January 05, 2018Paul Cutsinger
As a new year begins, it’s good to take time to reflect, recharge, and resolve. As we look back on 2017, we’d first like to share a hearty “Thanks!” to the Alexa Skills Kit developer community. You are the pioneers building new capabilities for Alexa. And with a growing catalog of more than 30,000 skills available to customers worldwide, you help Alexa get smarter every day.
Last year we released more than 100 products, programs, features, and tools in the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK)—from new additions to the Echo family of devices, to new monetization opportunities, to new and improved developer tools. These additions make the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) the best place to start designing for voice. Here are the highlights:
In addition to Echo Plus and the next generation of Echo, we launched Echo Look, Echo Show, and Echo Spot in 2017. These last two each have high-quality screens that deliver a new way for customers to interact across voice and graphical user interfaces. You can read our documentation on building skills for Echo Show and Echo Spot to get started. We also updated the Voice Design Guide, shared tips on how to create great multimodal experiences, announced tools to help third-party device makers build their own screen-based products with Alexa, and welcomed dozens of new products from brands customers know and love to the extended family of Alexa Devices. There are now tens of millions of Alexa Devices where customers can use your skills, and it was a record holiday shopping season for Amazon Devices, with millions more devices purchased worldwide this year than last year’s holiday season. Echo Dot was the #1 selling Amazon Device this holiday season, and the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon.
Customers have now connected tens of millions of smart home devices to Alexa, and can choose from more than 1,700 devices certified via the Works with Amazon Alexa program. In addition to the new Alexa devices described above, we released several exciting new experiences for Alexa smart home customers including Routines, which allow customers to control multiple devices with a single voice command, and improvements to Groups, which reduce the need to remember the specific names of smart devices to control them. For developers, we updated the Alexa Smart Home Skill API to make it easier for you to support these and other smart home experiences with Alexa, including new APIs for lock control and query, entertainment devices, video content, smart home cameras, and, most recently, cooking appliances.
We released a number of new and enhanced developer tools that make it easier for you to build skills and to engage customers in new ways. We released the Test Simulator (beta), updated the Voice Design Guide, expanded our limited developer preview of notifications in Alexa Skills, added support for List Events, released the Alexa Skill Management API (SMAPI) and the Alexa Skills Kit Command-line Interface (ASK CLI), and updated the Smart Home Skill API.
Alexa now supports kid skills in the US so you can publish fun and educational skills for kids under the age of 13. And you can even enter the Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids with Devpost by submitting your best kid skill by January 10, 2018, at 5:00pm ET. In addition, we announced Echo Buttons, the first device in a new category of connected products and developer tools called Alexa Gadgets.
We unveiled new ways you can earn money with your Alexa skills through in-skill purchasing and Amazon Pay. These features are currently available in developer preview, and will be available broadly in 2018. You can apply today to participate in the developer preview and continue to leverage opportunities through Alexa Developer Rewards, Alexa Developer Promotions, and AWS promotional credits.
Alexa and Echo devices are available in more and more places around the world. In 2017, Alexa expanded to India, Japan, and Canada, and we announced Alexa is coming to Australia and New Zealand. And now, customers in over 80 countries can order an Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Plus from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, or Amazon.com. Today you can reach and engage customers around the world by making your Alexa skills available in these countries, by customizing your skill’s voice experience based on device location, and by creating skills in multiple languages.
You can now build skills that help organizations and employees use Alexa to get more done in less time with Alexa for Business from Amazon Web Services. Using Alexa for Business, organizations can deploy Alexa Devices throughout the workplace. You can create any type of skill for Alexa for Business customers. If you are creating skills specific to your business or on behalf of an organization, you can choose to create and publish private skills to an Alexa for Business account rather than the public Alexa Skills Store.
In 2017, many educational organizations like Codecademy created training resources and courses for developers at all levels so you can start adding voice to your big idea. We introduced a new Amazon Alexa Dev Tips skill to connect you with the news, tips, and resources you need to build your best skill – all via voice. This adds to all the great educational content available for you to learn and become an Alexa skill builder.
The Alexa team participates in a variety of events throughout the year, and in 2017 we met with thousands of developers from all over the world. In 2018, we hope to meet you at a hackathon, conference, presentation, or community meetup. And if you’re attending CES 2018, meet the Amazon Alexa team at one of several panel and workshop sessions.
As the Alexa developer community has grown, we’ve been humbled by the contributions of enthusiastic developers and educational organizations that have created new tools and tutorials, educated other developers in forums, online training and meetups, and shared their Alexa story on blogs and social media. Community members like our Alexa Champions have contributed helpful materials to share their passion for building for voice. Please look them up for help with projects, advice, or just to talk about what’s happening in this space.
We delivered these enhancements to help you build for the future of voice, and we can’t wait to see what you build for Alexa in 2018.