Today, we are announcing the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for you to create new voice-driven capabilities for Alexa. Alexa is the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo, a new category of device designed around your voice. With a few lines of code, you can easily integrate existing web services with Alexa or, in just a few hours, you can build entirely new experiences designed around voice. No experience with speech recognition or natural language understanding is required—Amazon does all the work to hear, understand, and process the customer’s spoken request so you don’t have to.
Quickly Build New Skills with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK)
Now you have the opportunity to easily extend your existing service or create something completely new. Without the need for customers to use their hands or eyes, they only have to “ask” and it’s at their command. Now is the time for you to get started.
- Get in Early. Natural user interfaces, such as those based on speech, represent the next major disruption in computing. Alexa provides you with an opportunity to take advantage of this new form of interaction.
- Delight Your Customers. Give your audience a completely new way to interact with your service. Without the need for customers to use their hands or eyes, they only have to “ask” and it’s at their command.
- Get Up and Running in Just a Few Hours. If you have an existing cloud-based service, you can easily use that to start. If not, AWS Lambda is a compute service that makes it really easy to build a cloud-based service that responds quickly to a voice request.
- Build for Free. ASK is free to use. AWS Lambda is also free for the first 1MM calls per month.
Examples of skills you can create with the Alexa Skills Kit include:
- A hobbyist developer can enable Alexa to access his or her child’s school lunch menu—then, each morning simply ask, “Alexa, ask Ballard Elementary School what’s for lunch today” and decide whether to pack a lunch for the child.
- A device maker with an Internet-connected sprinkler system can integrate its sprinklers with Alexa, so a customer can say, “Alexa, ask my sprinkler to water my lawn for 15 minutes.”
- A surf report provider can create a new skill for Alexa that lets customers ask for the latest conditions at their favorite break by saying “Alexa, ask Surf Status for my local forecast.”
- The maker of a smart vacuum cleaner can create a skill for Alexa that lets customers control their vacuum by saying “Alexa, tell the vacuum to start cleaning the living room.”
- A fitness service can enable Alexa to access a user’s workout history, so a customer can say “Alexa, ask My Fitness how many miles I have run this week.”
- A baseball fantasy league can make a new skill for Alexa, so managers can simply say, “Alexa, ask Fantasy Baseball to change my lineup and start Felix Hernandez today.”
Developers Have Already Started Creating Alexa Skills
StubHub, an online marketplace for sports, concert, theater, and other live entertainment event tickets is using Alexa to enable customers to purchase tickets and more using voice. “At StubHub, we are constantly thinking of ways to make the live event experience easier and more fun,” said Parag Vaish, Head of Mobile at StubHub. “By bringing StubHub’s great experience to Alexa, we’re able to reach more fans by allowing our customers to use their voice to engage with our content to do things like ask, ‘Alexa, ask StubHub what events are happening this weekend near me?’ or ‘Alexa, ask StubHub to send event suggestions to me for tomorrow.’”
Pebblebee, a hardware company making customized Bluetooth trackers and sensors, is using ASK to enable customers to track items and check sensors using voice. “We've learned over the past few years that it’s not always intuitive to use a visual app with so many features. Using voice commands simplifies the complexity for customers,” said Daniel Daoura, Co-Founder and CEO of Pebblebee. “We’re thrilled to use the Alexa Skills Kit to integrate Alexa with Pebblebee’s sensor information, so a customer can simply ask, ‘Alexa, find my keys,’ or ‘Alexa, how warm is the baby’s room?’ or ‘Alexa, is my dog nearby?’”
Glympse, a mobile service that provides a fast, free, and simple way to share your location in real time with the people you trust from a GPS-enabled mobile phone, is using ASK to enable customers to request location details via voice. “We are always looking for innovative solutions to expand our ecosystem, and Alexa’s cutting edge voice technology was a natural fit,” said Steve Miller, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Glympse. “Location information—the question of ‘where are you?’ or ‘when will you arrive?’—is pervasive in daily life. We are excited to use the Alexa Skills Kit to make it even easier for people to request location details by saying ‘where is Bob?’ or ‘when will Jack get here?”
It’s Easy to Get Started
To get started with the Alexa Skills Kit, we recommend you review the following materials in order:
- Read the Getting Started Guide, which details how users interact with your Alexa skill and how to conduct a conversation with your customers.
- Read the AWS Lambda documentation.
- Check out the Voice Design Handbook for best practices on voice user interface design.
- Review the Alexa Skills Interface Reference to learn more about the syntax of the requests that will be sent to your service.
- Check out the reference skills to see sample code.
- Learn how to test your new skill with an Amazon Echo.
- Sign up for a free account and register your skill on the developer portal.
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