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With new blueprints, Amazon empowers anyone to create Alexa skills in minutes

There are more than 80,000 skills already available to customers in the Alexa Skills Store but that is clearly not nearly enough for Amazon’s thundering appetite for more users. To that end, the technology giant is launching a new and improved toolbox to encourage individuals and businesses to create and publish their own custom skills through easy-to-use templates called Skill Blueprints. The new tools were announced this week on the Alexa Developer Blog.

Creating Alexa Skills isn’t exactly brain surgery these days but for a long time, users needed a basic understanding of coding and Alexa’s infrastructure at best and a fairly robust command of complex languages like Python and Java at worst. This also isn’t a completely new concept — Amazon launched the Skills Blueprints imitative last year but the new announcement seems to make the blueprints not only easier to use but also more sophisticated and with a few more bells and whistles, such as sharing live and recorded audio with Alexa.

Amazon notes several new examples to help businesses, brands, and organizations reach customers in new ways, such as:

  • Personal trainers, gyms, and fitness studios can use the Personal Trainer blueprint to provide customers with curated exercise routines and motivational messages.
  • Tutors can use the Flashcards and Facts blueprints to help students learn new concepts, retain information, and prepare for that next exam.
  • History buffs can use the Quiz blueprint to create a fun and interesting quiz for their community.
  • Budding authors can share their talents for the written word and publish their short stories or poems with Storytelling.
  • Universities and religious organizations can use blueprints like the new University and Spiritual Talks blueprints to make live and recorded audio content accessible on Alexa-enabled devices. Users simply add an audio feed URL to the blueprint, customize the welcome and exit messages, and submit for review and certification.

One of the more robust new blueprints is called the Flash Briefing Skill and it’s a versatile tool that could lend a major boost to broadcasters, local sports teams, news agencies and other content-heavy organizations that want to share their products or services via Alexa. Not only can users add their recorded audio feed URL like the University and Spiritual Talks blueprints but can also upload recorded audio files and even record live audio directly within the Blueprints Portal. Take that, NPR.

Finally, there is the new Blog blueprint for those hardy writers who are still committed to what futurist Warren Ellis calls, “The Isles of Blogging.” Bloggers who use WordPress and have installed the Amazon A.I. Plugin for WordPress can deliver their posts as audio on Alexa by plugging in the RSS feed generated by the Polly plugin. The Amazon AI Plugin for WordPress enables audio posts by leveraging the text-to-speech (TTS) and translation tools in which Amazon has invested so heavily.

You can get started by visiting the blueprints website to browse the existing Skills Blueprints, which have grown into dozens of examples spread across six categories. You can also browse our how-to guide to get ahead of the curve on creating new Alexa Skills using Amazon’s Skills Blueprints. If mastering new tools isn’t your thing, you can also always wait until Alexa has a mind of her own.

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Clayton Moore
Clayton Moore’s interest in technology is deeply rooted in the work of writers like Warren Ellis, Cory Doctorow and Neal…
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