Alexa now supports Skills for kids with Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, and others on board

Amazon has announced that Alexa in the US now supports kid skills. Developers can now publish fun and educational skills for children under the age of 13. This was previously not allowed due to the FTC’s strict guidelines under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) but Amazon now allows customers to manage parental consent for Alexa devices. Before using an Alexa skill made for children, an adult must first authorize that the active Alexa profile may use such skills. Read more ›

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Amazon releases new “Today in Music” flash briefing for Alexa

There are already over 3,000 different Flash Briefing skills to choose from for Alexa, but Amazon has added a new one of their own. “Today in Music” is a new daily program from Amazon that helps uncover interesting content available through Amazon Music Unlimited. The show covers new releases and music history. It plays short clips of tracks mentioned as well as short interviews with highlighted artists. If that sounds like something that interests you, just ask Alexa to “enable Today in Music” and the program will play first the next time you ask for your flash briefing, which can be done by saying “Alexa, what’s new?” You can disable the flash briefing or manage the order that its played in the Alexa app under Settings > Flash Briefings.

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Amazon expands program that pays Alexa skill developers

Earlier this year, Amazon introduced a program that pays developers of the most popular Alexa skill games. Today they’ve announced that the rewards program is expanding to now include Alexa skills in six more categories. Developers of Alexa skills in the categories Education & Reference, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, Music & Audio, and Productivity will now also earn money if their skills receive enough engagement. Amazon has still not revealed specifics on how much can be earned, but they will use metrics such as the total minutes a skill is used, the number of new customers, the number of recurring customers, the skill’s customer ratings, and more to determine how much a developer is paid each month. One Alexa developer tells TechCrunch that he estimates the top skill in a category receives about $5,000 each month, #6 gets about $2,000, #7 gets about $1,000, and #300 gets about $100.

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Logitech updates their Alexa Smart Home Skill for Harmony remotes with more natural commands

Logitech has announced that their Alexa Smart Home Skill, which allows control of their Harmony remotes and hubs, now supports more natural language commands using the new entertainment control capabilities that were just made available to developers by Amazon. These updates now remove the need to have two different Alexa skills for Harmony devices and make controlling devices much more intuitive. Read more ›

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Amazon adds Entertainment Capabilities to Alexa so skill developers can better control TVs and media players

Amazon has announced an expansion of the Alexa Skill API which gives skill developers and device manufacturers more natural ways to control media devices like TVs, remotes, A/V receivers, and IR hubs. This new capability is surely what will make it possible to control the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick using Alexa devices, which is a new feature that Amazon accidentally leaked yesterday. Read more ›

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Unofficial AFTVnews flash briefing Alexa skill now available

A reader of the site has created an unofficial AFTVnews flash briefing that you can hear through your Alexa devices. He is using the site’s standard RSS feed, so it’s not a perfect experience. For starters, Alexa does not read the title of each post before reading the post itself. It also cuts the post off abruptly by saying “read more,” since the RSS feed provides a “read more” link for text readers to click, which obviously doesn’t make sense in the case of an Alexa flash briefing. Despite the issues, give the flash briefing a try if you tend to use that aspect of Alexa, and let me know in the comments if you’d like me to work on improving the experience.

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You can now listen to SiriusXM through Alexa on devices like the Amazon Echo and Fire TV

SiriusXM, the satellite radio network, has just released a new Alexa Skill that allows you to listen to the service’s radio stations through Alexa. Even though this is an Alexa skill, accessing SiriusXM stations is similar to accessing music through service’s like Spotify or Pandora. Once you have the Alexa skill enabled, which you can do by saying “Alexa, enable SiriusXM,” and configured your login credentials through the Alexa app, you can then ask “Alexa, play [station name] on SiriusXM” to start listening to a station. Read more ›

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Amazon clarifies what types of ads are allowed in Alexa skills and reaffirms that most ads are banned


Amazon updated their developer policy recently to ban nearly all advertisements from Alexa skills. As the Alexa platform continues to rapidly grow, having now reaching over 12,000 skills, it’s beginning to attract advertisers, despite Amazon’s policy on the matter. Amazon has just updated their policy on Alexa skill ads again to be more specific on the types of ads that are allowed, and reassert that the vast majority of ads are not permitted in Alexa skills. Read more ›

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All Alexa-enabled devices will soon get notifications

Notifications from Amazon and Alexa skills will soon be coming to all Alexa-enabled devices. This includes Amazon’s own Alexa devices, like the Echo and Echo Dot, as well as 3rd-party devices, like the newly released Ecobee4 smart thermostat. All notifications will be opt-in per skill through the Alexa app, so you’ll have to explicitly turn them on separately for each Alexa skill. Read more ›

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Amazon will directly pay developers of top Alexa game skills based on customer engagement

Amazon is shutting down their Underground appstore, but they’re not giving up on the idea of paying developers based on the amount of time users play a game. Starting this month, the retailer will be directly paying developers of top Alexa game skills. Payments will be based on “a variety of metrics, such as minutes of usage, new customers, and other measures of engagement.” Read more ›

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