects/brightcove directory. You can quickly get this project up and running on Fire TV by creating a zip package with the sample Brightcove app that can be found in out/brightcove/ directory. This is just a standard zip, but the index.html must be at the top level of the zip directory - so that there if you unzip the package there is no folder.

Once you’re up and running, you can test your app on Fire TV or in a browser, customize your project, and add additional features. Read the Brightcove documentation on GitHub here.

Ready to get started?

Download the Fire TV web app starter kit GitHub project and learn how to support Brightcove.

 

 

March 31, 2015

Emily Roberts

Today, Amazon introduced the Dash Button and Dash Replenishment Service–new services designed to eliminate those moments you realize you forgot to order a frequently-used household item–things like laundry detergent, dog food, diapers, trash bags, and coffee. The Dash Button brings Amazon’s 1-Click ordering right into the home–when you’re running low, just press the button and an order is automatically placed. We’re working with popular brands like Bounty, Gatorade, Huggies, Clorox, Tide, and others to make the Dash Button available for popular products.

We’re also making the service that powers the Dash Button, the Dash Replenishment Service (DRS), available for device manufacturers to build into their products. We are inviting developers, makers, and manufacturers to request information about a limited participation beta for DRS. DRS enables connected devices to order physical goods from Amazon when supplies are running low—like a coffee maker that orders more coffee beans. By using DRS, device makers are able to leverage Amazon's authentication and payment systems, customer service, and fulfillment network—giving their customers access to Amazon's low prices, great selection, and reliable delivery.

How Dash Replenishment Service Works

Dash Replenishment Service can be integrated with devices in two ways. Device makers can either build a physical button into their hardware to reorder consumables or they can measure consumable usage so that reordering happens automatically. For example, an automatic pet food dispenser made with built-in sensors can measure the amount of pet food remaining in its container and place an order before running out. Device makers can start using DRS with as few as 10 lines of code.

The limited participation beta will be publicly available this fall. There are two ways to get started: apply to participate in the beta, or sign up to be notified when our self-service APIs are ready. Click here to choose an option.

-Emily

March 24, 2015

Emily Roberts

Today, Amazon announced that we are bringing our fastest-selling Amazon device – Fire TV Stick – to the UK, Germany, and Austria. The Fire TV Stick joins Amazon Fire TV, the #1-selling streaming media box on Amazon in the UK and Germany. Fire TV Stick is also now available in Austria. Fire TV Stick is the most powerful streaming stick available, with a dual-core processor and 1 GB of memory. The device has 4x the storage and 2x the memory of Chromecast plus it’s designed for gaming.

Fire TV Stick is available for pre-order starting today in the UK and Germany—it will start shipping April 15th. Learn more at www.amazon.co.uk/firetvstick and www.amazon.de/firetvstick.

Fire TV Stick delivers easy access to a vast selection of content, including the most popular streaming and catch-up services such as Prime Instant Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, BBC News, BBC Sport, ARD Mediathek, ZDF Mediathek, Sky News, Curzon Home Cinema, STV Crossy Road, Hill Climb Racing and Flappy Birds Family and more. The number of video services and games available on Amazon Fire TV in Europe has doubled in just seven months, with more services and games being added every week.

For developers, Amazon Fire TV can help you increase your customer base by putting your Android or HTML5 app or game in the living room, in front of people who enjoy entertainment and may not have seen your apps before. Additionally, developers can use the same development environments that they already use for Android development. Plus, they can write their apps or games in Android Java, or as a web app using the Web App Starter Kit or using one of a number of supported development frameworks (for example: Unity). With this expansion to customers in the UK and Germany, you’ll be able to reach even more customers on Fire TV Stick. 

Here’s what reviewers in the U.S. are saying about Fire TV Stick:

“The streaming TV gadget is faster, with more memory and storage than the competition. It also comes with a remote control, and the app even lets you speak to search for shows.” – CNN Money

“Turn any TV into a smart TV by plugging this tiny device in to your TV's HDMI port to quickly and easily stream content. Consider it the final nail in the coffins of DVDs, CDs, and other plastic bric-a-brac clogging up your entertainment center.” – Entertainment Weekly

“…the interface, speed of the device and its integration with stuff like Amazon Music and Amazon's photo stuff makes it a really compelling offering. In my limited time with the Amazon Streaming Stick, I've found it to be faster than both the Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick.” – Mashable 

New Features for Fire TV

After announcements earlier today that Amazon is bringing Fire TV Stick to the UK, Germany and Austria, Amazon has now announced new features for the best-selling Amazon Fire TV —including expandable USB storage, private listening and support for captive portal web authentication to enable use in hotels. These features will be delivered as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks. Learn more here.

Recent Fire TV News

Getting Started

Build something new or bring your existing app or game to Fire TV from PC, console, web or mobile. To get started, you can build with Android or use HTML5. 

  • Android: Android developers can use existing tools and frameworks including Unity to develop apps and games for the 10-foot experience. Sample code, documentation and guidelines are available to help you make the most of your apps.
  • HTML5: HTML5 developers can leverage the Amazon WebView to develop apps and games. Developers have the option to build HTML5 web appsCordova apps using the Fire OS port, or hybrid apps
  • Web App Starter Kit: Get up to speed quickly with the Web App Starter Kit for Fire TV. You can find this project on its Github project page.  

Meet Us in Person

The Fire TV team will be attending and speaking at a number of upcoming events worldwide. Please visit our events page to learn more.

  • NABShow, Las Vegas, April 13-16: Stop by and visit Amazon Fire TV in the Amazon Web Services booth at NAB (#SL9016 - South Lower Hall).
  • International Games Week Berlin, April 21-26: Experience Fire TV at our gaming area within Quo Vadis. Join evangelist Paul Cutsinger for his talk, "Why is that game more fun than yours? The top 50 deconstructed."
  • TV Connect, London, April 29: Technical evangelist Simon Howard will lead a how-to session on building great apps for Fire TV on at 12:10 on April 29th.
  • Streaming Media East, New York, May 12: Join us at Streaming Media East for a session on building media apps for Fire TV with Russell Beattie, Lab126 Technical Evangelist and Justin Webster, Executive Director of Product Development & Operations for The Wall Street Journal Digital Network. The session is titled “How To: Bringing Media Channels to Amazon Fire TV” and will take place on May 12th from 10:30-11:30 am EST.