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January 17, 2017

Bertrand Vacherot

With Amazon Alexa, developers are creating novel and delightful voice experiences for customers. University students are rethinking the way we live. Meet Adam Betemedhin, an Electrical Engineering major, and Kevin Duong-Tran, a Computer Science major, from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Adam and Kevin, along with roughly 20 other students from multi-disciplinary backgrounds at UNLV, are participating in the 2017 Solar Decathlon, a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy that will culminate in October of this year. [Read More]

January 13, 2017

Thom Kephart

We just wrapped up an exciting week at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). You may have read some of the buzz around voice and Alexa at CES this year. Companies and developers expanded Alexa skills and integrations with dozens of announcements and demonstrations at CES. Developers like you are helping to build the future of a voice-driven world . Thanks to your work, Alexa now has over 7,000 skills and a growing number of integrations on third-party devices. [Read More]

January 11, 2017

David Isbitski

The Alexa Skills Kit provides the ability to display visual information, both text and images, via skill cards. These cards are a useful way to provide your users with additional information from your Alexa skill that may be too verbose or too difficult to include in the voice user interface. Skill cards can be displayed in many form factors across different types of devices. This includes the Alexa app via iOS and Android devices, the Alexa app via a web browser, on Fire Tablet, and on the big screen while interacting with skills on Fire TV.[Read More]

January 10, 2017

Glenn Cameron

In October of last year we worked with Hackster.io to launch the Amazon Alexa API Mashup Contest challenging developers to connect their favorite public APIs to Alexa. Developers submitted 163 projects that connected Alexa to the APIs of companies like Slack, Medium, Yelp, and many others.

Special thanks to everyone who competed in this contest. We were impressed by the creativity, quality, and high number of entries. We encourage you to browse through the projects. Each one comes with source code and documentation that might be a helpful reference when you code your next Alexa skill.

[Read More]

January 06, 2017

Ted Karczewski

Today at CES, Nucleus demonstrated new Display Cards for Alexa that offer complementary visual content alongside voice responses from the Alexa Voice Service.

For screen-based devices like the Amazon Fire TV with Alexa, Display Cards for Alexa offer the ability to render a “Now Playing” interface for music and books, as well as graphical information for weather, to-do and shopping lists, calendar updates, and Alexa skills when a user engages with Alexa.

[Read More]

January 06, 2017

Ted Karczewski

Volkswagen unveiled its plans to integrate with Amazon Alexa at CES yesterday during a moderated press event and booth tour.

The company will collaborate with Amazon to bring Alexa into the car through a voice integration on the head unit. In addition to the in-car Alexa integration, Volkswagen also announced a new Alexa skill that will help car owners get information about their vehicle from inside the home using an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or any Alexa device.

[Read More]

January 05, 2017

Ted Karczewski

Huawei announced today at CES that its Mate 9 model will be available in the United States starting on January 6, 2017. Building on the company’s history of innovation, the Mate 9 will be the first introduced smartphone with an app featuring Amazon Alexa.

The pre-installed application will provide users with a natural, convenient way to set alarms, build to-do lists, get weather and traffic reports, and more—all they have to do is ask. For existing Mate 9 owners, the app will be available through an over-the-air update.

[Read More]

January 05, 2017

Ted Karczewski

The Ford Motor Company announced a two-phased approach to integrating Amazon Alexa into its 2017 line of vehicles.

 

 

The first gives electric Ford vehicle owners the ability to connect to their cars from the comfort of their homes through Alexa devices such as the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Amazon Tap. The second phase, which starts this spring, enables Ford drivers with SYNC 3 AppLink to ask Alexa to search and transfer destinations to navigation, resume audiobooks, request news, add items to Amazon shopping list, and more—all from their car.

[Read More]

January 04, 2017

Ted Karczewski

LG Electronics announced today at CES its Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerator, a smart refrigerator now with Amazon Alexa.

The Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerator comes equipped with a 29-inch translucent touch LCD screen. Its Knock-On feature enables users to easily check the content inside by simply knocking on the screen twice.

The 2017 model will incorporate the Alexa Voice Service, allowing users to plan an entire dinner party, grocery shop, and more just by using their voice. Users will be able to search recipes, add any ingredients they’re missing to a shopping list, place orders from Amazon.com, and even control smart home products by enabling Alexa skills.

The kitchen is often one of the busiest rooms in the house. With Alexa, Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerator owners can manage their entire homes without lifting a finger.

Learn more about the Alexa integration and product availability by visiting LG’s press page

Get Started with Alexa

Alexa is always getting smarter with new capabilities and services. Learn how AVS can add rich, voice-powered experiences to your connected products.

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

January 04, 2017

Ted Karczewski

To demonstrate how a voice-forward interface like Amazon Alexa enables frictionless, hands-free control over everything in the home, from the lock on the front door and lights in the hallway to advanced scenes for movie nights and cozy mornings, we’ve collaborated with Intel to showcase a Smart Tiny Home with Alexa at CES.

[Read More]

January 04, 2017

Ted Karczewski

DISH announced yesterday at CES that customers will soon be able to watch hands-free, voice-controlled TV by pairing a Hopper DVR with the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot.

DISH will introduce a new Alexa skill in the first half of 2017 that allows customers to navigate, search, and quick play TV on a Hopper DVR based on channel, title, actor, and genre just by using their voice. 

[Read More]

December 23, 2016

Zoey Collier

jeopardy.jpg

Watchers of Jeopardy!, America’s favorite TV game show, just can’t get enough of the show. For nearly 35 years, Jeopardy! has tested the trivia knowledge of contestants and viewers of all ages. It presents contestants first with answers (clues), then contestants frame their guesses in the form of a question. Home audiences have become so engaged in the TV game’s play, they often shout out the answers to their televisions.

Public fascination with Jeopardy! has led to a long line of off-the-air versions. These started with board games and card games, then electronic versions for game consoles and personal computers, and more recently mobile apps. In all these formats, though, one magical component was always missing. They lacked a way to let players answer out loud (in the form of a question, of course) and have that response validated.

Up until December of last year.

One year ago, on December 30, 2015, Sony Picture Television launched a new version for Amazon Echo users, Jeopardy! J6, built with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). On that day, Alexa became the new host of the first all-voice version of Jeopardy!

The genesis of Jeopardy! J6

Sony Television’s games division wanted a way to keep its Jeopardy! fan base growing and engaged, especially younger audiences. To do that, they created a new online version of the game, called Jeopardy! J6, or “J!6” for short.

The premise of J!6 is simple. In addition to the five clues presented for each quiz category on the show, the writers create a backup sixth clue. Most of these clues are never used on the show. With J!6, however, die-hard Jeopardy! fans can play those extra clues. And since the J!6 categories change along with those on the show, playing online feels like an authentic extension of the episode the player just watched.

Geremie Camara, head of the Games Group at Sony Pictures Television, says using high-caliber material from the show makes the J!6 experience authentic and engaging. However, many online quiz games present a multiple-choice list of possible guesses. Somehow, they never quite feel the same as the show…

Alexa gets an instant green-light

When Alexa came along, Camara said they’d found the missing piece —a way to present the studio’s high-quality material in an authentic, interactive experience.

The idea for the skill first came from an intern’s summer project. After Amazon shipped two Echo devices to Sony’s R&D group, a intern built a rapid prototype in two short weeks. Though it was full of hard-coded clues and questions, Camara said there was no doubt: they were onto something big.

“We were all blown away at how good the Echo and Alexa technology was,” says Camara, “but also at how good it felt for the brand. We worked very closely with Jeopardy!’s Supervising Producer Rocky Schmidt to ensure that the Echo experience would live up to the TV show’s high standards." 

From concept to a quality production

Though an intern did the first pass, a senior engineer built Jeopardy J!6 skill from the ground up. It is written in Java and runs on AWS Lambda, which makes it simple to manage, scalable and very lightweight.

[Read More]

December 23, 2016

Zoey Collier

customerpicks_12-22.png

Today’s guest post comes from the Alexa Skills Marketing Team.

This year, developers have created thousands of skills for Alexa, expanding Alexa’s capabilities and⁞ offering consumers novel new voice experiences. As the year draws to a close, we're pleased to share the top customer picks for Alexa skills this year. From home automation to bringing zen into your life, here's a list of the most popular, innovative, and entertaining skills that customers enabled in 2016.

Smart Home
Control a wide range of connected devices with smart home skills. Set the temperature in your living room with SmartThings skill or adjust the lighting with Wink skill. See all customer picks >

Lifestyle & Fitness
Start your day right with exercise and intention. The Focus Word skill provides an inspirational word or phrase and 7-Minute Workout skill lets you get in your exercise quickly and efficiently. See all customer picks >

Music, Movies & TV
Relax at night while listening to Rain and Ocean sounds or catch up on your favorite series, like you can with The Voice skill. See all customer picks >

Education & Reference
Learn more and gain knowledge in new areas of interest with the help of these Alexa skills. Expand your vocabulary with Daily Buzzword skill or learn all about canines with Dog Facts skill. See all customer picks >

Food & Drink
Planning dinner is a lot easier with the help of the Campbell’s Kitchen skill. Don’t forget the cocktail with the help from The Bartender skill. See all customer picks >

[Read More]

December 22, 2016

Zoey Collier

edf-bluelab-amazon-echo-1.jpg

EDF Energy is one of the UK’s largest energy companies and its largest producer of low-carbon electricity. It produces around one-fifth of the nation's electricity from its nuclear power stations, wind farms, coal and gas power stations.

Bhavesh Limani is a project manager at Blue Lab, EDF Energy’s innovation accelerator near Brighton in the UK. Launched in 2015, Blue Lab monitors emerging technologies that help shape EDF Energy’s customer experience. One of its primary focus areas is the connected home, including how customers can manage their energy accounts and energy consumption.

When Amazon Echo launched in the United States, it grabbed Blue Lab’s attention. In collaboration with EDF Energy’s R&D UK Centre, the Blue Lab team obtained two Echo units in late 2015. It then began to explore linking voice technology to energy account functionality. Blue Lab wanted to be ready whenever Amazon released Echo and Alexa in the UK.

When Amazon started shipping Echo to UK customers on 28th September, EDF Energy was one of the first UK-specific skills made available to UK customers.

From proof-of-concept to an effective VUI design

Over the last few years, EDF Energy has worked to give customers more direct access and control of their energy accounts. They first created an online sales and service portal, followed by smartphone apps for iOS and Android users.

“Our customers expect digital solutions now,” says Stuart Roberts, Head of Digital Operations at EDF Energy. “We used Alexa as an opportunity to develop a voice channel to extend the online account management experience to voice.”

As the EDF Energy project team refined their proof of concept, they identified four use cases to meet core customer needs and provide a stand-out experience:

  • check account balance
  • check when next payment is due
  • check the contract end date
  • submit a meter reading

The EDF Energy team established an initial voice user interface (VUI) framework and collaborated with Amazon to refine the VUI. Investing time up front was key to minimizing changes and risks later in development.

“I would say most of our voice interface was well-developed from our first cycle,” says Bhavesh. “The Amazon team was absolutely brilliant in helping us to evaluate the various options.”

[Read More]

December 21, 2016

Michael Palermo

In September 2016 we announced the all-new Fire HD 8 tablet, designed form the ground up for all-day entertainment. Among the many new features mentioned was support for Alexa, as quoted here:

"Alexa is Amazon’s cloud-based voice service that allows customers to play music and get information, news, sports scores, weather, and more—instantly, just press and ask. In the coming months, Fire tablets will also be able to connect to Alexa, enabling Alexa developers to extend their reach to Fire tablet users."

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Today, customers can now access Alexa on Fire, Fire HD 8, and Fire HD 10 tablets by simply pressing down on home icon in the navigation bar and start talking. For Alexa developers, this not only extends the reach of your audience, it provides another scenario where voice-interactions can be complemented with a visual skill card to enhance the experience. When using Fire Tablets or Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, the visual cards appear immediately and can also be referenced in the Alexa app.

Skill cards contain a title, a text body, and optionally one image. These cards present information for easy consumption by customers.

[Read More]

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