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AVS Speaker Guidance

This document covers the materials, best practices and customer experiences that create a great Alexa smart speaker. It considers the customer journey for an AVS product from the Out of Box Experience (OOBE) through to ongoing use, and outlines what it takes to make a great Alexa-enabled product.

Overview

In creating an Alexa-enabled product, your customer engages with three key touch-points:

  1. Printed materials in the packaging provide the customer with an opportunity to learn about Alexa and what they can do with their smart speaker before setting it up.

  2. A companion app gives your customers the ability to learn about key Alexa features on your product, and the choice to set it up. If a customer chooses not to enable Alexa, it should be easy to locate and enable in the future should they change their mind. Once Alexa is set up, the companion app becomes the customer’s go-to place to learn about what Alexa can do on their smart speaker. Educating customers about the capabilities of Alexa is crucial to driving ongoing engagement with your product.

  3. A clear attention system that accurately communicates that state of Alexa on your product. Once Alexa is set up, the smart speaker should provide audio and/or visual cues for what Alexa is doing at any given moment. Adjusting the volume, playing/pausing media, and activating Alexa is accomplished with the customer’s voice or touch, but also with simple physical controls on the smart speaker itself.

1. Packaging and User Guide

A customer has just received your Alexa-enabled speaker and may have different levels of familiarity with Alexa, depending on if they did research online, read that your product was Alexa-enabled on the packaging, or have no context at all.

User guides in your smart speaker packaging should:

  • Educate customers on the benefits of using Alexa on their smart speaker
  • Highlight Alexa use cases that are the most delightful on your product
  • Showcase features that will be most useful and interesting for your customers

If your product does not have easily identifiable button controls for physical interactions with Alexa, your user guide should also include:

  • How to start an Alexa interaction
  • How to interrupt Alexa
  • If your product is wake word enabled, how to turn microphones on and off.

Additionally, all packaging must adhere to our marketing and branding guidelines.

2. Companion app

A successful Alexa integration into your smart speaker’s companion app should allow your customer to quickly and easily set up and configure Alexa, educate your customer about how to use Alexa, and drive engagement with Alexa.

For information on creating a successful companion app, see the companion app overview page.

Sign out and Settings

Your companion app will be better received if it is easy to use settings and to sign out, giving your customer more control over their Alexa experience without having to use the Alexa app. Settings that can be made available in your companion app are:

  • Alexa language selection
  • Enabling and disabling the start and stop listening sounds (only for products with prominent LEDs)
  • Signing out.

For more information, see the guidance on sign out and settings in the companion app overview page.

3. Alexa on Product

When integrating Alexa into your product, your product must have:

  • Affordances to physically interact with Alexa
  • Affordances to communicate Alexa states

The physical affordances to interact with Alexa will depend up on whether your products is voice-initiated or touch-initiated.

Sound cues are a key component of Alexa communicating with customers.

Voice-Initiated

The ideal smart speaker is voice-initiated, allowing customers to interact with Alexa by saying “Alexa,” followed by an utterance. This implementation puts voice first, but provides the flexibility for customers to interact with Alexa by pressing an affordance on the product.

This option is right for your product if it has a 2+ microphone array and a robust battery or AC adapter for power. See Audio Hardware Configurations for more about hardware and audio considerations.

Voice-initiated products require two physical affordances for interacting with Alexa:

  • Action button
  • Microphone On/Off button

Touch-Initiated

This option is right for your product if it has a single microphone, a limited battery supply, or is unable to communicate the microphone-off state because of insufficient LEDs.

These products do not have wake-word capabilities and solely rely on the Action button to initiate Alexa.

Product Buttons

Buttons

Action button

A physical button that allows a customer to invoke Alexa without requiring them to say the word “Alexa.” Behavior
When the product is Idle, a single press puts the product into Listening mode.

When Alexa is Speaking, a single press immediately stops Alexa Speaking and puts the product into Active Listening mode.

When Alexa is playing media, a single press attenuates or pauses the music and puts the product into Active Listening mode. If Alexa doesn’t hear any utterance from the customer, the product should return to the Idle state with the music continuing at its previous volume.

When an Alexa alert, such as a timer, alarm, or reminder, is sounding, a single press stops the alert.

Icon
Ideally, the Action button would have the Amazon Alexa logo as its icon.

If your product’s action button is very small, making the Amazon Alexa logo illegible, a microphone icon is an appropriate alternative.

If your button has other uses besides waking Alexa, a microphone icon should be used.

Buttons

Microphone On/Off button

A physical button that toggles the products wake-word capability on/off either through disabling the products microphone or disabling its wake-word.

Behavior
Pressing the Microphone On/Off button once disables the product ability to receive Alexa requests.

Pressing the Microphone On/Off button when disabled, re-enables the product ability to receive Alexa requests.

Icon
The recommended icon for the Microphone On/Off button is a microphone with a slash through it.

Considerations

Both the Action and Microphone On/Off buttons should not be overloaded with additional functionality. These controls are essential to a good experience with Alexa, and they should behave only with the functionality specified above. Avoid button interactions that require the customer to hold for a certain amount of time, or double tap to access functionality.

If you are integrating Alexa into an existing product, and there is no possibility to add Alexa-specific buttons to your product, or will overload existing buttons with Alexa functionality, you can incorporate the Action and Microphone On/Off buttons into your companion app. However, this approach is discouraged as it does not provide your customer with a great Alexa experience.

Alexa States

A product is required to communicate state to customers either visually or with the sounds provided by Amazon. A great smart speaker experience communicates Alexa states with both, and they should be synchronized. The AVS Sound Library (login required) can be downloaded from the Developer Console once you have registered your first product.

Sounds

Sound files communicate Alexa states and should:

  • Be stored on the product so that they are available if the product is unable to connect to Alexa or if latency issues are encountered
  • Use the sound file optimized for your speaker quality. Typically speakers use the “full” set, though there are three sets of sound files available

See Attention System for more details.

LEDs

To best display the Alexa states, a smart speaker’s LEDs should support:

  • A full range of colors
  • Animations such as pulsing and blinking

For specific guidance on the LED color and animations for each state, see Attention System LEDs.

Core Attention States

The core attention states communicate to customers that Alexa is:

  • Listening for their utterance
  • Thinking about their utterance
  • Then Speaking the response

There should be no lags between the transitions so that the customer never wonders if the Alexa interaction has failed.

You must support the following states: Idle, Listening, Thinking, Speaking, Microphone On/Off, Alerts, New and Queued Notifications, and Do Not Disturb. See Attention System for detailed information.

Idle

When Alexa is Idle, customers can use the Alexa wake-word or a physical control to wake Alexa, which starts her Listening state.
LEDs: None
Sounds: None

Listening

Alexa has been initiated via wake-word, tap-to-talk, or push-to-talk, and the microphone begins streaming the customer’s request to the Alexa Voice Service.
LEDs: Cyan and blue, animated
Sounds: Start listening, Stop listening, stored locally

Thinking

When a customer completes a request, Alexa enters a Thinking state, which lets the customer know the microphone is no longer active and Alexa will respond shortly.
LEDS: Cyan and blue, animated
Sounds: None

Microphone On/Off

The Microphone On/Off state communicates that Alexa is disabled due to the customer pressing Microphone On/Off button. In this state, the product is not capable of sending any utterance to Alexa. The LED that communicates the Microphone On/Off state may be a different LED from the one that communicates all other Alexa attention states, and can even be embedded in the Microphone On/Off button itself. The Microphone On/Off and Microphone On sounds must be played even if Alexa is responding when the customer presses the button.
LEDs: Red, unanimated
Sounds: Microphone On/Off and Microphone on, both stored locally

Other States

Timers and Alarms
Timers and Alarms use distinct sounds, but otherwise, behave the same way. When a timer or alarm goes off, the appropriate sound must be played until the customer stops the alert or for an hour, whichever comes first. The timer and alarm sounds must be stored on product.
LEDs: Cyan and blue, animated
Sounds: Timer and Alarm, both stored locally

Reminders
Reminders are also known as Named Timers and Alarms. When a Reminder goes off, the product must play the sound included in the Alexa response, and Alexa should then speak the Reminder. The number of times the reminder should be looped and the pause between loops is information included in the Alexa response.
LEDs: Cyan and blue, animated
Sounds: Reminder, cached from cloud

New Notifications and Queued Notifications
The new Notifications state informs the customer that one or multiple Notifications have arrived, while the Queued Notification state informs the customer that there are Notifications waiting to be read for the customer. New Notification require both LEDs and sounds to communicate the state, while Queued Notifications only requires LEDs.
LEDs: Yellow, animated
Sound: Notification arrived, pulled from cloud

Do Not Disturb
The product will not proactively communicate to the customer. Currently this is only applicable to sounds played when Notifications are received. When this state is active, the product will not play sounds. There are 2 ways customers can activate Do Not Disturb.
LEDs: Purple, animated
Sound: Do Not Disturb enabled and Do Not Disturb disabled, both pulled from cloud

System Error
When errors that prevent Alexa from functioning, e.g. Wi-Fi not available.
LEDs: Orange, solid
Sound: None