2021 Q1 Feature Release Roundup

Chihiro Tatara May 18, 2021
Release Roundup

This blog is a roundup of all the new Alexa Skill Kit related features released in Q1 2021. We’ve had a busy few months, releasing the Alexa Energy Dashboard, Multi-Value Slots, and several other features to help make you more productive and build even more engaging skills. You can find a preview of these new features below, with even more information available in the blog post and tech docs linked to each feature.

Alexa Energy Dashboard

The Alexa energy dashboard lets customers track and manage the estimated energy consumed by their compatible Alexa-connected smart home devices. The Alexa energy dashboard supports a variety of lights, switches, plugs, TVs, water heaters, thermostats and Echo devices. You can now use the new APIs to proactively report your device’s energy consumption to Alexa, or let Alexa estimate the energy used by your devices. This is available in the en-US locale.

Technical Documentation: Smart Home Energy Skill Overview
Blog: Now Available: Enable Your Customers to Track and Manage their Devices’ Energy Usage with the Alexa Energy Dashboard

Multi-Value Slots (MVS)

Enable MVS on the developer console and make your conversations more natural with just {slot} in your sample utterance! You can now use multiple-value slots to collect multiple values from a user utterance into a single slot, eliminating the need to use multiple custom slot values in a single utterance. MVS is available in various English locales.

Technical Documentation: Collect Multiple Values in a Slot
Blog: Now Available: Use Multi-Value Slots to build more Natural conversations

Visual Studio Alexa Skill Toolkit - Support for Non-hosted Skills

Alexa Skills Toolkit (ASK Toolkit) previously only supported Alexa-hosted skills. Now, the new ASK Toolkit supports non-hosted skills, including the ability for you to create, download and edit your skill packages. Note that the ASK toolkit only downloads the skill package. You must download the AWS Lambda functions separately, using either the AWS CLI or the AWS Console.

Technical Documentation: Create and Manage Skills in Visual Studio Code

Fun Speaking Style for Japan

The Fun speaking style is a new speaking style exclusively for Japan, suitable for games, anime, entertainment and storytelling. The Fun speaking style uses Neural TTS (NTTS) technology and tailors Alexa’s voice to be brighter and more nuanced by changing aspects of Alexa’s speech, such as pitch, intonation, which words are emphasized, and the timing of pauses.

Technical Documentation: SSML - amazon:domain
Blog: New Fun Speaking Style for Japan

Alexa Entities (Beta)

Alexa Entities is a new suite of tools that provides access to information about popular entities, including people, places and things from Alexa’s Knowledge Graph. With Alexa Entities, you can now resolve strings in a customer’s utterance to common entities from a built-in catalog, using those entities as an entry point to traverse Alexa’s structured knowledge. Alexa Entities is currently supported for all customers with 15 Built-in Slot Types in English (US) and English (CA).

Technical Documentation: Alexa Entities Reference
Blog: Announcing Alexa Entities (Beta): Create More Intelligent and Engaging Skills With Easy Access to Alexa’s Knowledge
Code Sample: AlexaEntitiesCookbookExample

Trimming Audio with APL for Audio (Beta)

APL for Audio 0.91 (beta) includes a new duration property and a repeat filter. These new features allow you to match background audio to the exact length of another component, repeat a section of your response a fixed number or times, or infinitely repeat an audio clip up to the maximum response length (currently 240 seconds).

Technical Documentation: APL for Audio Reference
Blog: Trim Audio to Items of Variable Length Using New Features in APL for Audio (beta)

Alexa Conversations (GA)

The Alexa Conversations dialog manager for the Alexa Skills Kit is now generally available in the en-US locale. Alexa Conversations is a new AI-driven approach to dialog management that enables you to create skills that customers can interact with in a natural, less constrained way – using the phrases they prefer, in the order they prefer – while freeing you to focus on the highest value parts of your skill experience.

Technical Documentation: About Alexa Conversations
Blog: Announcing General Availability for Alexa Conversations
Tutorial: Learn Alexa Conversations

New Works with Alexa (WWA) Badge and Requirements

The WWA program ensures your Alexa-connected devices provide a great customer experience, increasing customer awareness and confidence in your products and brand. A new WWA badge design has been announced, and you can download the WWA badge from the resources section of the Alexa Certification Console. A few new requirements have been added, including App-to-App Account Linking.

Technical Documentation: Works with Alexa Overview
Blog: Introducing New Works with Alexa (WWA) Badge and Requirements

Alexa-hosted Skill Code Import

If you have skill code you developed using offline tools, such as the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) Command Line Interface (CLI) or VS Code, you can import the skill code into the lambda folder in the Alexa-hosted skill repository. Note that the import only brings in the skill code - other artifacts, such as the voice interaction model and skill manifest, aren't imported.

Technical Documentation: Import your skill code

As always, we can't wait to see what you build. If you are new to Alexa Skills Kit, please check out our documentation and tutorials

Related Articles 

Announcing General Availability for Alexa Conversations
New Fun Speaking Style for Japan
Trim Audio to Items of Variable Length Using New Features in APL for Audio (beta)