Amazon Introduces the Alexa Skills Kit–A Free SDK for Developers

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Developers can now create new skills and capabilities for Alexa, the brain behind Amazon Echo

Alexa is the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo, a new category of device designed around your voice. Today, Amazon announced the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for developers to create new voice-driven capabilities for Alexa.

With a few lines of code, developers can easily integrate existing web services with Alexa or, in just a few hours, they can build entirely new experiences designed around voice. No experience with speech recognition or natural language understanding is required–Amazon does all the work to hear, understand, and process the customer’s spoken request so a developer doesn’t have to.

Examples of skills developers can create with the Alexa Skills Kit include:

  • A hobbyist developer can enable Alexa to access his or her child’s school lunch menu–then, each morning simply ask, “Alexa, ask Ballard Elementary School what’s for lunch today” and decide whether to pack a lunch for the child.
  • A device maker with an Internet-connected sprinkler system can integrate its sprinklers with Alexa, so a customer can say, “Alexa, ask my sprinkler to water my lawn for 15 minutes.”
  • A surf report provider can create a new skill for Alexa that lets customers ask for the latest conditions at their favorite break by saying “Alexa, ask Surf Status for my local forecast.”
  • The maker of a smart vacuum cleaner can create a skill for Alexa that lets customers control their vacuum by saying “Alexa, tell the vacuum to start cleaning the living room.”
  • A fitness service can enable Alexa to access a user’s workout history, so a customer can say “Alexa, ask My Fitness how many miles I have run this week.”
  • A baseball fantasy league can make a new skill for Alexa, so managers can simply say, “Alexa, ask Fantasy Baseball to change my lineup and start Felix Hernandez today.”

“When we launched Amazon Echo we immediately heard from developers about the innovative voice experiences they would create if they had access to an SDK,” said Greg Hart, Vice President, Amazon Echo and Alexa Voice Services.

“Today, we’re making the Alexa Skills Kit available to any developer, maker, or general hobbyist that wants to invent on behalf of customers, creating new skills and capabilities. We can’t wait to see what developers are going to invent with this technology.”

Creating an Alexa skill is easy and fast. Developers simply write cloud-hosted code that interacts with Alexa’s cloud-based APIs to process customer requests. Alexa does the work to hear, understand, and resolve the customer’s spoken request, and then maps the service call to the developer’s endpoint.

The easiest way to build a skill for Alexa is to use AWS Lambda, an innovative compute service that runs a developer’s code in response to triggers and automatically manages the compute resources in the AWS Cloud, so there is no need for a developer to provision or continuously run servers.

Developers simply upload the code for the new Alexa skill they are creating, and AWS Lambda does the rest, executing the code in response to Alexa voice interactions and automatically managing the compute resources on the developer’s behalf.

The Alexa Skills Kit is free–learn more and get started with the preview at developer.amazon.com/ASK.

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