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.

Smart Home

Qualcomm goes all-in on Amazon Alexa voice control with a new development kit

Qualcomm is releasing an early valentine for smart home device manufacturers. The new development kit for its Wi-Fi networks integrates the Amazon Alexa Voice Service to enable voice control in more devices.
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. The best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Emerging Tech

The 10 most expensive drones that you (a civilian) can buy

OK, these drones may be a bit beyond your budget: Check out the most expensive drones in the world, from industrial giants to highest-end filming tools.
Smart Home

Miele stuns KBIS 2019 with wireless probe, self-descaling java pot, and more

Miele rocked KBIS 2019 with waves of new appliances and features. The annual Kitchen and Bathroom Industry Show is all about product launches and Miele's appliance reveal was like New York Fashion Week with a single designer.
Smart Home

Amazon’s wall clock is back on the market after Bluetooth snafus

Amazon's Alexa-enabled Wall Clock was a minor disaster when it was finally released in December because of widespread Bluetooth connectivity challenges. After some tweaks, it's now back on sale for $30.
Smart Home

The Nest Secure included a microphone no one knew about — except Google

The Nest Secure home security system has had a microphone this entire time that no one knew about, except Google. The company claims the mic was never turned on, but customers are outraged.
Mobile

From folding phones to 5G -- here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked

Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event treated us to a real parade of technological excellence, from folding phones to new fitness wearables. Here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked on February 20.
Smart Home

Leviton’s Wi-Fi Load Center and Smart Circuit Breakers give your home a brain

Is your home ready for a brain transplant? Adding individual smart plugs is quick, easy, and inexpensive, but the benefits are limited to one plug at a time. Leviton's Load Center and Smart Circuit Breakers can give your home a brain.
Smart Home

GE Appliances shows off wall oven with built-in air fryer, food dehydrator

GE Appliances is taking the air fryer trend to its logical conclusion and adding one to a wall oven. The company's new oven, on display at this year's Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, also includes a food dehydrator.
Smart Home

Google Home vs. Amazon Echo: Which one is better for you?

What happens when you compare the Google Home vs the Amazon Echo? Both smart speakers have good qualities, but what happens when you compare they're features side-by-side? We think one of these smart gadgets wins over the other.
Smart Home

OK Google, what else can you do? The best tips and tricks for Google Home

The Home functions in a similar fashion to its main competitor, the Amazon Echo, but has the added benefit of select Google services. Here are few tips to help you make the most of the newfangled device.
Home Theater

Reasons not to mount a TV over your fireplace (and other helpful tips)

Mounting a TV above your fireplace may be popular and it might even seem appealing, but we have some concerns. We've got a list of reasons why placing your digital picture machine over a fire should be avoided, if at all possible.
Smart Home

Colored fridges are back, baby! GE’s new appliances revive the 1950s trend

GE Appliances is coloring us surprised at KBIS 2019 by introducing new hues for its signature Cafe line of smart home appliances including four new hues launching this fall to complement its black and white options.