Amazon’s Alexa now has over 10,000 3rd-party skills

Amazon has revealed that Alexa has surpassed 10,000 skills. Alexa Skills are similar to phone apps, in that they are created by 3rd-parties to add functionality to the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Tap, Fire TV, and Fire TV Stick. The number of skills being created has shot up exponentially in recent months. Back when Amazon added the ability to rate and review skills a little over a year ago, there were only 91 skills. Just 6 months later, when Amazon improved skill discoverability and added the ability to enable skills by asking Alexa, the number of skills were up to 1,400. By the time Amazon finally launched dedicated web pages for Alexa skills five months later, there were over 4,000 skills. Now that number has more than doubled in just under 4 months.

Of course, just like with Fire TV apps, the number of total Alexa skills is not nearly as important as the number of quality skills. You’ll have to ignore a bunch of cookie cutter trivia games and fact skills to find ones that truly add value to your device.

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Amazon’s Alexa gains more personality through special Speechcon expressive words

Amazon has added support for Speechcon words and phrases to Alexa. Speechcons are exclamations that will be pronounced more expressively by Alexa. There are nearly 200 different words, from abracadabra to zoinks, that Alexa Skill developers can choose to include in their Alexa responses. You can see the full list of words, and hear what Alexa sounds like saying each word, here on Amazon’s developer site. This new ability should add a bit of fun and emotion to Alexa’s usual monotone pronunciations. I’d say nanu nanu and dynomite are good ones.

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All the voice commands understood by the Plex Alexa Skill

The newly released Plex Alexa Skill is a great way to control the Plex app with your voice using a voice remote on the Amazon Fire TV or through an Amazon Echo. Here’s the full list of available voice commands that Plex understands. Read more ›

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Plex releases new Alexa Skill for full voice control of the media center app

Plex is one of the best media center apps on the Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick and it just got a lot better with their announcement today of a new Alexa Skill that grants complete voice control of the app. The Plex Alexa Skill allows Plex users to use their voice for simple tasks like controlling playback, by saying something like “Alexa, tell Plex to pause” or “Alexa, ask Plex to play season 3, episode 4 of Breaking Bad,” and more complex tasks like switching media servers, by saying “Alexa, ask plex to change my server.” The Plex Alexa Skill can also suggest content, by asking “Alexa, ask Plex recommend something,” and tell you what’s been recently added to your library by saying “Alexa, ask Plex what’s new?

These new voice control capabilities are a great new addition to Plex on the Fire TV since Alexa is already built into the device. Apart from having to say “Ask Plex…” or “Tell Plex…” before every command, it feels like the app itself now has native voice control through the Fire TV’s voice remote. Those of you who are diehard Kodi/SPMC/MrMC users may want to give Plex a look for this new feature alone.

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How to add Google’s Voice Assistant to Alexa on the Amazon Echo and Fire TV

The two leading voice assistants are Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s unnamed voice assistant. While Alexa is capable of doing more, Google’s voice assistant tends to respond to knowledge questions more accurately with the help of Google’s search engine. Thanks to an open source project, it’s now possible to unofficially add Google’s voice assistant to Amazon Echo and Fire TV devices as an Alexa Skill. This allows you to simply say “Alexa, ask Google …” followed by any question to hear Google’s answer. Here’s how to set it up on your Amazon account. Read more ›

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Top Customer Picks for Alexa Skills in 2016

Amazon has created a page to highlight the 2016 top customer picks for Alexa Skills. The page lists the most customer enabled and reviewed skills of 2016. Skills are broken down into categories like Smart Home, Lifestyle, and Education. Take a look to see if any of these popular Alexa Skills interest you.

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Harmony releases second Alexa Skill with additional functionality

A couple of months ago, Harmony released an Alexa Skill that allowed you to start and stop activities on their line of Harmony smart remotes using your voice. Now they have released a second Alexa Skill with additional functionality. The two Alexa Skills can work together or independently. Read on for an explanation of why there are two skills and the advantages of each. Read more ›

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Alexa Skills finally have a home on Amazon.com with new detail pages and store

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The number of Alexa Skills have ballooned to well over 4,000 in a very short period of time. You’ve always been able to browse through them in the Alexa App or web portal, but that requires logging in with an Amazon account and is realy tailored towards owners of Alexa-enabled devices. There has never been a public facing page for anyone to browse through, search, and read up on various Alexa skills until now. Thankfully that has finally changed with the launch of Alexa Detail Pages on Amazon.com.

Just like with apps in the the Amazon Appstore, you can now easily see all Alexa Skills in one place on Amazon’s website. You can dive in by category, arrival date, and star ratings. Each skill has its own detail page with descriptions, example voice commands, and even the ability to enable skills right from the page. This will really help Alexa Skill developers get their work noticed and should make discovering new skills a lot easier.

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Logitech releases official Alexa Skill for Harmony remotes to control TVs with your voice

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Logitech has just released an official Alexa Skill that allows you to control Harmony remotes using your voice and Alexa. The new ability will allow you to say “Alexa, turn on/off the TV” to power on/off devices. You will also be able to enable Harmony Activities which control multiple devices, including smart home devices like lights and thermostats, with a single command. If you have cable television, you’ll also be able to change channels by simply saying “Alexa, turn on ESPN” without any extra configuration. As long as the Harmony remote hub recognises your cable provider, it will automatically detect the channels available to you and make them voice accessible.

Logitech also says the new Alexa Skill will be able to launch apps on Roku devices by saying something like “Alexa, turn on Netflix.” Harmony remotes are capable of controlling Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks via bluetooth, but there is no mention of Fire TV integration with this new Alexa Skill at this time. Many people have already been able to achieve all of these voice features, and more, by linking Harmony hubs with Alexa through third party services like IFTTT and Yonomi. This new Alexa Skill from Logitech is a good start, but hopefully they’ll continue to expand on its abilities, since 1st-party solutions have the potential to be far better than 3rd-party middleman option.

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Alexa now supports 3rd-party shopping and to-do lists apps

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One of the core features that has been available through Alexa-enabled devices since the beginning is the ability to add items to a shopping or to-do list. While Alexa’s lists can be accessed through the Alexa app and Amazon’s website, the functionality is as barebones as you can get. That finally changes because Amazon has introduced a new List Skill API that will allow Alexa’s list making feature to work directly with 3rd-party shopping and to-do list apps. There’s no need to launch a special Alexa Skill first or anything like that. Two of the most popular list making apps, Any.do and Todoist, were given early access to this new feature and have already integrated it into their apps. Read more ›

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