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March 30, 2017

Marion Desmazieres

Makers-training-02_blog.png

By Sam Morgan, Head of Education at Makers Academy

Editor’s note: This is part two of our Makers Academy series for Ruby developers. Learn more about this free training on the Alexa Skills Kit and read the first module.

Welcome to the second post in our series designed to take you from zero to hero using Alexa with Ruby. In our first module, we:

  • Set up a simple Alexa skill
  • Set up a tunneled Sinatra application
  • Hooked the two together to say "Hello, world"

In this module, we'll handle variable data from users using slots. This module introduces:

  • Slots
  • Custom slot types

This module uses:

  • Sinatra
  • Ruby's JSON library
  • Ruby's HTTP library
  • The Numbers API

We’re going to build a fact-checking mechanism so users can ask for facts about particular numbers. Here are some things users will be able to ask Alexa:

Alexa, ask Number Facts to tell me a trivia fact about 42.

Alexa, ask Number Facts to tell me a math fact about 5.

Users will be able to choose:

 

  • a number (any number!)
  • a fact type 

Alexa will respond with an interesting fact about that number that is specific to that type of fact.

[Read More]

March 28, 2017

Dean Bryen

Today, we are happy to announce Alexa developers can now add skills to the Flash Briefing on Alexa in UK English and German using the Flash Briefing Skill API, a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit.Flash_briefing_UK_DE_blog.png

With the Flash Briefing Skill API, you no longer need to build a voice interaction model to handle customer requests for the news. When you configure your compatible RSS feed and build skills that connect directly to Flash Briefing, customers will be able to easily access your content via the Alexa Flash Briefing, which delivers pre-recorded audio clips and text-to-speech (TTS) updates.

The availability of Flash Briefing skills in local languages means that you can now deliver truly localized content to customers via voice. Here are a few ideas to get started with Flash Briefing skills:

  • Create a skill with news from any provider that authorizes you to use their content, and provides a public API.
  • If you’re a blogger you can configure your RSS feed to build a skill for your readers.
  • Podcast host? Simply host the audio for your podcast and provide a JSON feed to allow your listeners to hear your latest episode as they get ready for the day.
[Read More]

March 27, 2017

David Isbitski

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We recently announced a new program that makes it free to build and host most Alexa skills using Amazon Web Services (AWS). The program aims to help you build engaging skills by giving you access to more AWS infrastructure beyond the AWS Free Tier. Here are five ideas for using AWS services to unlock your skill's potential.

[Read More]

March 23, 2017

Marion Desmazieres

Makers-training_blog-01.png

By Sam Morgan, Head of Education at Makers Academy

Editor’s note: This is part one of our Makers Academy series for Ruby developers. Learn more about this free training on the Alexa Skills Kit in this blog post

Welcome to the first module of Makers Academy's short course on building Alexa skills using Ruby. Amazon's Alexa Skills Kit allows developers to extend existing applications with deep voice integration and construct entirely new applications that leverage the cutting-edge voice-controlled technology.

This course will cover all the terminology and techniques required to get fully-functional skills pushed live to owners of Alexa-enabled devices all around the world using Ruby and Sinatra.

What's in This Module?

This module contains a basic introduction to scaffolding a skill and interacting with Alexa. This module introduces:

 

  • Intent schemas
  • Utterances
  • Alexa communication paradigm
  • Tunneling a local application using ngrok over HTTPS
  • Connecting Alexa to a local development environment
  • Alexa-style JSON requests and responses 

During this module, you will construct a simple skill called “Hello World.” While building this skill, you will come to understand how the above concepts work and play together. This module uses:

 

  • Sinatra
  • Ruby's JSON library

 

 

Let's get started! 

[Read More]

March 22, 2017

Ted Karczewski

It’s here. Huawei released an over-the-air (OTA) update today bringing hands-free Amazon Alexa capabilities to Mate 9 smartphones in the US. New Mate 9 smartphones will ship with the Huawei Alexa application pre-installed, making it the first Android smartphone to have the cloud-based voice service as a native, out-of-the-box feature.

Huawei introduced its flagship Mate 9 device in the US at CES 2017. The Mate 9 was built smart, with a machine learning algorithm designed to improve device performance over time. Now, Mate 9 is even smarter thanks to the Alexa Voice Service (AVS).

[Read More]

March 17, 2017

Jeff Blankenburg

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We all hold interesting data in our heads. Maybe it's a list of all the action figures we played with as a kid, specific details about the 50 U.S. states, or a historical list of the starting quarterbacks for our favorite football team. When we're with friends, sometimes we'll even quiz each other on these nuanced categories of information. It's a fun, interactive way to share our knowledge and learn more about our favorite topics. 

You can now bring that experience to Alexa using our new quiz skill template. You provide the data and the number of properties in that data, and Alexa will dynamically build a quiz game for you.

[Read More]

March 16, 2017

Aaron Tang

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The Alexa skills catalog is home to more than 10,000 skills thanks to our amazing developer community. As most you know, every Alexa skill submitted to Amazon undergoes a certification process prior to being published in our public catalog.

To help you navigate the certification process, let me share its main purpose and requirements, the top issues we're seeing, and some helpful reference material. 

All certified skills meet our requirements for policy, security, functionality, and voice interface and user experience. These certification requirements help us maintain a high quality bar for our catalog. It also ensures that the third-party skills our customers consume on Alexa-enabled devices are safe and work well.

These certification requirements are specified in our technical documentation and certification checklist. We encourage you to save this link and reference it often as you develop your skills and prepare to submit them to Amazon. Doing this should...

[Read More]

March 16, 2017

Marion Desmazieres

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We’re pleased to announce our collaboration with Makers Academy on a new Alexa Skills Kit training course for Ruby developers.

Makers Academy is a leading web developer bootcamp based in London, UK. Its highly-selective, full-time program teaches the principles of software craftsmanship. Makers Academy has graduated over 700 students into their dream jobs as junior developers.

We believe natural user interfaces such as those based on speech represent the next major disruption in computing. Now is a great time for developers to take advantage of this new form of interaction and to learn to build voice-first experiences for Alexa, the voice service that powers Amazon Echo. Makers Academy’s mission is to teach students the most used technologies in today's marketplace, and we’re excited to team up to prepare you for the future of voice computing.

[Read More]

March 15, 2017

David Isbitski

AWS-Credits_blog.png

Amazon today announced a new program that will make it free for tens of thousands of Alexa developers to build and host most Alexa skills using Amazon Web Services (AWS). Many Alexa skill developers currently take advantage of the AWS Free Tier, which offers one million AWS Lambda requests and up to 750 hours of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) compute time per month at no charge. However, if developers exceed the AWS Free Tier limits, they may incur AWS usage charges each month.

Now, developers with a live Alexa skill can apply to receive a $100 AWS promotional credit and can also receive an additional $100 per month in AWS promotional credits if they incur AWS usage charges for their skill – making it free for developers to build and host most Alexa skills. Our goal is to free up developers to create more robust and unique skills that can take advantage of AWS services. We can’t wait to see what you create.

[Read More]

March 13, 2017

Ted Karczewski

The Ford Motor Company announced a two-phased approach to integrating Amazon Alexa into its 2017 line of vehicles at CES. The first phase makes it easy for electric Ford vehicle owners to connect to their cars from the comfort of their homes through the MyFord Mobile skill, which launched in late January 2017.

Customers with a Ford plug-in vehicle, such as the C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi, or Focus Electric, can enable the MyFord Mobile skill to issue a range of remote commands and obtain vehicle information.

[Read More]

March 08, 2017

Ted Karczewski

Technology in the car keeps drivers informed and connected. Logitech, a global leader in personal computing and accessories, is using voice control and the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to help drivers stay focused on the road.

The company built ZeroTouch, a product that enables drivers to use their voice to control mobile-based applications on their Android phones or access cloud-based services via Amazon Alexa.

ZeroTouch is a combination of hardware and software that creates a hands-free voice experience in any car. The magnetic hardware car mount holds a phone in place either on the car dash or an air vent. The ZeroTouch mobile application launches via BluetoothⓇ and its voice control feature is activated with the wave of a hand.

Click the link below to read more about the development process. 

[Read More]

March 07, 2017

Ted Karczewski

In 2016, tens of thousands of developers visited the Alexa GitHub to learn how to build their own Alexa-enabled prototype with the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) and a Raspberry Pi. The community built some amazing projects, from magic mirrors and voice-enabled coffee machines to talking fish and alarm clocks.

If you’re new to voice user interface (VUI) design or you just want to learn more about AVS, the webinar recording below covers key concepts and examples around hardware selection, AVS development tools for commercial developers, best practices for enabling hands-free voice interaction, and how to build a robust Alexa Voice Service client.

[Read More]

March 03, 2017

Michael Palermo

Today we are happy to announce lock control and query, a new feature in the Smart Home Skill API now available in the US, with support for the UK and Germany coming soon. This feature is supported with locks from August, Yale, Kwikset, and Schlage as well as hub support from SmartThings and Wink. Now any developer targeting devices with locking behavior can enable customers to issue a voice command such as, “Alexa, lock the front door.” In addition, developers can build in support for customers asking for the status of a smart locking device with a voice command such as, “Alexa, is the front door locked?” LockAPI_blog.png

Much like the recently announced thermostat query feature, the lock query feature simplifies development efforts by enabling specific voice interactive experiences straight from the Smart Home Skill API. This is accomplished under the new Alexa.ConnectedHome.Query namespace.

Developers can report errors using the same namespace. These errors are then used to guide the customer with the proper corrective actions. It’s crucial that developers return meaningful and correct errors so that customers can feel confident about the status of their locks. For example, if the smart locking device is unable to provide a stateful value because a door is open, developers should report this in their directive response as shown below.

[Read More]

March 02, 2017

Zoey Collier

In 2012, brothers Maurice and Marcel Eisterhues built a smartphone app for their father. TorAlarm—German for GoalAlert—had a simple purpose: to help dad keep up with the scores for his favorite football teams. (That’s soccer for readers in the USA.) Toralarm_brothers.jpg

What started as a fun project turned into a true opportunity for the two German entrepreneurs. TorAlarm’s popularity grew steadily, until in 2014, the brothers and their father founded a company with the same name. Today, TorAlarm is among Germany’s most popular apps for tracking the scores and schedules of football matches across the country,with over a million users in Germany alone.

Maurice and Marcel knew instantly voice would be the next step in TorAlarm’s evolution when they saw the upcoming launch of Amazon Echo in Germany.

“We were both totally amazed when we first saw the Amazon Echo,” says Maurice. “We’re always interested in new technology, so we decided very quickly we wanted to be part of this launch.”

[Read More]

March 02, 2017

Dean Bryen

In September of last year, we announced that Amazon Echo and Alexa were coming to the UK and Germany. Since the announcement, German customers and developers in the exclusive invite only program have been receiving their devices and German developers have brought hundreds of new skills to Alexa using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK).DE-hoodie_march2017.jpg

Now that Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices are available for purchase in Germany,  developers can reach even more customers with their Alexa skills.  

As a developer, you can teach Alexa new German skills using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). ASK is a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples that make it easy to create voice experiences and enable you to get started quickly. 

If you would like to create something from scratch, our templates are a great place to start. Or if you already have an English (US) or English (UK) skill, you can add German to it. Check out this post to learn how to create multi-language skills.

Get a free Alexa Developer Hoodie

Developers who publish a German Alexa skill in March can get a free Alexa hoodie.  Learn more about how to get your hoodie.

[Read More]

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