Amazon’s Echo, Dot and Tap smart speakers have started to attract the attention of developers interested in adding so-called skills to Alexa, the speakers’ voice-computing platform. Amazon reports that Alexa now has 1,000 skills, an explosion since Alexa’s skills numbered 130 apps in January. Echo debuted last June, when Amazon offered it by invite; now Amazon has brought Alexa to its Fire TV platform and third party hardware manufacturers have also brought Alexa to other connected devices.
TechCrunch enumerates some of the more outstanding new skills that developers have built using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK): banker Capital One provides voice-access to banking information; Domino’s Pizza uses it for a hands-free way to order and track pizza; connected health/fitness device manufacturer Fitbit offers voice access to health and fitness stats. Leading travel search engine Kayak uses ASK to let customers access travel plans via voice.
An open platform for the smart home, SmartThings uses Alexa and the Smart Home Skill API to create voice-activated home controls for customers. Uber’s use of Alexa is to “let customers order a ride without using a device.”
According to Amazon Alexa director Rob Pulciani, the third-party developer community now numbers into the “tens of thousands.”
“That implies significant interest in at least toying around with Alexa, even if not all developers are actually launching apps,” notes TechCrunch.
“Developers who want to build for the platform use the Alexa Skills Kit to allow their voice-powered apps to work with Alexa, who hears and understands the customer’s request, resolves it, and maps it the developer’s endpoint,” says Pulciani, who notes that Amazon also improved Alexa Voice Services, which allows developers to add its voice control to third party devices.
Amazon also introduced four new ASK “built-in intents” so that third-party app developers can more easily allow navigation to the next item in a list, pause an action in-progress, go back to a previous item, or resume an action. One problem has arisen now that developers have 1,000 skills to choose from: discovery. Search apparently does not work well, nor are there other tools for finding the right skills easily.