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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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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