5 Alexa Innovations You Should Know Before Alexa Live

Jeff Blankenburg Jul 06, 2021
Alexa Live

Are you ready for Alexa Live 2021? This year’s virtual event is coming up on July 21, and we can’t wait to share the latest Alexa innovations helping our vision for the future of ambient computing come to life. Before we get started, though, let’s take a look at five of the top Alexa developer innovations introduced over the past year. These tools and features are available right now to help make your life as a developer simpler—and to keep your customers more engaged and satisfied.

#1 Quick Links for Alexa

We know developers are always looking for ways to improve discoverability of their skills. Quick Links for Alexa (beta) allows developers to add links to launch their Alexa skills directly from mobile apps, websites, online ads, social media, emails, and other marketing channels. Quick Links can make it easier for customers to find and gain direct access to your skill, while making it easier for you to track conversion from the use of online ads.

Simply put, Quick Links can make it easier for customers to discover your skill and its most engaging features—without having to remember a specific invocation phrase to say to Alexa. Quick Links can take a user directly to the experience you want with a simple click or tap, without the need to navigate menus. With Quick Links, developers can also generate QR codes that can be shared via smartphones, computer screens, or other types of signage. Displaying QR codes boosts awareness, encourages engagement, and supports your other skill or device marketing initiatives.

For more information about Quick Links for Alexa, go here

#2 Alexa Presentation Language (APL 1.6)

More and more, customers are seeking immersive experiences, rich in motion, audio, and visual content to teach, inform, and entertain. The latest version of Alexa Presentation Language, APL 1.6, enables you to build richer experiences that incorporate motion and adapt to a wider range of devices. APL 1.6 also enables specific choreographed motions—also known as choreos—for Echo Show 10. Using the new APL authoring tool, you can now easily convert Lottie files into Alexa Vector Graphics, and use them in your visual responses. Other features include custom Pager transitions, viewport profiles for tablets, and resizing and rescaling for layouts, enabling you to tailor the visuals when switching between portrait and landscape orientations. APL 1.6 simplifies incorporating advanced audio, visual, and motion effects into your Alexa skills, raising the bar for customer engagement for Alexa-enabled devices with screens.

For more information on APL 1.6, go here.

#3 Multi-Value Slots

Another new, exciting feature available to Alexa skill developers is Multi-Value Slots. It’s a significant step toward building Alexa skills that understand more complex commands and utterances.

Skill developers spend many hours developing interactions that are natural and conversational, and offer customers a more engaging, memorable experience. One thing that makes interaction with a skill feel natural is the skill’s ability to understand when users provide multiple values of the same type in a single sentence. While this occurs naturally in everyday conversations between people, this could be a challenge for skill developers.

Here’s an example of how using Multi-Value Slots can make a skill feel more natural. Let’s say you are making dinner at home for the family, and turn to Alexa for suggestions. Without Multi-Value Slots, you’d have to ask Alexa for meal suggestions using one ingredient at a time. With Multi-Value Slots, you could instead ask, “Alexa, what can I cook for dinner with roasted cauliflower, carrots, and sweet potatoes?” Allowing multiple values at once not only reduces the time it takes the user to request the desired information, but it’s also how we would ask the question in everyday conversation.

For more information on Multi-Value Slots, go here.

#4 Alexa Skills (ASK) Toolkit for Visual Studio Code

Simply put, Alexa Skills Toolkit for Visual Studio Code is an open-source software extension that makes it easier for developers to create, test, and deploy Alexa skills. It features a dedicated workspace and provides many features for managing and previewing your skill projects, including the simulator interface you’ve become familiar with in the Developer Console, and an APL document previewer. Developers can also opt to test and debug their skills in VS Code with local debugging, which dramatically reduces development time. The ASK Toolkit extension can turn VS Code into a fully functioning Alexa skill development environment.

For more information on ASK Toolkit for Visual Studio Code, go here.

#5 Alexa Conversations

The Alexa Conversations dialog manager for Alexa Skills Kit uses an AI-driven approach to dialog management to help developers create skills that provide customers with more natural Alexa interactions. The dialog manager enables developers to build skills that allow customers to use the phrases they prefer, in the order they prefer to use them, rather than constrain them to a rigid, predefined speech pattern. Thousands of developers worldwide are already building more natural voice experiences with Alexa Conversations, giving them the freedom to focus on the most valuable parts of the experience, rather than focusing on how a customer interaction will flow. Alexa skill builders—including well-known brands like iRobot—agree that Alexa Conversations makes it faster and easier to build and enhance natural language processing, including tasks like catalog selection, guided inquiry, and scheduling.

For more information on Alexa Conversations, go here.

We’ll feature these Alexa innovations and much more at Alexa Live on July 21, so make sure to get registered today.