This week I attended an exciting talk by the Amazon Alexa Principal Evangelist, David Low at Waracle Dundee. During the talk David gave an overview of Voice User Interfaces and several demonstrations of how to develop Alexa Skills. A very basic type of skill is known as a Flash Briefing which allows Alexa to read from a feed (either by text to speech or recorded audio). When a user asks Alexa for their flash briefing a number of feeds specified by the user can be read out. I decided this was an easy starting point to get started with Alexa as there was little work to do to get something up and running.
Testing with echosim.io
For those who do not own an Echo, echosim.io provides a browser simulation of an Echo which can be used to test your skills during development. You can then use this in conjunction with the Amazon Alexa app on your phone.
Making a Flash Briefing Skill
If you already have an existing feed, creating the skill is extremely simple. You will simply need to fill out a few forms on Amazon Developer Console.
You will need to follow the following steps:
- Navigate to the page to add a new skill using Alexa Skills Kit.
- Set the Skill Type to be ‘Flash Briefing Skill API’.
- Simply complete the rest of the forms with your skill’s name, language, feed URL etc.
That’s it! No coding, just fill out a few forms and you are ready to go.
You can then use the Amazon Alexa app to include your skill in your flash briefing and then test using echosim.io. In the app navigate to ‘Skills’, then ‘Your Skills’, select your new skill and then select ‘manage in flash briefing’ to alter which skills you wish to appear in your flash briefing. Then on echosim.io simply ask Alexa “Alexa, What is my flash briefing?”.
When you are happy, you can submit your skill for certification and release to the skills store.
Alexa Developer Perks
It is worth noting that Amazon have been offering a number of Alexa Developer Perks for those who publish a skill. This month the first 1000 developers in the UK who publish a skill will receive a free Echo Dot and a pair of cool Alexa developer socks!
I was very impressed with David Low’s talk on Alexa and look forward to playing about with Voice User Interfaces in the future. It is clear that voice user interfaces are a great new method of interacting with devices for a wide variety of different users. Creating a flash briefing skill is a very simple intro to Alexa and with the great developer perks Amazon are offering now is a great time to give skill development a go!