Roku has released an Alexa skill that allows customers to control Roku media players and Roku TVs with their voice through an Alexa device, like an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. The skill allows you to control media playback, launch channels, and search. Roku TV owners will additionally be able to use the skill to power on/off the TV, change the volume, change channels, and switch inputs. Read more ›
Amazon introduced Alexa Blueprints last year as a way for anyone to create their own Alexa SKills, without any coding, right from a web browser. They later made it possible to share those custom skills with friends and family, but now they’ve announced that you can publish your custom skills to the Alexa Skill store for anyone to use. Read more ›
Amazon has teamed up with ChooseCo, publishers of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure series of books, to bring their guided adventure stories to Alexa devices. A new Choose Your Own Adventure Alexa Skill has been released using Amazon’s Audible brand. The skill currently offers two different books that are both free. Read more ›
Amazon has announced a new tool for developers that makes it much easier to add in-skill purchasing (ISP) to Alexa Skills, as spotted by CNET. Where before, developers had to use an unintuitive command-line interface to add purchases to their skills, they can now use a simpler web interface built directly into the Alexa Developer Console that they’re already used to using. For Alexa users, this will likely mean that more and more of the 70,000 Alexa Skills will likely begin adopting and experimenting with premium features that require paying money. Be sure you’ve got an Alexa PIN set up for voice purchases if you have kids or others that might inadvertently buy something while interacting with Alexa.
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.
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 ›
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.
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.
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.
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 ›