At Alexa Live 2022, Amazon announced the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) SDK 3.0, which enables developers and device makers to develop rich, multimodal experiences for their devices.
In recent years, customers have responded positively to the multimodal experiences enabled by Alexa. For multi-modal devices made by Alexa’s partners and device makers - devices like Smart TVs, PCs, smart displays, and tablets - Alexa’s active customer base has grown by almost 3X since 2020. In addition, the number of Alexa-eligible devices with screens developed by our partners has grown by nearly 7X.
The AVS SDK 3.0. combines the Alexa Smart Screen SDK and the AVS Device SDK, and provides device makers with the foundational tools to build compelling and engaging voice and multimodal experiences.
Rohit Arora, the product lead for Alexa devices at Amazon, works with third-party developers and companies to support Alexa in their products: devices with and without screens.
“Multimodal features allow device makers to build and launch new Alexa experiences in which information is rendered in both an auditory and visual manner on the screen,” says Arora.
With multimodal interaction models, customers can choose the type of Alexa interaction that best suits each occasion. For example, they can ask Alexa to start a run on a wearable device, while tapping on the screen to select the kind of run.
“Our goal is to ensure, to the extent possible, that any feature we launch on our Alexa devices is also available for other third-party device makers,” says Arora. “As a result, customers will have predictable interactions with Alexa across their devices.”
Here are three important experiences enabled by the AVS SDK 3.0:
1. Alexa Video Skills Kit (VSK) directives on AVS “down-channel” for third-party devices
The new Alexa Video Skills Kit (VSK) in the AVS SDK 3.0 brings additional Alexa capabilities to smart televisions. With Alexa on smart TVs, customers can access vast libraries of content, while adding Alexa Smart Home Entertainment Skills can make finding and enjoying entertainment much simpler.
Smart TV manufacturers and developers can now use the new VSK to let customers control their smart TVs using Alexa.
The VSK over AVS Downchannel, or VSK GA, feature offers the following benefits to device manufacturers: (1) eliminates the need for the partner to develop a VSK skill, thereby saving development cost; (2) eliminates the need to pay additional annual cloud-computing related costs; (3) simplifies device manufacturer and partner onboarding; (4) improves latency; and (5) offers high reliability. VSK GA will allow device customers to use Alexa to launch eligible Video apps (e.g., Prime Video) and manage device controls (e.g. play, pause) etc.
“Using Alexa to search and control video playback of streaming media app content is one of the most requested features from our device partners,” says Arora. “Apps and devices using the AVS SDK 3.0 can let customers search for and play content, open apps, change the volume, and more. This is where Alexa’s ability to find and start playing content is super helpful. Instead of having to go through multiple clicks on a remote, customers can use Alexa to control devices and streaming apps.”
This multimodal experience becomes especially valuable as the amount of content available on streaming services and smart TV apps continues to grow. The AVS SDK 3.0 enables device makers to discover new content through their interfaces easily – which in turn can be an important competitive differentiator in a crowded landscape.
2. Video calling between Alexa devices
Another significant feature that is available to third-party developers and device makers with the AVS SDK 3.0 is Alexa-to-Alexa communication. With experiences enabled by the AVS SDK 3.0, customers will be now able to ask Alexa to call another Alexa-enabled device and enjoy voice or video calls with friends and family.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, people were working from home. They were also calling their loved ones and family members more often, as physical meetings decreased,” says Arora. “The AVS SDK 3.0 brings that same functionality to devices manufactured by our partners. Alexa device-to-device video calling is a great illustration of feature parity made possible by the new SDK. We had this great feature available for our Amazon devices. With the AVS SDK 3.0, it is now available to many of our partner device makers.”
3. Smart home cameras support
In addition to enabling customer calls between devices, experiences enabled by the AVS SDK 3.0 make it possible for customers to ask Alexa to show them live camera feeds from connected third-party smart cameras from manufacturers like Ring and Blink. In addition to showing the camera live feed, customers can now also communicate with the person located at the camera using the new two-way communications feature through the microphones and speakers on their third-party smart cameras.
“Device customers can now use Alexa on SDK 3.0 enabled devices to say ‘Alexa, show me the front door camera,’ or ‘Alexa, show me the baby nursery camera’” says Arora. “Device makers can even implement camera live view and two-way communication features on their smart TVs, set-top-boxes or other Alexa Built-in smart screen devices, so customers can speak and listen through their cameras in real-time.”
Amazon will continually upgrade the features and capabilities for smart home cameras – and with the AVS SDK 3.0, developers and device makers will be able to take advantage of these upgrades.
Developers can get started by exploring the Alexa Smart Home Camera Skills documentation.
These are only three ways device makers can build rich and engaging multi-modal experiences across a variety of devices.
Start building your Alexa-enabled device by visiting developer.amazon.com.