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September 20, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Today, we’re excited to announce a new, free video course on Alexa development by A Cloud Guru, a pioneering serverless education company in the cloud space. Instructed by Ryan Kroonenburg, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Community Hero, the “Alexa development for absolute beginners” course allows beginner developers and non-developers to learn how to build skills for Alexa, the voice service that powers Amazon Echo.

Here is what you can expect to learn in this two-hour course in 12 lessons:

  • This beginner guide to Alexa will walk you through setting up an AWS account, registering for a free Amazon Developer account, and then building and customizing two Alexa skills with templates available on GitHub.
  • The course also shows Mac users how to use the interactive story tool to create amazing interactive stories.
  • Finally, you will learn how to create your own mp3 files, where you narrate, and how to add background music and sound effects. You will see how to convert mp3 files to an Alexa-friendly format, put them on Amazon S3, and then reference them in the graphical user interface (GUI) using Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML).

“All in all, it's a great course and it’s even accessible to non-developers, mums and dads who haven’t used Alexa or Amazon Web Services before! We made this available to the general public and give them an everyday use case for AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, and S3. We can’t wait to see what people build for Alexa.” – Ryan Kroonenburg, instructor and founder of A Cloud Guru.

Watch the course for free today.

Dive Deeper with Alexa Development

A Cloud Guru also offers an extended version of the course. Cloud Solution Engineer Nick Triantafillou will teach you how to build your own Alexa device with a Raspberry Pi, a MicroSD card, a speaker, a USB microphone, and Alexa Voice Service. Learn how to make Alexa rap to Eminem, how to read Shakespeare, how to use iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets with Alexa, and more. This five-hour video course in 47 lessons also covers additional skill templates available on GitHub to customize and build new capabilities for Alexa.

Watch the extended course.

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

 

September 16, 2016

Glenn Cameron

The Internet of Voice Challenge on Hackster.io has officially come to a close. Our spirits are high after seeing the heights of creativity, the quality of code, and the compelling narratives of the 101 entrants. Simply put, we are impressed with how developers connected Alexa with Raspberry Pi.

After careful deliberation, we are announcing the winners!

Winners of the Internet of Voice Challenge

Alexa Skills Kit + Raspberry Pi segment

1st Place: Roxie the Voice-Activated Pitching Machine by Terren Peterson

The cold efficiency of a pitching machine is a great way to learn to hit a ball, but it’s so impersonal. Instead, Robot Roxie is powered by Alexa and lets you ask for the next pitch.

Watch Robot Roxie in action.

2nd Place: Voice-Controlled K’nex Car by Austin Wilson

This developer revived his old builder set and decided it was more fun to control it with his voice. Watch the Alexa-enabled K’nex buggy show off some of its moves.

[Read More]

September 15, 2016

Robert McCauley

We teamed up with hack.guides() to bring you a Tutorial Contest in June. Hack.guides() is a community of developers focused on creating tutorials to help educate and share technical knowledge. The purpose of the contest was to provide developers the opportunity to share knowledge, help other developers, contribute articles to an open-source project, and win a prize along the way.

Today we’re excited to announce the winner of the hack.guides() tutorial contest.

Winner: Control your fish tank from anywhere in the world with Alexa voice control

Alexa developer, ”piratemrs”, built a tutorial that outlines how to build a working, voice-controlled device that can be used to feed pet fish while you are away. The tutorial helps developers learn three broad technical areas: hardware, AWS, Alexa.

Both cloud and hardware technologies were integrated to build this project. The tutorial starts with a lesson on how to add external circuits and motors (servos) to a Raspberry Pi computer. Next, the tutorial steps through how to create an AWS Lambda function and Alexa skill. Finally, the skill and Raspberry Pi system are tied together via a configuration guide using the AWS IoT service. At the end, piratemrs says “Alexa, ask fish tank to feed the fish” and a custom Alexa skill activates a small motor to shake some food into the fish tank. 

The tutorial does a great job of breaking down components into separate sections and includes YouTube videos to show the results of testing each piece of the solution. Watch the videos and focus on testing and understanding each component of the solution before moving on.

Read the full tutorial to learn how you can build your own voice-controlled system to feed your fish, control your fish tank lights remotely, and more.

Honorable mentions

We’d like to thank all the participants who created Alexa tutorials for this contest. The high quality of submissions made selecting a winner a difficult decision. Tutorial submissions were scored using the contest rules provided by hack.guides(), including writing style, communication ability, effective use of technologies/APIs, and overall quality. Here are some honorable mentions.

Alexa, run this JavaScript app

This tutorial shows you how to design, build, and test an Alexa skill that implements an adventure game. If you are an experienced Node.js developer, but new to Alexa, you will appreciate the thorough breakdown of the ASK functionality and recommended project structure. Read more

Build your first Alexa skill

This tutorial shows you how to navigate the Amazon developer screens and create your first Alexa skill. If you are a novice developer, you will appreciate the clear screenshots and fun animated GIFs that appear throughout the text. Read more.

Get Started with the Alexa Skills Kit

To get started, we’ve created easy-to-use skill templates that show new developers the end-to-end process of building an Alexa skill. Visit our trivia game, fact skill, how-to skill, flash cards skill and user guide skill tutorials.

Or check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

 

September 14, 2016

Dean Bryen

Amazon is happy to announce that Alexa, Echo, and the all-new Echo Dot are now available for customers in the UK and Germany. Developers and hardware makers around the world can create Alexa skills for UK and German customers with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) today or integrate Alexa into their hardware with the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) starting in early 2017. Popular European brands have already announced they’re building Alexa skills, including JustEat, the BBC, The Guardian, Jamie Oliver, MyTaxi, Hive, Netatmo, National Rail and Deutsche Bahn. There are over 3,000 skills for Alexa in the US, and now developers can extend their experiences to more customers in Europe. If you publish a skill for the UK or Germany by October 31, 2016, you’ll receive a free, limited edition Alexa t-shirt.

Introducing the Echo and Echo Dot

Today we also introduced an all-new version of the groundbreaking Echo Dot for under $50, so you can add Alexa to any room in your home. Both Amazon Echo and Echo Dot are voice-controlled speakers designed entirely around your voice—they’re always ready, hands-free, and fast. Alexa is the brain behind Echo and Echo Dot—just ask, and she’ll answer questions, play music, read the news, set timers and alarms, recite your calendar, check sports scores, control lights around your home, and much more. With far-field voice control, Echo and Echo Dot can do all this from across the room. Echo and Echo Dot will start shipping in the UK in the coming weeks. In Germany, Echo and Echo Dot are available by invitation for customers who want to help shape Alexa as she evolves—the devices will start shipping next month.

How to Build an Alexa Skill

It’s easy to get started. Explore our simple tutorials to learn how to build a skill quickly: trivia, flash cards, instructions, facts, decision tree and game helper. If you want to build a multi-language Alexa skill read our technical documentation to learn how to create a skill in all language models (US English, UK English, and German). If you’re already an Alexa developer, you can enhance your existing skill by extending it to support both UK and DE language models.  

Get Technical Help from the Alexa Team

Join us at an Alexa event or in our webinars and office hours in the coming weeks. These sessions are an opportunity for you to have your questions answered by an Alexa Evangelist or Alexa Solutions Architect.

Webinars

We have scheduled three introductory live webinars.

ASK the Expert Sessions

We host ASK the Expert sessions to help answer your questions. Join the next one for live Q&A with an Alexa Evangelist.

Technical staff from the Alexa team will be speaking at a number of upcoming events in the UK and Germany. Come join us to get hands-on training, learn about voice design and meet other local developers.

UK

  • SmartSummit (London) – September 21 -22 Register Now
  • Amazon Appstore Summit (London) – October 4  Register now
  • Hello Alexa (London) – October 10  Register with code “HiLondon.” Seats are limited.
  • Hello Alexa Bootcamp (London) – October 11  Register now
  • Hack Sheffield – October 15-16  Register now
  • Brumhack – October 29-30 Register now
  • Alexa Devs Meetup (London) October 4  Learn more

Germany

  • Berlin Bootcamp – September 21-22 Register now
  • Hello Alexa (Berlin) – October 6 Register with code “HalloBerlin.” Seats are limited.
  • Hello Alexa Hackathon (Berlin) – October 7  Register now
  • Jacobschack – October 15-16  Register now
  • Alexa Devs Meetup (Berlin)  Learn more

Special Offer: Free Developer T-Shirts for UK and DE

We are offering a free Alexa Dev t-shirt to developers who publish an Alexa skill between September 14, 2016 and October 31, 2016. There are custom, limited edition designs for the UK and Germany. Quantities are limited. See terms and conditions.

 

August 24, 2016

David Isbitski

Before today, the Alexa Skills Kit enabled short audio via SSML audio tags on your skill responses. Today we are excited to announce that we have now added streaming audio support for Alexa skills including playback controls. This means you can easily create skills that playback audio content like podcasts, news stories, and live streams.

New AudioPlayer and PlaybackController interfaces provide directives and requests for streaming audio and monitoring playback progression. With this new feature, your skill can send audio directives to start and stop the playback. The Alexa service can provide your skill with information about the audio playback’s state, such as when the track is nearly finished, or when playback starts and stops. Alexa can also now send requests in response to hardware buttons, such as those on a remote control.

Enabling Audio Playback Support in Your Skill

To enable audio playback support in your skill you simply need to turn the Audio Player functionality on and handle the new audio Intents. Navigate to the Alexa developer portal and do the following:

  • On the Skill Information page in the developer portal, set the Audio Player option to Yes.
     
  • Include the required built-in intents for pausing and resuming audio in your intent schema and implement them in some way:
    • AMAZON.PauseIntent
    • AMAZON.ResumeIntent
       
  • Call the AudioPlayer.Play Directive from one of your Intents to start the Audio Playback
     
  • Handle AudioPlayer and PlaybackController Requests and optionally respond

In addition to the required built-in intents, your skill should gracefully handle the following additional built-in intents:
 

  • AMAZON.CancelIntent
  • AMAZON.LoopOffIntent
  • AMAZON.LoopOnIntent
  • AMAZON.NextIntent
  • AMAZON.PreviousIntent
  • AMAZON.RepeatIntent
  • AMAZON.ShuffleOffIntent
  • AMAZON.ShuffleOnIntent
  • AMAZON.StartOverIntent

Note: Users can invoke these built-in intents without using your skill’s invocation name. For example, while in a podcast skill you create, a user could say “Alexa Next” and your skill would play the next episode.

If your skill is currently playing audio, or was the skill most recently playing audio, these intents are automatically sent to your skill. Your code needs to expect them and not return an error. If any of these intents does not apply to your skill, handle it in an appropriate  way in your code. For instance, you could return a response with text-to-speech indicating that the command is not relevant to the skill. The specific message depends on the skill and whether the intent is one that might make sense at some point, for example:
 

  • For a podcast skill, the AMAZON.ShuffleOnIntent intent might return the message: “I can’t shuffle a podcast.”
  • For version 1.0 of a music skill that doesn’t yet support playlists and shuffling, the AMAZON.ShuffleOnIntent intent might return: “Sorry, I can’t shuffle music yet.”


Note: If your skill uses the AudioPlayer directives, you cannot extend the above built-in intents with your own sample utterances.

[Read More]

August 17, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

We are excited to launch a recognition program that honors the most engaged developers and contributors in the community. These individuals are educating and inspiring other developers in the community online and offline. They are actively and independently sharing their passion and knowledge of Alexa with the community. We’re proud to call them our “Alexa Champions”.

Today we recognize the initial group of ten Alexa Champions and showcase their contributions to the Alexa community in a dedicated gallery. We thank them for all the knowledge they have shared with others and for the tools they have created to make it easier for developers to use the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and Alexa Voice Service (AVS).

Meet the Alexa Champions

Join me in welcoming the Alexa Champions:

  • April Hamilton was one of the first developers to join the private beta of the Alexa Skills Kit and to get skills certified in 2015. She curates the LoveMyEcho.com blog daily and shares tips and tricks with developers in her weekly ASK Dev Tuesday series. Learn more about April.
  • Brian Donohue started a local meetup group for Alexa enthusiasts and developers in New York which now counts over 400 members. For the first event, he created a “Hello world” template to show attendees how to build their first Alexa skill. Learn more about Brian.
  • Eric Olson a.k.a. Galactoise is one of the most active contributors in the Alexa forums with over 280 reputation points. He co-created the Alexa Skills Kit Responder that lets you mock skill responses to your Echo and gives you the ability to rapidly validate your content. Learn more about Eric.
  • John Wheeler is the creator of Flask-Ask, an Alexa Skills Kit Framework for Python that enables rapid skill development. He also created AlexaTutorial.com, a resource for leveling-up quickly with Flask-Ask and the Alexa Skills Kit. Learn more about John.
  • Mark Carpenter has been publishing the ASK Dev Weekly newsletter since September 2015. He was the architect of the Alexa Project curriculum that is offered to Bloc bootcamp students. He publishes the Alexa Skill of the Day apps which surface one exemplary Alexa skill each day. Learn more about Mark.
  • Matt Kruse created the alexa-app framework and the alexa-app-server container for hosting javascript-based skills. He also published open-source code on GitHub for integration with IFTTT and a “find my iPhone” skill using the find-my-iphone module. Learn more about Matt.
  • Rick Wargo released the alexa-skill-template, a Node.js development environment for Alexa skills authored in JavaScript and hosted locally for testing and in AWS Lambda for production with support for DynamoDB. He’s s an active participant in other open source Alexa projects. Learn more about Rick.
  • Sam Machin got started with Alexa at the BattleHack world finals in November 2015. He published several tutorials on GitHub to help teach others how to turn a RaspberryPi or a CHIP into an Alexa client with the Alexa Voice Service. His alexaweb project was the inspiration for Echosim.io. Learn more about Sam.
  • Steven Arkonovich was an Alexa enthusiast from the very beginning, writing Alexa skills before there even was ASK. He developed a Ruby framework for quickly creating Alexa skills as web services. He is one of the most active contributors in the Alexa forums. Read more about Steven.
  • Walter Quesada created a video course for Pluralsight that teaches the foundations of developing voice-enabled skills for Echo and building custom Alexa skills in C# and ASP.NET Web API. He also talked about Alexa skill development at numerous tech events. Learn more about Walter.

Get involved

There are many ways you can share educational and inspiring content about AVS and ASK with the Alexa community through your own blog or newsletter, open-source development tools, tutorials, videos or podcasts and social media. You can also organize local meetup groups for like-minded Alexa enthusiasts and developers.

[Read More]

August 04, 2016

Amit Jotwani

We are excited to announce a new addition to the Alexa family—Nucleus.

Nucleus is an Alexa-enabled connected home intercom system designed to bring families closer together by giving people the ability to make room-to-room, home-to-home and mobile-to-home calls. The average family today is spread across geographies and constantly caught up in daily responsibilities. Nucleus aims to redefine family communication by making it instantaneous. Now you can quickly video chat with grandma on her Nucleus from your smartphone as you’re leaving the office, or never miss family dinner when you’re traveling away from home. 

The Alexa integration on Nucleus makes it easy to check the latest weather report or add items to your shopping list from anywhere in the house. You can talk to Alexa hands-free through Nucleus using the “Alexa” wake word or tap-to-talk using the button on the screen. Simply say, “Alexa, play Adele” or “Alexa, add milk to my list.” You also have access to a growing number of Alexa skills, built by developers using the Alexa Skills Kit, including smart home controls through SmartThings, Insteon and Wink.

You can purchase Nucleus on Amazon.com.

Getting Started with AVS

Developing the next breakthrough consumer tech product? Learn how AVS can help you add rich and intuitive Alexa-enabled experiences to your connected devices, services or applications.

[Read More]

August 02, 2016

Robert Jamison

Today, we're pleased to make a tool with source code available to allow you to graphically design interactive adventure games for Alexa. Interactive adventure games represent a new category of skill that allows customers to engage with stories using their voice. With these skills, you can showcase original content or build compelling companion experiences to existing books, movies and games. For example, in The Wayne Investigation skill (4.7 stars, 48 reviews), 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 Magic Door, an original adventure series for Alexa, enables you to tell Alexa what choices to make as you navigate a forest, a garden or an ancient temple. Learn more about game skills on Alexa.

This tool provides an easy to use front-end that allows developers to instantly deploy code for your story, or use the generated code as a starting point for more complex projects. It was written in Node.js by Thomas Yuill, a designer and engineer in the Amazon Advertising team. The tool is available now as a Github project: https://github.com/alexa/interactive-adventure-game-tool

If you want to get started quickly, you can use our Trivia or Decision Tree skill templates that make it easy for developers or non-developers to create game skills. These template makes it easy for developers or non-developers to create a skill similar to “European Vacation Recommender” or “Astronomy Trivia." The templates leverages AWS Lambda and the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) while providing the business logic, use cases, error handling and help functions for your skill. You just need to come up with a decision tree-based idea or trivia game, plug in your questions and edit the sample provided (we walk you through how it’s done). It's a valuable way to quickly learn the end-to-end process for building and publishing an Alexa skill.

[Read More]

July 27, 2016

Zoey Collier

Earlier this year, Paul Cutsinger, Evangelist at Amazon Alexa, joined a team of developers and designers from Capital One at SXSW in Austin to launch the new Capital One skill for Alexa. The launch of the new skill garnered national attention, as Capital One was the first company to give customers the ability to interact with their credit card and bank accounts through Alexa-enabled devices. This week at the Amazon Developer Education Conference in NYC, Capital One announced another industry first by expanding the skill to enable its customers to access their auto and home loan accounts through Alexa.

"The Capital One skill for Alexa is all part of our efforts to help our customers manage their money on their terms – anytime and anywhere," said Ken Dodelin, Vice President, Digital Product Management, Capital One. “Now, you can access in real time all of your Capital One accounts—from credit cards to bank accounts to home and auto loans—using nothing but your voice with the Capital One skill.”

The skill is one of the top-rated Alexa skills, 4.5/5 stars, with 47 reviews. It enables Capital One customers to stay on top of their credit card, auto loan, mortgage and home equity accounts by checking their balance, reviewing recent transactions, or making payments, as well as get real-time access to checking and savings account information to understand their available funds.

 “Capital One has a state of the art technology platform that allows us to quickly leverage emerging technologies, like Alexa." Scott Totman, Vice President of Digital Products Engineering, Capital One said. “We were excited about the opportunity to provide a secure, convenient, and hands-free experience for our customers.”

Building the Skill

To bring the new skill to life, the Capital One team – comprised of engineers, designers, and product managers – kicked off a two-phase development process.

“Last summer a few developers started experimenting with Echo devices, and, ultimately, combined efforts to scope out a single feature: fetching a customer’s credit card balance. That exercise quickly familiarized the team with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and helped them determine the level of effort required to produce a full public offering,” said Totman. “The second phase kicked off in October and involved defining and building the initial set of skill capabilities, based on customer interviews and empathy based user research. Less than six months later we launched the first version of the Capital One skill for Alexa.”

The team also spent a lot of time finding the right balance between customers’ need for both convenience and security. In the end, Capital One worked with Amazon to strike the right balance and gave customers the option of adding a four-digit pin in order to access the skill and provide an additional layer of security. The pin can be changed or removed at the customer’s discretion.

“The Alexa Skills Kit is very straightforward. However, it is evolving quickly, so developers need to pay close attention to online documentation, webinars, and other learning opportunities in order to stay on top of new features and capabilities as they are released,” Totman said.

Finding the Right Voice

“We dedicated a lot of time to getting the conversation right from the start,” said Totman. “This meant we not only had to anticipate the questions customers were going to ask, but also how they were going to ask them.”

This was a really interesting challenge for Capital One’s design team.  In order to make the skill feel like a personalized conversation, the team had to identify exactly where and how to inject personality and humor, while carefully considering customers’ priorities and the language they use to discuss finances.

“A lot goes into making sure our customers get what they expect from our personality, as well as what they expect from Alexa’s personality. That becomes especially visible when injecting humor, because what looks great on paper doesn’t always transition to the nuance of voice inflection, cadence, or the context of banking,” said Stephanie Hay, head of Capital One’s content strategy team. “But that’s the joy of design > build > iterate in a co-creation method; product, design, and engineering design the conversation together, hear Alexa say it, react, iterate, test it with actual customers, iterate further, and then get it to a point we all feel excited about.”

Looking Ahead

Capital One’s Alexa skill represents just the starting lineup of features. Capital One’s team continues to test, learn, and explore new features by focusing on customer needs and continually refining the experience.

“As customers become more familiar using voice technologies, we anticipate growing demand for feature capabilities, as well as increased expectations regarding the sophistication of the conversation.” Totman said. “With voice technologies, we get to learn firsthand how customers are attempting to talk to us, which allows us to continually refine the conversation.”

“The possibilities with the Alexa Skills Kit are nearly endless, but I advise developers to be very thoughtful about the value of their skill,” said Totman. “Leveraging voice-activated technology is only worthwhile if you can clearly define how your solution will go above and beyond your existing digital offerings.”  

Stay tuned to part two to learn how Capital One built their Alexa skill and added new capabilities.


Share other innovative ways you’re using Alexa in your life. Tweet us @alexadevs with hashtag #AlexaDevStory.

Get Started with Alexa Skills Kit

Are you ready to build your first (or next) Alexa skill? Build a custom skill or use one of our easy tutorials to get started quickly.

July 26, 2016

David Isbitski

Today, we’re excited to announce the Amazon Alexa session track at AWS re:Invent 2016, the largest gathering of the global Amazon developer community. AWS re:Invent provides an opportunity to connect with peers and technology experts, engage in hands-on labs and bootcamps, and learn about new technologies and how to improve productivity, network security, and application performance, all while keeping infrastructure costs low. AWS re:Invent runs November 28 through December 2, 2016.

The Alexa track at AWS re:Invent will dive deep into the technology behind the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa Voice Service, with a special focus on using AWS Services to enable voice experiences. We’ll cover AWS Lambda, DynamoDB, CloudFormation, Cognito, Elastic Beanstalk and more. You’ll hear from senior evangelists and engineers and learn best practices from early Alexa developers. Here’s an early peek at the Alexa sessions.

Title

Time

Level

Description

ALX 201: How Capital One Built a Voice Experience for Banking

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Introductory

As we add thousands of skills to Alexa, our developers have uncovered some basic and more complex tips for building better skills. Whether you are new to Alexa skill development or if you have created skills that are live today, this session will help you understand how to create better voice experiences. Last year, Capital One joined Alexa on stage at re:Invent to talk about their experience building an Alexa skill. Hear from them one year later to learn from the challenges that they had to overcome and the results they are seeing from their skill.

ALX 202: How Amazon is Enabling the Future of Automotive

Thursday, December 1, 2016

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Introductory

The experience in the auto industry is changing. For both the driver and the car manufacturer, a whole new frontier is on the near horizon. What do you do with your time while the car is driving itself? How do I have a consistent experience while driving shared or borrowed cars? How do I stay safer and more aware in the ever increasing complexity of traffic, schedules, calls, messages and tweets? In this session we will discuss how the auto industry is facing new challenges and how the use of Amazon Alexa, IoT, Logistics services and the AWS Cloud is transforming the Mobility experience of the (very near) future.

ALX 301: Alexa in the Enterprise: How JPL Leverages Alexa to Further Space Exploration with Internet of Things

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Advanced

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory designs and creates some of the most advanced space robotics ever imagined.  JPL IT is now innovating to help streamline how JPLers will work in the future in order to design, build, operate, and support these spacecraft. They hope to dramatically improve JPLers' workflows and make their work easier for them by enabling simple voice conversations with the room and the equipment across the entire enterprise.

What could this look like? Imagine just talking with the conference room to configure it. What if you could kick off advanced queries across AWS services and kick off AWS Kinesis tasks by simply speaking the commands? What if the laboratory could speak to you and warn you about anomalies or notify you of trends across your AWS infrastructure? What if you could control rovers by having a conversation with them and ask them questions? In this session, JPL will demonstrate how they leveraged AWS Lambda, DynamoDB and CloudWatch in their prototypes of these use cases and more.  They will also discuss some of the technical challenges they are overcoming, including how to deploy and manage consumer devices such as the Amazon Echo across the enterprise, and give lessons learned.  Join them as they use Alexa to query JPL databases, control conference room equipment and lights, and even drive a rover on stage, all with nothing but the power of voice!

ALX 302: Build a Serverless Back End for Your Alexa-Based Voice Interactions

Thursday, December 1, 2016

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Advanced

Learn how to develop voice-based serverless back ends for Alexa Voice Service (AVS) and Alexa devices using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), which allows you to add new voice-based interactions to Alexa. We’ll code a new skill, implemented by a serverless backend leveraging AWS services such as Amazon Cognito, AWS Lambda, and Amazon DynamoDB. Often, your skill needs to authenticate your users and link them back to your backend systems and to persist state between user invocations. User authentication is performed by leveraging OAuth compatible identity systems. Running such a system on your back end requires undifferentiated heavy lifting or boilerplate code. We’ll leverage Login with Amazon as the identity provider instead, allowing you to focus on your application implementation and not on the low-level user management parts. At the end of this session, you’ll be able to develop your own Alexa skills and use Amazon and AWS services to minimize the required backend infrastructure. This session shows you how to deploy your Alexa skill code on a serverless infrastructure, leverage AWS Lambda, use Amazon Cognito and Login with Amazon to authenticate users, and leverage AWS DynamoDB as a fully managed NoSQL data store.

ALX 303: Building a Smarter Home with Alexa

Thursday, December 1, 2016

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Advanced

This session introduces the beta process, the Smart Home Skill API, and how to quickly and easily set up a smart home so you can begin using Alexa to control lighting, blinds, and small appliances. We begin by going over what devices you can buy and share and some common best practices when enabling these devices in your home or office. We also demonstrate how to enable these devices and connect them with Alexa. We show you how to create groups and manage your home with your voice, as well as some tips and tricks for managing your home when you are away. This session explains how to use the Smart Home Skill API to create a custom skill to manage your smart home devices as well as lessons learned from dozens of customers and partners. Alexa smart home partner Ecobee joins us to talk about their experience in the Smart Home Skill API beta program.

ALX 304: Tips and Tricks on Bringing Alexa to Your Products

 

Friday, December 2, 2016

9:30 AM - 10:30 AM

 

Advanced

Ever wonder what it takes to add the power of Alexa to your own products?  Are you curious about what Alexa partners have learned on their way to a successful product launch?  In this session you will learn about the top tips and tricks on how to go from VUI newbie to an Alexa-enabled product launch.  Key concepts around hardware selection, enabling far field voice interaction, building a robust Alexa Voice Service (AVS) client and more will be discussed along with customer and partner examples on how to plan for and avoid common challenges in product design, development and delivery. 

ALX 305: From VUI to QA: Building a Voice-Based Adventure Game for Alexa

Friday, December 2, 2016

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Advanced

Hitting the submit button to publish your skill is similar to sending your child to their first day of school. You want it to be set up for a successful launch day and for many days thereafter. Learn how to set your skill up for success from Andy Huntwork, Alexa Principal Engineer and one of the creators of the popular Alexa skill "The Magic Door." You will learn the most common reasons why skills fail and also some of the more unique use cases. The purpose of this session is to help you build better skills by knowing what to look out for and what you can test for before submitting. In this session, you will learn what most developers do wrong, how to successfully test and QA your skill, how to set your skill up for successful certification, and the process of how a skill gets certified.  

MAC 202: Deep Learning in Alexa   Introductory

Neural networks have a long and rich history in automatic speech recognition. In this talk, we present a brief primer on the origin of deep learning in spoken language, and then explore today’s world of Alexa. Alexa is the AWS service that understands spoken language and powers Amazon Echo. Alexa relies heavily on machine learning and deep neural networks for speech recognition, text-to-speech, language understanding, and more. We also discuss the Alexa Skills Kit, which lets any developer teach Alexa new skills.

We encourage you to check back because we’ll have more content announcements in the coming months.

Hope to see you there! Haven’t signed up yet? Register now.

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

 

July 21, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

The Amazon Alexa team has collaborated with Big Nerd Ranch, known globally for its highly effective immersive development bootcamps and app development services, to develop deep technical training courses for the Alexa Skills Kit. Today we launch a new developer education experience that showcases all the free learning materials created in collaboration with Big Nerd Ranch.

Our six educational modules will dive into building voice user interfaces using the Alexa Skills Kit. The training materials will teach you about the Alexa skill architecture and interface configuration, slots and utterances, sessions and voice user interfaces, persistence, account linking, and certification and testing.

Each module page features a variety of learning materials:

  • Short and sweet videos you can easily share, save for later, or add to your own playlist on YouTube,
  • Learning objectives that summarize what you will learn,
  • Reference links to find more about Alexa Skills Kit features and technologies covered in the training,
  • Code samples on GitHub to follow along and build custom Alexa skills,
  • Condensed posts published on the Alexa blog,
  • Complete study guides to learn more and solve bonus challenges.

Start learning: check out our new developer education pages.

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Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

July 19, 2016

David Isbitski

Today we’re happy to announce the new alexa-sdk for Node.js to help you build skills faster and with less complexity. Creating an Alexa skill using the Alexa Skills Kit, Node.js and AWS Lambda has become one of the most popular ways we see skills created today. The event-driven, non-blocking I/O model of Node.js is well suited for an Alexa skill and Node.js is one of the largest ecosystems of open source libraries in the world. Plus, with AWS Lambda is free for the first one million calls per month, which can support skill hosting for most developers. And you don’t need to manage any SSL certificates when using AWS Lambda (since the Alexa Skills Kit is a trusted trigger).

While setting up an Alexa skill using AWS Lambda, Node.js and the Alexa Skills Kit has been a simple process, the actual amount of code you have had to write has not. We have seen a large amount of time spent in Alexa skills on handling session attributes, skill state persistence, response building and behavior modeling. With that in mind the Alexa team set out to build an Alexa Skills Kit SDK specifically for Node.js that will help you avoid common hang-ups and focus on your skill’s logic instead of boiler plate code. 

Enabling Faster Alexa Skill Development with the Alexa Skills Kit for Node.js (alexa-sdk)

With the new alexa-sdk, our goal is to help you build skills faster while allowing you to avoid unneeded complexity. Today, we are launching the SDK with the following capabilities:

  • Hosted as NPM package allowing simple deployment to any Node.js environment
  • Ability to build Alexa responses using built-in events
  • Helper events for new sessions and unhandled events that can act as a ‘catch-all’ events
  • Helper functions to build state-machine based Intent handling
    • This makes it possible to define different event handlers based on the current state of the skill
  • Simple configuration to enable attribute persistence with DynamoDB
  • All speech output is automatically wrapped as SSML
  • Lambda event and context objects are fully available via this.event and this.contextAbility to override built-in functions giving you more flexibility on how you manage state or build responses. For example, saving state attributes to AWS S3.
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July 18, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Today, we’re excited to announce a new Alexa skills course available on Pluralsight, a global leader in online learning for technology professionals. The new course is focused on building custom Alexa skills in C# and ASP.NET Web API. In this four-module course, “Developing Alexa Skills for Amazon Echo”, Alexa developer and Pluralsight author Walter Quesada teaches the foundations of developing voice experiences for Amazon Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices. First, you'll learn the differences between Echo and Alexa, as well as the differences between the Alexa Voice Service and the Alexa Skills Kit. Next, you will quickly evaluate the 'Hello World' node.js sample code provided by Amazon. Finally, you will learn the certification process and requirements, publication stages, and how to create new versions of live skills. By the end of this course, you'll be better prepared to build and publish Alexa skills, or capabilities, for Alexa, the voice service that powers Echo.

Watch the video series for free today.

“I’m excited for developers in the Pluralsight community to watch this first ever course on developing Alexa skills in C# and .NET. I can’t wait to see what you build. Let me know in the Pluralsight discussion forums.” – Walter Quesada, Pluralsight author

Watch Alexa Skills Kit Webinar by Alexa Evangelist, Dave Isbitski

If you need more information about Alexa before getting started, Dave Isbitski, Chief Evangelist for Alexa and Echo, has got you covered. In this exclusive webinar created for Pluralsight, Dave will walk you through the world of Alexa Skills Kit and how you can create your own voice-driven experience. The webinar starts by diving into the basics of Alexa, the SDKs, and resources to get started. Next, you’ll learn how to build an Alexa skill quickly by walking through code and interaction models.

Watch this webinar to learn more about the Alexa Skills Kit today.

Learn More

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

July 11, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Last month we released the first two videos in the Alexa video series created by developer education company Big Nerd Ranch. You can find parts 1 and 2 on the official YouTube Alexa Developers channel. Today we are excited to reveal the next two videos in the Big Nerd Ranch series on how to develop Alexa skills locally with Node.js.

In part 3 of 6, “Sessions and Voice User Interfaces”, we will learn about user sessions. This feature allows an Alexa skill to break more complicated data requirements into a series of steps spanning multiple requests to the skill service. We’ll also learn about Amazon’s voice user interface requirements. Following these requirements is important for getting a skill certified for public availability in the Alexa app. Lastly, we’ll introduce home cards. Cards are a graphical user interface element that can be sent from a skill to the Alexa app.

In part 4 of 6, “Persistence”, we will discuss how to link an Alexa skill with a database so that it can save an unfinished user interaction for later use in another session. Having the ability to persist data between Alexa sessions opens the door for far more versatile and sophisticated skills. We will see how to use Amazon DynamoDB to easily read and write data from an AWS Lambda function skill. We will use a library called Dynasty to interact with Amazon DynamoDB and handle asynchronous results more easily and elegantly.

Stay tuned for the last two videos from Big Nerd Ranch later this month.

Learn More

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

June 30, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

Earlier this year we announced that Amazon was teaming up with developer education company Big Nerd Ranch to deliver immersive, free training for the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). The training shows you how to develop Alexa skills locally with Node.js, from setting up your development environment to submitting a skill for certification and more complex ASK features like account linking and persistence. You can find a recap of all the blog posts published for the training series here.

Today we are excited to release the first two videos in the Big Nerd Ranch video series. These videos kick off the official Alexa Developers channel on YouTube.

In the first video, “Hello, Alexa!”, we’ll introduce the Alexa Skills Kit and teach you how to create Alexa skills, or capabilities, for Alexa. We will build and deploy a basic skill. This skill will be called the “Greeter” skill, and will say hello to users when they invoke the skill using the words that we specify.

 

In the second video, “Slots and Slot Types”, we will see several new features of the skill interaction model that let us build more sophisticated skills. We will expand on what we learned with the Greeter skill by building a more feature-rich skill called “Airport Info”. Airport Info will make requests to the Federal Aviation Administration’s JSON backed web service, and inform users if there is any delay at an airport that they specify.

Stay tuned for more videos from Big Nerd Ranch in July.

Learn More

Check out these Alexa developer resources:

 

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