Today, Amazon announced the public beta of Custom Tasks in Routines feature in all locales. Custom Tasks in Routines enables skill developers to surface specific functionality from their skills as actions in Routines, allowing customers to pre-select a specific action supported by a skill while configuring their Routines — eliminating the need for a voice input during Routine execution.
Developers that have implemented this feature in developer preview, including artificial intelligence startup Endel, Live Streaming for Twitch, wellbeing skill Kindspace, and All India Radio have seen user engagement rates with their skills increase sharply after implementing Custom Tasks in Routines, and with the latter receiving added promotion through featured Routines.
Routines allow customers to group together multiple actions from different domains so that they don’t have to invoke each one separately. This helps them simplify their lives through ‘auto-pilot’ actions that are repetitive and predictable. Routines can also be configured using 'ambient' triggers such as Schedule and Sound Detection generate traffic, even when customers don't remember to invoke a particular skill. For developers, Routines are effective levers to drive recurring traffic and skill retention.
For example, customers that have created a Routine to get the weather forecast in the mornings can play Vividh Bharati radio station directly within the All India Radio skill every morning. Similarly, a customer can create a Routine, “Bedtime” to ask Alexa to lock the back door, dim the lights and invoke a skill like Endel, which provides AI powered soundscapes that help people relax, focus and sleep.
Prior to today, Alexa would launch the Endel skill as part of the Routine. However, once the skill was launched, customers had to make a voice request to start the “Sleep” soundscape — an experience that wasn’t conducive to a helping a customer wind down for sleep. With Custom Tasks in Routines, developers like Endel can deep-link directly to specific actions within their skill. For example, the customer can pre-configure Alexa to play the sleep soundscape, and make that action part of their “Bedtime” Routine.
The number of Routines set up with a custom skill as an action has grown exponentially since 2019 when 'skill' was added as an action category. Routines have become an important part of how customers engage with skills. With Custom Tasks in Routines, that number is expected to go even higher.
“We were excited to be invited to participate in the developer preview for Custom Routines,” said Max Zaytsev, Chief Product Officer for Voice at Endel. “At first, we enabled the feature without communicating the update to any of our users. Even then, we doubled our active Routines users within a two-week period. We‘ve received feedback from customers saying how much they love the idea of being able to select pre-configured actions within our skills.”
What’s new in the public beta release?
During the developer preview, skill developers could create Custom Tasks without input values, or free-text input values to integrate with Routines. Now, they can create Custom Tasks with a predefined set of input values that customers can select from while configuring their Routines in the Alexa app.
For example, if you have a ‘news’ skill, you can create a Custom Task that allows customers to pick a news category such as politics, sports, business or technology, while setting up their Routine. This results in a seamless experience as the customer is not required to make a voice request during Routine execution. At the same time, this feature offers skill developers a simple way to surface all of their skills’ capabilities to their users.
The Alexa Developer Console has also been updated to validate your Custom Tasks for compatibility with Routines. Now, the ‘Validation’ screen on the ‘Certification’ tab shows warning messages and suggested fixes for any potential issues with your schema.
How to get started with Custom Tasks in Routines.
Here are the steps you need to take to integrate Custom Tasks with Routines:
Step 1: Select the skill experience(s) you wish to expose as an action in Routines
A Custom Task is a piece of user experience that is implemented in an Alexa skill, such as an action that a skill performs. If you already have multiple intents in your skill, you can leverage that existing logic to create Custom Tasks and surface them as actions in Routines.
Step 2: Create your Custom Task configuration(s)
Each Custom Task requires a Task definition file, created in a new tasks subfolder under the skill-package. In the task definition file, you must provide the title and description for your task for each locale where you want to surface your Custom Tasks in Routines.
Step 3: Publish your skill
Any updates to your Custom Tasks require recertification and republishing of your skill. Now, you can use the Alexa Skills Kit Developer Console to perform validation before submitting your skill for certification. Log in to the developer console and navigate to your skill, then go to the Certification tab and click Run. After the validation is complete, look for any warnings or error messages - be sure to address them before submitting your skill for certification.
Once your skill is certified, customers will be able to view your Custom Tasks as actions in the Routines hub of the Alexa app under Add action→ Skills → Your Skills.
“The Custom Tasks in Routines feature is great for any developer looking to drive repeat engagement,” says Zaytsev. “You turn on the feature once, and you’ll find that your users keep coming back.”
You can review the detailed technical documentation for implementing Custom Tasks in Routines.