Amazon’s Alexa Skills of the Year 2018

Amazon has posted a list of Alexa Skills that they consider to be the best of the year. The list is divided into various categories, such as best game skills, best family skills, and best wellness skills. Check out the list of best Alexa Skills to find some new Alexa capabilities to add to your Echos and Fire TVs. If you have Echo Buttons, which are still on sale for $13.99, you should also check out the winners of the Echo Button game skill contest that just got posted.

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Amazon takes a major step towards eliminating the need to say “ask” for custom smart home Alexa Skills

One of the confusing and cumbersome aspects of using Amazon’s Alexa to control smart home devices is the need to sometimes say “Alexa, ask…” before issuing a command. Prefacing a command with “ask” or “tell” is necessary when a smart home device manufacturer provides capabilities that go beyond what Amazon supports in their regular set of Alexa smart home control commands. Amazon is now allowing developers to extend the capabilities of regular smart home Alexa skills with extra functionality so that they don’t need to resort to a custom skill that requires the user to say “ask” before issuing an advanced command. Read more ›

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Protect your home from burglars with insufferable conversations using this Alexa Skill

A funny new Alexa Skill, called Away Mode, has just been released that “harnesses the power of human awkwardness to ward off unwanted visitors.” Quite simply, it uses your Alexa devices to play recordings of conversations to make it seem like someone is home while you’re away. Other similar Alexa Skills, such as Burglar Deterant, are already available, but they’re not nearly as funny. Hippo Insurance, the creators of the Alexa Skill, hired SNL and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia writers to come up with scripted conversations that would scare off anyone, let alone a would-be burglar. Samples, which can be heard on the skill’s website, include a couple breaking up while watching TV, a PTA meeting discussing memes, and a group arguing over the rules of a board game.

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You’ll soon be able to publicly share your custom Alexa Blueprint skills — Update: Now Sharable

A couple of months ago, Amazon released a system for anyone to easily customize Alexa’s responses, called Alexa Blueprints, without any programming. Through easy to fill out forms and templates, you can create your own custom Alexa games, use Alexa to pass on specific information, and a lot more. According to TechCrunch, it’ll soon be possible to make your Alexa Blueprints public and share them with a link that lets anyone install them on their own Alexa devices. The sharing feature doesn’t appear to be live yet, but Alexa Blueprints do now have an “Access” setting that lists blueprints as “Private.” Once sharing is available, you’ll be able to mark a blueprint you made as public and be given a custom sharable link that lets anyone who clicks it install your custom blueprint.


Alexa Blueprints are now sharable. View the details of any blueprint and you’ll find a “Shar with others” link on the right.

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Skyrim arrives on Amazon Alexa devices as a ‘very special edition’

The game Skyrim is now available on Alexa devices. Bethesda, the developer of the very popular RPG game, released a funny trailer for the Alexa version of Skyrim that many assumed was just a joke. The game is, in fact, real and actually playable as a new Skyrim Alexa skill.

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Alexa will soon automatically launch new skills that can fulfill your request

Amazon has announced that they’re launching a new beta feature for Alexa that will allow the voice assistant to automatically launch a skill, even if you’ve never enabled it, if they think the skill can fulfill your request. The new feature, called Name-free Interaction, is an option for Alexa skill developers to implement so that Alexa’s machine-learning model can better understand the capabilities of a skill. This will result in Alexa checking the list of tens of thousands of skills for one that can answer your question if Alexa itself is unable. Read more ›

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In-Skill Purchasing is now available to all Alexa Skill developers

Amazon has announced that all Alexa skill developers may now accept payments for physical goods or digital content via in-skill purchasing for Alexa skills. Select Amazon skills have already been able to make money through these means, but now it’s being made available to the general public. Alexa skills can use Amazon Pay to process payments for physical goods or can offer additional features through one-time or subscription in-skill purchases. Read more ›

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Anyone can now easily customize Alexa’s responses using Amazon’s new ‘Alexa Blueprints’

Amazon has announced Alexa Blueprints, a dead simple way to customize Alexa’s responses to questions and make your own Alexa skills without any coding. Using an easy to follow online interface, you can make Alexa give personal answers to questions, play personalized games, guide speakers with specific instructions, and more. Read more ›

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Use your Amazon Echo to make it seem like someone is home while you’re away with this new Burglar Deterrent skill

A new Alexa skill called Burglar Deterrent has just been released that might interest you if you’re worried about home security while you’re away. Once activated, the skill makes it seem like someone is home by playing a clever assortment of realistic audio that mimics common activities. Launch the skill by saying “Alexa, open Burglar Deterrent” and select the environment that best suits your smart speaker’s location. You can choose from a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and home office. Each option plays varied audio tailored for the location, like vacuuming for the living room, clanging pots for the kitchen, running water for the bathroom, and a printer for the office. Those examples are just one of many sounds heard in each location. You can also select a barking dog as a general deterrent. Start the skill before you leave and it will play sounds until you say “Alexa, stop” when you return or you can say “Alexa, set a sleep timer for [time]” after the deterrent audio starts for it to turn off after a set period. The audio played is quite convincing and should be enough to make a would-be burglar pick a different target.

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Turn your Echo or Echo Dot into a night light with this clever Alexa skill

Night Light is an interesting new Alexa Skill that lets you use the blue LED light ring on the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot as a makeshift night light. It uses a clever trick that makes the Echo think it’s continuously responding, which in turn results in the light ring staying illuminated. Read more ›

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