Introducing Custom Interfaces, Enabling Developers to Build Dynamic Gadgets, Games, and Smart Toys with Alexa

Karen Yue Aug 15, 2019
Connected Devices Gadgets News

Since launching Alexa more than four years ago, customers have purchased more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices, allowing them to interact with products in new and engaging ways. Today, we are excited to introduce new developer tools that enable you to connect gadgets, games, and smart toy products with immersive skill-based content—unlocking creative ways for customers to experience your product. This is made possible using Custom Interfaces, the newest feature available in the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit.

Explore the Fun Side of Alexa: Gadgets, Games, and Smart Toys

Gadgets, games, and smart toys come in all shapes and sizes, and for all ages. With Custom Interfaces, you can design dynamic interactions with Alexa that span multiple product categories from board games and action figures, to gizmos and novelties. For example, a basketball hoop for your office that lights up the scoreboard when you say “Alexa, tell Basketball Hoop to start a game,” and triggers Alexa’s response when you score.

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  • A mini keyboard that turns Alexa into a piano teacher, lighting up keys that correspond to a given song and providing feedback on whether you have pressed the right sequence of keys.
  • An indoor drone that flies when you say “Alexa, tell my drone to fly in a figure 8,” and triggers Alexa to play a tune upon landing.
  • A game printer that creates a game sheet when you say, “Alexa, tell Game Printer to give me a Sudoku puzzle."
  • A dog toy that counts how many times your dog plays fetch, and lights up green when a 20-minute session has concluded.

The Benefits of Custom Interfaces

With Custom Interfaces, you can build products that can be updated with new functionality and refreshed content to enhance the overall interactive experience. You can also offer premium product features that can be unlocked through in-skill purchasing. Custom Interfaces support the following:

  • Direct Communication: Facilitate connection and communication between your product and Alexa, removing the burden of creating a device cloud and customer account management infrastructure.
  • Dynamic Voice Interactions: Design robust voice interactions for your product, to create extended, story-driven experiences for your customers.
  • Adapts to Your Product: Get support for a wide range of capabilities, regardless of what you are trying to build.

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To unlock these features, and enable Alexa to interact with the unique capabilities of your product, you will need to create a compatible Alexa skill. The custom interaction is achieved through the Custom Interface Controller, a skill API that exchanges messages with your product over the course of a given skill session, allowing you to design voice experiences that are tailored to your product’s functionality.

Messages sent from your skill to your product, or directives, can be configured to activate a range of reactions from your product through motors, sound chips, lights, and more. You can trigger directives in response to game behavior, alongside specific moments in storytelling, or in its simplest form, in response to an explicit command from your customers.

Messages sent from your product to a skill, or events, can be triggered by customers engaging directly with your product whether by activating a button, triggering an accelerometer, or achieving a specific sequence of events. Events can also be triggered by the state of your product. When the skill is in session, you will need to ensure that there is an active input handler to listen for an event. You can determine how long to listen for an event — up to 90 seconds — and filter the specific events that you want your skill to receive.

Build for Younger Audiences (Now in Private Beta)

With the help of Custom Interfaces, we are unlocking additional opportunities for developers to create playful, educational and interactive gadgets, games, and smart toys for younger audiences. From kids role play and action figures to building and learning smart toys, you can create unique story-rich interactions with characters that kids already know and love. For example, a teddy bear that reacts to an audio story provided through a companion Alexa kid skill.

All products targeted to kids under the age of 13 must have an accompanying kid skill. Consistent with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, we require permission from a parent before kid skills can be used.

Our Private Beta is limited to commercial developers by invite only.

Get Started with Custom Interfaces

To help you get started on your first prototype using Custom Interfaces, we are excited to share sample projects that enable you to build with Raspberry Pi and Python-based software. The software includes sample applications and step-by-step guides that simplify the process of getting your prototype connected and plugged in to the capabilities of Alexa Gadgets Toolkit. Once connected, you have the flexibility to combine your prototype with off-the-shelf components, such as servos, buttons, lights, and more.

Visit our resource library, which includes the following:

  1. Tech documentation
  2. Sample application that uses Custom Interfaces and step-by-step guides

With Custom Interfaces, there are even more possibilities for engaging experiences that you can build to delight your customers. Start prototyping today and be first-to-market in fun and interactive categories that are not yet connected to Alexa. We can’t wait to see what you build for Alexa customers!