Alexa Presentation Language Now Generally Available: Build Multimodal Experiences that Come Alive with Animation

Arunjeet Singh Sep 25, 2019
Multimodal News

Today we are excited to announce that Alexa Presentation Language (APL) is generally available. APL enables you to easily create visually rich Alexa skills for devices with screens and to adapt them for different device types such as the Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV, LG TVs, and the Lenovo Smart Tab. Adding visuals and touch can enhance voice experiences and make skills more engaging and interactive for customers. With the general availability of APL, we addressed key known issues you raised to enable specific use cases and addressed feedback from the public beta.

We believe that the emergence of voice user interfaces isn’t an incremental improvement to existing technology; it marks a significant shift in human-computer interaction. That’s why APL is designed from the ground up for creating voice-first, multimodal Alexa skills.

Over the past year, we have launched many different tools and resources to help you build skills that include text, graphics, slideshows, animation, and video content. There are thousands of multimodal skills across different categories. For example, the winner of the Alexa Multimodal Challenge, Stuart Pocklington, created Loop It, a skill that lets you choose from a variety of audio loops to create your own track. The skill makes use of TouchWrappers to allow users to navigate by touching the screen. Customers can see images for the sun, clouds, and other conditions when interacting with Big Sky, a skill that uses APL’s ability to adapt content to adjust layout and information density based on the device display size.

As APL approaches its 1st birthday, we want to highlight some important benefits, tools and features you should be aware of so that you can build rich, interactive skills.

  • Reach More Customers on More Devices
    • New DevicesWith the launch of new devices such as Echo Show 8 and Echo Dot with clock, you can now reach more customers who have access to Alexa-enabled devices with your multimodal skills. Developers can also build APL skills on third party devices such as LG TVs.
  • Use these Key APL Features to Create Voice-First, Visually Interactive Skills
    • Animation and Vector Graphics: You can use the AnimateItem command to animate the position, scale, rotation, or opacity of any APL component or layout. You can also combine animation with Alexa Vector Graphics to create new visually engaging experiences.
    • Video and Audio Content: You can incorporate video and audio content within your APL skills. We have improved APL video performance.
    • Images, Text, and Lists: You can use images and text and specify text color, size, and weight for available fonts. You can also make both text and images responsive to touch using TouchWrappers.
    • Layouts, Styles, and Conditional Expressions: You can take advantage of the pre-defined header, footer, and hints provided by Amazon or customize by device type using the when property in your APL documents.
    • Slideshows: You can present slideshows of images and other content.
    • Speech Synchronization: You can send commands that change the audio or visual presentation of the content of the screen or generate them automatically.
  • Accelerate APL Design and Create Skills Faster
    • Alexa Design System: The Alexa Design System for APL accelerates your design work, allowing you to create visual experiences for all devices, while only designing for a few. You can use pre-built components, templates, styles, and resources to design high quality skills quickly. You can also import standard Alexa packages -- which include layouts, styles, and viewport profiles -- into your APL document.
    • Responsive Layouts and Components: Components and templates in your APL documents are responsive, which make it easy to build for multiple devices. For example, the AlexaButton is a touchable/selectable element that has the relevant states needed for touch. You can find the full list here.
  • Easily Build and Test on Multiple Devices with APL Tooling Enhancements
    • Authoring Tool: You can drag and drop pre-defined APL components you want to use in your templates within the authoring tool, and it will automatically generate an APL template. Additionally, you can also select elements in the design interface and see them highlighted in the component hierarchy, making it easier to associate the design view with the actual component.
    • Multiple Viewport Profiles: Last year, we added a new viewport profile called Small Landscape Hub to support the Echo Show 5. 
    • Alexa Simulator Tool: You do not need to own multimodal devices to build and test APL skills. You can use the skill test simulator to test the skill experience end to end.

We will continue to add new features, tools, and resources to the Alexa Presentation Language. In the coming months, we will improve our APL developer tools and add support for shadow effects, noise filters, and support for play and pause buttons on TV devices.

Start building your skill using APL today. Learn more about APL here.

If you run into any issues or have questions, tweet me at @aruntalkstech and I’d be happy to take a look, or share your feedback on the Alexa developer forum. Make sure you add the "APL" topic to your post.