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October 26, 2016

David Isbitski

In September, Amazon announced the availability of Amazon Echo outside the US, in the UK and Germany. At the same time, Amazon announced the all-new version of the groundbreaking Echo Dot for under $50, so customers can add Alexa to any room in their homes. Recently, Forrester reported on this expansion and shared the importance of expanding to voice as a customer interaction channel. Companies across the world have fair warning, voice-based intelligent agents (IAs) are here to stay.

“CMOs who don’t already have a plan for dealing with the expanding influence of voice as a customer interaction channel now have fair warning: Voice-based intelligent agents (IAs) are here to stay.” – "Quick Take: Amazon Extends Its Lead By Taking Alexa Intelligent Agent Global", by James McQuivey, Forrester Research, Inc., September 14, 2016

Read the full report

Check out these Alexa developer resources:



October 25, 2016

Marion Desmazieres

The Alexa team is excited to be collaborating with Udacity on a new Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree program. Udacity is a leading provider of cutting-edge online learning, with a focus on in-demand skills in innovative fields such as Machine Learning, Self-Driving Cars, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence.  

“The Alexa team is dedicated to accelerating the field of conversational artificial intelligence. Udacity’s new nanodegree for AI engineers is aligned with our vision to advance the industry. We’re excited for students to learn about our work at Amazon and to build new skills for Alexa as part of the course.”

– Rohit Prasad, VP & Head Scientist, Alexa

Learn more about the Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree program in this guest post by Christopher Watkins, Senior Writer at Udacity.

Few topics today are as compelling as artificial intelligence. From ethicists to artists, physicians to statisticians, roboticists to linguists, everyone is talking about it, and there is virtually no field that stands apart from its influence. That said, there is still so much we don’t know about the future of artificial intelligence. But, that is honestly part of the excitement!

What we DO know is that world-class, affordable AI education is still very hard to come by, which means unless something changes, and unless new learning opportunities emerge, the field will suffer for a lack of diverse, global talent.

Fortunately, something IS changing. We are so excited to announce the newest offering from Udacity, the Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree program!

“This is truly a global effort, with global potential. We believe AI will serve everyone best if it’s built by a diverse range of people.” —Sebastian Thrun (Founder, Udacity)

With the launch of this program, virtually anyone on the planet with an Internet connection (and the relevant background and skills) will be able to study to become an AI engineer. If AI is the future of computer science—and it is—then our goal is to ensure that everyone who wishes to be a part of this future can do so. We want to see every aspiring AI engineer find a job and advance their career in this extraordinary field.

Apply to the Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree program today!

Collaborating With Industry Leaders

To help achieve these goals, we are collaborating with an amazing roster of industry-leading companies, including Amazon Alexa, IBM Watson, and Didi Chuxing. In order to provide our students with the highest quality, most cutting-edge curriculum possible, we are building the Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree program in close partnership with IBM Watson. To support the career goals of our students, we have also established hiring partnerships with both IBM Watson and Didi Chuxing.

Amazon Alexa is the voice service that powers Amazon Echo and enables people to interact with the world around them in a more intuitive way using only their voice. Through a series of free, self-service, public APIs, developers, companies, and hobbyists can integrate Alexa into their products and services, and build new skills for Alexa, creating a seamless way for people to interact with technology on a daily basis.  

[Read More]

October 24, 2016

Glenn Cameron

We are happy to announce the Amazon Alexa API Mashup Contest, our newest challenge with To compete, you’ll build a compelling new voice experience by connecting your favorite public API to Alexa, the brain behind millions of Alexa-enabled devices, including Amazon Echo. The contest will award prizes for the most creative and most useful API mashups.

Create great skills that report on ski conditions, connect to local business, or even read recent messages from your Slack channel. If you have an idea for something that should be powered by voice, build the Alexa skill to make it happen. APIs used in the contest should be public. If you are not sure where to start, you can check out this list of public APIs on GitHub.

Need Real-World Examples?

  • Ask Twitter for trends.
  • Ask Automatic if you need gas.
  • Ask Hurricane Center what are the current storms
  • Ask Area Code where is eight six zero.
  • Ask Uber to request a ride.

How to Win

Submit your projects for API combos to the Alexa API Mashup Contest on Hackster for a chance to win. You don't need an Echo (or any other hardware) to participate. Besides, if you place in the contest, we’ll give you an Echo (plus a bunch of other stuff!)

We’re looking for the most creative and most useful API mashups. A great contest submission will tell a great story, have a target audience in mind, and make people smile.

There will be three winners for each category; categories are: 1) the most creative API mashup and 2) the most useful API mashup.

  • First place will get a trophy, Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, and $1,500 gift card.
  • Second place will get a trophy, Amazon Echo, and $1,000 gift card.
  • Third place will get a trophy, Amazon Echo, and $500 gift card.

The first 50 people to publish skills in both Alexa and the Hackster contest page (other than winners of this contest) will receive a $100 gift card. And everyone who publishes an Alexa skill can get a limited edition Alexa developer t-shirt.

Get started by visiting and sign up to participate.

About the Alexa Skills Kit

The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) enables developers to easily build capabilities, called skills, for Alexa.  ASK includes self-service APIs, documentation, templates and code samples to get developers on a rapid road to publishing their Alexa skills. For the Amazon Alexa API Mashup Contest, we will award developers who make the most creative and the most useful API mashups using ASK components.

October 21, 2016

David Isbitski

Today, we’re excited to announce that Alexa VP and Head Scientist Rohit Prasad will present a State of the Union on Alexa and recent advances in conversational AI at AWS re:Invent 2016. The Alexa team will also offer six hands-on workshops to teach developers how to build voice experiences. AWS re:Invent 2016 is the largest gathering of the global Amazon developer community and runs November 28 through December 2, 2016.

AWS re:Invent registered attendees can now reserve spots in sessions and workshops online. You can register for Alexa sessions now.

State of the Union: Alexa and Recent Advances in Conversational AI

Alexa VP and Head Scientist Rohit Prasad will present the state of the union for Amazon Alexa at AWS re:Invent 2016. He’ll address advances in spoken language understanding and machine learning in Alexa, and share how Amazon thinks about building the next generation of user experiences. Learn how Amazon is using machine learning and cloud computing to help fuel innovation in AI, making Alexa smarter every day. The session is on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 from 1-2 pm.

Get Hands On: Learn to Build Alexa Products and Experiences in Alexa Workshops

We also today announced that the Alexa team will run six workshops to teach developers how to build Alexa experiences with the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa Voice Service.

Workshop: Creating Voice Experiences with Alexa Skills: From Idea to Testing in Two Hours (3 sessions)
This workshop teaches you how to build your first voice skill with Alexa. You bring a skill idea and we’ll show you how to bring it to life. This workshop will walk you through how to build an Alexa skill, including Node.js setup, how to implement an intent, deploying to AWS Lambda, and how to register and test a skill. You’ll walk out of the workshop with a working prototype of your skill idea.

Workshop: Build an Alexa-Enabled Product with Raspberry Pi (3 sessions)
Fascinated by Alexa, and want to build your own device with Alexa built in? This workshop will walk you through to how to build your first Alexa-powered device step by step, using a Raspberry Pi. No experience with Raspberry Pi or Alexa Voice Service is required. We will provide you with a Raspberry Pi and the software required to build this project, and at the end of the workshop, you will be able to walk out with a working prototype of Alexa on a Pi.  Please bring a WiFi capable laptop.

Alexa Technical Sessions

The Alexa track at AWS re:Invent will dive deep into the technology behind the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa Voice Service, with a special focus on using AWS Services to enable voice experiences. We’ll cover AWS Lambda, DynamoDB, CloudFormation, Cognito, Elastic Beanstalk and more. You’ll hear from senior engineers, solution architects and Alexa evangelists and learn best practices from early Alexa developers.

[Read More]

October 21, 2016

Jen Rapp

As an Alexa developer, you have the ability to provide Alexa skill cards that contain text and/or images (see Including a Card in Your Skill's Response). There are two main types of cards:

  • Simple Card - contains a title and text body.
  • Standard Card - contains title, text body, and one image.

Customers interacting with your skill can then view these cards via the Alexa app or on Fire TV. While voice experiences allow customers to break from their screens, graphical interfaces act to complement and can enhance the experience users have with your skill.

In our new guide, Best Practices for Skill Card Design, you can learn how to best present information on cards for easy consumption by customers. Skill cards contain the same information (image and text) everywhere they appear, but have differing layouts depending on the access point, the Alexa app or Fire TV.  

To drive engagement with your Alexa skill, we’ve compiled the top 10 tips for effective Alexa skill card design.

Tip #1: Use cards to share additional information or details to the voice experience

Cards do not replace the voice experience, instead, they deliver value-added content. Customers should not need to rely on the cards to enjoy your voice experience and cards should never be required to use an Alexa skill. Instead, they should be used to provide additional information.

For example, imagine a customer asks for a recipe and you want to share details of the recipe. The skill card could add additional context by providing the recipe category, recipe description, cook time, prep time, and number of ingredients,  while Alexa may simply say, “Try chicken parmesan accented by a homemade tomato sauce.”

Tip #2: Show users what they can do with guidance and sample utterances

Cards can be a great way to get a lost user back on track, or enable self-service to show users what they can do. Give enough detail for the user to move forward when lost – without going overboard. Suggest sample utterances when they need help, or when AMAZON.HelpIntent is triggered. Always keep the utterances relevant and in context of the current situation. For example, don't suggest an utterance on how to check your previous scores when the user is in the middle of the game.

Tip #3: Keep it short, informative, and clear

Structure the copy for cards in brief, informative sentences or lines of text and avoid unstructured product details. Don’t rely on large blocks of text and keep details to a minimum so that users can quickly evaluate the card at a glance. For example, show a stock symbol and the current stock quote instead of a full sentence describing the change, which is more difficult to quickly grasp.

Tip #4: Use line breaks

Use line breaks (/n) to help format individual lines of addresses, product details or information. Again, this makes it easier to quickly scan for key information. However, don’t double line break when separating parts of a street address.

Tip #5: Keep URL links short and memorable

Since URLs in cards are not clickable links, don’t only show URLs to direct users to other sites. Instead, provide clear direction on how to get to more information (e.g., “Go to and head to ‘My Account’”). While we don’t encourage the use of URLs in cards, if you do include them, make it easy for the user to consume and remember.

Tip #6: Make it consumable at a glance

A general guideline for card content is to keep it short and easy to read. Cards should provide quick bits of content that users can consume at a glance. Providing images is a helpful way to quickly convey key information (e.g., images of a cheese pizza vs. a pepperoni pizza are instantaneously distinguishable). The card shouldn’t include everything that Alexa says, but instead simply the key information in the card (e.g., a bulleted list of product details vs. the full description).

[Read More]

October 19, 2016

Zoey Collier

Landon Borders, Director of Connected Devices at Big Ass Solutions, still chuckles when he tells customers how the company got its name. Founder Carey Smith started his company back in 1999, naming it HVLS Fan Company. Its mission was to produce a line of high-volume, low-speed (HVLS) industrial fans. HVLS Fan Company sold fans up to 24-feet in diameter for warehouses and fabrication mills.

“People would always say to him ‘Wow, that’s a big-ass fan.’ They wanted more information, but they never knew how to reach us,” says Borders. So the founder listed the company in the phone book twice, both as HVLS Fan Company and Big Ass Fans. Guess which phone rang more often? “In essence, our customers named the company.”

Today the parent company is Big Ass Solutions. It still owns Big Ass Fans. It also builds Big Ass Lights and Haiku Home, a line of smart residential lighting and fans. Now with an Alexa skill, the company’s customers can control their devices using only their voice.

Creating the world’s first smart fan

Haiku Home is where Alexa comes into the picture.

Big Ass Fans (BAF) is a direct-sales company. As such, it gets constant and direct feedback about customers' satisfaction and product applications. BAF found people were using its industrial-grade products in interesting commercial and home applications. It saw an exciting new opportunity. So in 2012, BAF purchased a unique motor technology, allowing it to create a sleek, low-profile residential fan.

That was just the starting point for BAF’s line of home products. The next year, BAF introduced Haiku with SenseME, the world’s first smart fan.

What’s a smart fan? Borders says it first has to have cutting-edge technology. Haiku Home fans include embedded motion, temperature and humidity sensors. A microprocessor uses that data to adjust the fan and light kits to the user's tastes. The device also has to be connected, so it includes a Wi-Fi radio.

The smart fan joins Alexa’s Smart Home

The microprocessor and Wi-Fi radio make the SenseME fan a true IoT device. Customers use a smartphone app to configure the fan’s set-it-and-go preferences. But after that, why should you need an app?

Borders remembers discussions in early 2015 centered on people getting tired of smartphone apps. Using apps were a good starting point, but the company found some users didn’t want to control their fan with their smartphone. BAF felt voice was definitely the user interface of the future. When they saw Amazon heavily investing in the technology, they knew what the next step would be.

They would let customers control their fans and lights simply by talking to Alexa.

[Read More]

October 17, 2016

Ted Karczewski

People love that they can dim their lights, turn up the heat, and more just by asking Alexa on their Amazon Echo. Now Philips Hue has launched a new cloud-based Alexa skill, making the same smart home voice controls accessible on the Echo available on all Alexa-enabled third-party products through the Alexa Voice Service API. Best of all, your customers can enable the new Hue skill today—no additional development work needed.

Because Alexa is cloud-based, it’s always getting smarter with new capabilities, services, and a growing library of third-party skills from the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). As an AVS developer, your Alexa-enabled product gains access to these growing capabilities through regular API updates, feature launches, and custom skills built by our active developer community.

Now with Philips Hue capabilities, your end users can voice control all their favorite smart home devices just by asking your Alexa-enabled product. You can test the new Philips Hue skill for yourself by building your own Amazon Alexa prototype and trying these sample utterances:

  • Alexa, turn on the kitchen light.
  • Alexa, dim the living room lights to 20%.                                                

End users can enable the new Philips Hue skill in the “Smart Home” section on the Amazon Alexa app.

More About Philips Hue

Philips Hue offers customizable, wireless LED lighting that can be controlled by voice across the family of Amazon Alexa products. Now with third-party integration, your users will be able to turn on and off their lights, change lighting color, and more from any room in the house just by asking your Alexa-enabled third-party product. The new Philips Hue skill also includes support for Scenes, allowing Alexa customers to voice control Philips Hue devices assigned to various rooms in the house.

Whether end users have an Echo in the kitchen or an Alexa-enabled product in the living room, they can now voice control Philips Hue products from more Alexa-enabled devices across their home. Learn more about the Smart Home Skill API and how to build your own smart home skill.

[Read More]

October 14, 2016

Thom Kephart

We participate in a number of events across the globe throughout the year – and we’d love to see you at the next one.

To stay tuned to the latest events near you, check out our new events page. There you’ll be able to find information about hackathons where you can get hand-on education and build Alexa skills, conferences and presentations where you can join the conversation and meet Alexa team members, as well as community-run meetups where you can connect with fellow developers.

Bookmark the events page today, register for one near you, and we’ll see you there.


October 13, 2016

David Isbitski

The beta is now closed. Sign up to be notified when the List Skill API is publicly available.

Today we announced a limited participation beta for the List Skill API, a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit, which enables developers to add capabilities, called skills, to Alexa. Developers can now teach Alexa how to interface with their list applications so that customers can simply say, “Alexa, add bananas to my Shopping List” or “Alexa, add ‘Go for a Jog’ to my To-do list.” The List Skill API taps into Amazon’s standardized language model so you don’t have to build a voice interaction model to handle customer requests. You create skills that connect your applications directly to Alexa’s Shopping and To-do list capabilities so that customers can add or review items on their lists—without lifting a finger.

How it works

The List Skill API has a bi-directional interface that ensures lists are updated across all channels. That means the API notifies developers when a customer tells Alexa to add something to their list or makes a change to an existing item. Alexa understands the user’s speech request, converts it to a To-do or Shopping item, and sends you a notification with the new item that was added to the list. The List Skill API also updates the lists for Alexa when users make changes to their lists online or in your mobile application.

Customers are increasingly using voice interfaces as a hands-free way to manage their lives. By using Alexa’s built-in Shopping and To-do lists to keep track of items to buy and things to do, customers on millions of Alexa-enabled devices only have to "ask" and it's at their command, often becoming a daily habit. By integrating with the List Skill API, you will make it easier for your existing customers to keep track of their important tasks and shopping items in the home, and introduce your brand to a new group of Alexa customers.

Here's what developers are saying

Today we announced that and Todoist created the first skills using the List Skill API. 

 “We’ve been huge fans of Alexa for a long time. Once the opportunity to work with Alexa in a deep way presented itself, we we’re extremely happy to push it forward" says Omer Perchik, the Founder and CEO of "The work with the new Alexa List Skill API was simple, straightforward and our experience as a beta participant was smooth due to the support from Amazon.”

“At Todoist, we're very excited about the potential of AI and AI-powered services. Amazon’s Alexa is one of the earliest and best examples of making this technology useful in people's everyday lives,” says Doist founder and CEO Amir Salihefendic. “That's why we're thrilled to have collaborated with the Amazon team as part of their limited participation beta for the Alexa List Skill API. We’re sure our customers will find Alexa extremely helpful in staying organized and productive, and we're looking forward to working with Amazon to make the Todoist skill even more useful as Alexa continues to evolve and get smarter.”

Get started now

Going forward, we’re excited to open the List Skill API to more developers as part of our limited participation beta.

For more information about getting started with the Alexa Skills Kit and to apply to participate in the List Skill API beta, check out the following additional assets:

About the List Skill API
Alexa Dev Chat Podcast
Alexa Training with Big Nerd Ranch
Alexa Skills Kit (ASK)
Alexa Developer Forums

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

October 12, 2016

Zoey Collier

Brian Donohue, New Jersey-born software engineer and former CEO of Instapaper, wasn't an immediate Alexa fan. In fact, his first reaction to the 2014 announcement of the Amazon Echo was "That's cool, but why would I buy one?"

All that changed over the course of one whirlwind weekend in March 2016. Almost overnight, Brian went from almost indifferent to being one of the most active developers in the Alexa community. Today he’s recognized as an Alexa Champion and a master organizer of Alexa meetups.

We sat down with Brian to find out how Alexa changed his entire view of voice technology... and why he wanted to share his excitement with other Alexa developers.

An overnight Alexa convert

Brian has led Instapaper for the last two and a half years. Its former owner, Betaworks, always encouraged employees—including Brian—to check and innovate with new technology. Brian has built apps for Google Glass and other devices, just because the company had them lying around the office.

When the company bought an Echo device in March, Brian had to take another look. He took it home one Friday night and decided to try building a skill using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). He selected something simple, inspirational and personal to him. The skill—which later became Nonsmoker—keeps track of when you stopped smoking and tells you how long it's been since your final cigarette.

The first version took Brian half a day to create. It was full of hardcoded values, but it was empowering. Then, in playing with this and other Alexa skills, Brian recognized something exciting. A fundamental technology shift was staring right at him. When he returned the Echo to the office on Monday, he was hooked.

“Interacting with Alexa around my apartment showed me the real value proposition of voice technology,” says Brian. “I realized it’s magical. I think it’s the first time in my life that I’d interacted with technology without using my hands.”

Bringing NYC Alexa users together

Brian wanted immediate and more active involvement in Alexa development. The following day he was searching for Alexa user gatherings in New York City. He found none, so Brian did what always came naturally. He did it himself.

His goal was to find 20 or so interested people before going to the effort of creating a meetup. The demand was far greater than he expected. By the third week of March, he was hosting 70 people at the first-ever NYC Amazon Alexa Meetup, right in the Betaworks conference room.

After a short presentation about Echo, Tap and Dot, Brian did the rest of the program solo. He created a step-by-step tutorial with slides, a presentation and code snippets, all to explain how to create a simple Alexa skill. He walked attendees through the program, then let them test and demo their skills on his own Echo, in front of the class.

“A lot of them weren’t developers, but they could cut and paste code,” says Brian. “About half completed the skill, and some even customized the output a bit.” Brian helped one add a random number generator, so her skill could simulate rolling a pair of dice.

[Read More]

October 11, 2016

Zoey Collier

In 2012, a “Down Under” team from Melbourne, Australia recognized LED lighting had finally reached a tipping point. LED technology was the most efficient way to create light, and affordable enough to pique consumers’ interest in bringing colored lighting to the home. And LIFX was born.

John Cameron, vice president, says LIFX launched as a successful Kickstarter campaign. From its crowd-funded beginnings, it has grown into a leading producer and seller of smart LED light bulbs. With headquarters in Melbourne and Silicon Valley, its bulbs brighten households in 80 countries around the globe.

Cameron says LIFX makes the world’s brightest, most efficient and versatile Wi-Fi LED light bulbs. The bulbs fit standard light sockets, are dimmable and can emit 1,000 shades of white light. The color model adds 16 million colors to accommodate a customer’s every mood.

From smartphone apps to brilliant voice control

Until 2015, LIFX customers controlled their smart bulbs using smartphones apps. Customers could turn them on or off by name, dim or brighten them, and select the color of light. They could also group the devices to control an entire room of lights at once. Advanced features let customers create schedules, custom color themes, even romantic flickering candle effects.

Without the phone, though, customers had no control.

Like Amazon, the LIFX team knew the future of customer interfaces lay in voice control. “We’re always looking for ways to let customers control [their lights] without hauling out their phone,” said Cameron. “When Alexa came along, it took everybody by storm.”

“That drove us to join Amazon's beta program for the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK)” says Daniel Hall, LIFX’s lead cloud engineer. Hall says the ASK documentation and APIs were easy to understand, making it possible for them to implement the first version of the LIFX skill in just two weeks. By the end of March 2015, LIFX had certified the skill and was ready to publish. The skill let customers control their lights just by saying “Alexa, tell ‘Life-ex’ to…

Since the LIFX skill launch, ASK has added custom slots, a simpler and more accurate way of conveying customer-defined names for bulbs and groups of bulbs. Hall says that custom slots is something that LIFX would be interested in implementing in the future.

[Read More]

October 07, 2016

Dean Bryen

If you’ve already created your first Alexa Skill, you may be using local environments, the AWS CLI, and other DevOps processes. This blog post is for advanced developers who want to level up skill creation by adding some automation, version control, and repeatability to skill deployments.

In this post we're going to programmatically create our skill backend using AWS CloudFormation. CloudFormation is an AWS service that enables you to describe your AWS resources as a JSON file, these JSON files can later be ‘executed’ to tear up and tear down your AWS environments. This gives us a number of benefits, including version control and repeatability. You can read more about AWS CloudFormation in general over in the AWS developer docs here. To put this into context, when looking at the Alexa Skills Kit Architecture below, the resources in the red box below are what we will be creating within our CloudFormation Template.


The Template

The CloudFormation template is a JSON object that describes our infrastructure. This will consist of three components.

Parameters - Where we define the input parameters we want to inject into our template, such as ‘function-name.

Resources - The AWS resources that make up our skill backend, Such as the lambda function.

Outputs – Any information that we would like to retrieve from the resources created in our CloudFormation stack. Such as the lambda function ARN.

The template that we will create in this tutorial can be used as a starting point to create the backend for any of your Alexa skills.

[Read More]

October 06, 2016

Ted Karczewski

What makes the Amazon Echo so appealing is the fact that customers can control smart home devices, access news and weather reports, stream music, and even hear a few jokes just by asking Alexa. It’s simple and intuitive.

We’re excited to announce an important Alexa Voice Service (AVS) API update that now enables you to build voice-activated products that respond to the “Alexa” wake word. The update includes new hands-free speech recognition capabilities and a “cloud endpointing” feature that automatically detects end-of-user speech in the cloud. Best of all, these capabilities are available through the existing v20160207 API—no upgrades needed.

You can learn more about various use cases in our designing for AVS documentation.

Get Started with Our New Raspberry Pi Project

To help you get started quickly, we are releasing a new hands-free Raspberry Pi prototyping project with third-party wake word engines from Sensory and KITT.AI. Build your own wake word enabled, Amazon Alexa prototype in under an hour by visiting the Alexa GitHub.

And don’t forget to share your finished projects on Twitter using #avsDevs. AVS Evangelist Amit Jotwani and team will be highlighting our favorite projects, as well as publishing featured developer interviews, on the Alexa Blog. You can find Amit on Twitter here: @amit.

Learn more about the Alexa Voice Service, its features, and design use cases. See below for more information on Alexa and the growing family of Alexa-enabled products and services:

Alexa Developer Resources
Alexa Voice Service (AVS)
Alexa Skills Kit (ASK)
The Alexa Fund
AVS Developer Forums
Alexa on a Raspberry Pi

Alexa-Enabled Devices
Pebble Core

Amazon Alexa Devices
Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Tap
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV Stick

Have questions? We are here to help. Visit us on the AVS Forum or Alexa GitHub to speak with one of our experts.

AVS is coming soon to the UK and Germany. Read the full announcement here.


October 05, 2016

Liz Myers

Now that Alexa is multi-lingual, it’s a new day in Alexa skill making. Not only can you publish to customers around the globe, you can do so from a single code base.

In this article, we’ll review two concepts: 1) separating content from logic and 2) using the locale attribute to serve the right content to the right users.

Getting Organized

As an example, I’ve made a new skill: Classical Guitar Facts (using this template), which has content in both English and German. Although one might assume that I could get away with US English in the UK, differences in spelling and word choice will show up in the cards within the Alexa app, and this is not the best user experience. So, we’ll create content files in three separate folders, one per language, as shown below.

Create the Content Files

Moving the content out of the index.js files means that I’ve copied the FACTS array into a separate file and saved the file as de-facts.js, gb-facts.js, and us-facts.js respectively. Remember the last item in the FACTS array does not have a comma at the end. Also, remember the last line of this file “module.exports = FACTS”, otherwise the calling file (index.js) won’t be able to find it.

var FACTS = [
    "The strings of guitars are often called gut strings because…”,
    " …”,
    " …”
module.exports = FACTS;  

Calling External Content

At the top of the index.js file, we need to declare the FACTS variable:

var FACTS = [ ];

so that we can call it later like this:

FACTS = require('./content/en-US/us-facts.js');

Of course, we can substitute en-US/us-facts.js with en-GB/gb-facts.js and de-DE/de-facts.js when needed. Now we’re well organized to swap separate content files based on language – but how do we know which language is calling our service?

[Read More]

October 04, 2016

Jen Gilbert

Today’s guest blog post is from Monica Houston, who leads the Hackster Live program at Hackster. Hackster is dedicated to advancing the art of voice user experience through education.

Even though it’s a sunny Saturday morning, men, women, and perhaps a few teens filter into a big room, laptops in hand, ready to build Alexa skills. They’re here to change the future of voice user experience.

Hackster, the community for open source hardware, has run 12 events with Amazon Alexa this year and 13 more are in the planning stages. All 25 events are organized by Hackster Ambassadors, a group of women and men hand-picked from Hackster’s community for their leadership skills, friendliness, and talent for creating projects.

Hackster Ambassadors pour their time and energy into helping to evangelize Alexa. Ambassador Dan Nagle of Huntsville, Alabama, created a website where you can find Hackster + Alexa events by city. Ambassador Paul Langdon set up a helpful github page where you can see skills that were published at the event he ran in Harford. He also volunteered his time and knowledge to run a series of “office hours” to help people develop their skills.

While Hackster provides venues and catering for these events and Hackster Ambassadors spread the word to their communities, Amazon sends a Solution Architect to teach participants how to build skills for Alexa and answer questions.

Amazon Solutions Architects go above and beyond to help people submit their skills for certification. Not only do they answer questions on Hackster’s developer slack channel, they also have hosted virtual “office hours,” run webinars, and conducted two “slackathons” with Hackster’s community.

Although the 25 Alexa events are being held in US cities, Hackster Live is a global program with 30 international Ambassadors. Hackster shipped Amazon Echos to our Ambassadors in South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Virtual events like slackathons and webinars run by Solutions Architects make it possible for people from around the world to learn skill building and add to the conversation.

[Read More]

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