Amazon aims to breathe new life into Alexa with release of developer tools and features – TechCrunch



Amazon is giving its voice platform Alexa a boost after seeing a further decline in skill growth over the past year, indicating late interest from third-party voice app developers. At the company’s Alexa Live developer event today, the company announced a slew of new features and tools for the developer community – its biggest release of new tools to date, in fact. New releases include those that encourage owners of Alexa devices to learn about and use Alexa Skills, new tools to make money through Skills, and other updates that will push customers to re-onboard. Alexa in their daily routine.

The retailer’s hopes for Alexa as a voice-shopping platform may not have come to fruition as it had hoped, as only a small number of Alexa customers have actually made purchases from via smart speakers. However, Alexa’s largest footprint and developer community remains quite large, Amazon said today, noting that there are “millions” of Alexa devices used “billions of times” every week, and over 900,000 registered developers who have posted over 130,000 Alexa skills.

Yet Amazon has yet to solve the challenge of helping customers find and discover the skills they want to use, which has always been difficult on voice-only devices. This has improved somewhat with the launch of Alexa devices with displays, such as the Alexa Show, which offers a visual component.

But for the most part, owners of Alexa devices continue to use its most basic functions – controlling the smart home, playing music, setting alarms and reminders, creating lists, and other simple queries. It has yet to produce what would be considered, by most, a “successful” voice application.

Image credits: Amazon

In an attempt to solve this problem with more features, Amazon says it will introduce a way for developers to create widgets for their skills that customers can then add to their Echo Show or other Alexa device with a screen later. This year. Developers will also be able to create featured skill cards to promote their skills in the home screen rotation.

In other words, Amazon’s solution is to make Alexa more of a mobile device in terms of app discovery. While this might be useful for those who have Alexa devices with displays, it doesn’t bode well for Alexa’s future as a voice-only platform.

Meanwhile, for voice-only devices, developers will now be able to have their skills hinted at when Alexa responds to common requests, such as “Alexa, tell me a story”, “Alexa, let’s play a game” or “Alexa. , I need a workout ”, among others. And Alexa will begin offering personalized skill suggestions based on customers’ use of similar skills, while new ‘contextual discovery’ mechanisms will allow customers to use natural language and phrases to complete tasks in all areas. skills. Of course, Amazon has tried other ways of suggesting skills in the past, but those impacts have been negligible on the entire skills ecosystem. (Some efforts even annoyed users.)

Amazon has also said it is expanding the ways in which developers can be paid for their skills.

Already, it offers tools like consumables, paid subscriptions and skills purchases. Now it will add support for Paid Skills, a new skill purchase that allows customers to pay a one-time fee to access content provided by a skill. It will also now extend skills procurement to India and Canada.

So far, skills purchases have yet to generate significant income. A 2019 report found that Alexa Skills revenue in the first 10 months of the year was only $ 1.4 million, well below the $ 5.5 million target of Amazon. It is not certain that another way of making a purchase will change this trend.

Amazon didn’t say how much its developers were making, instead, saying only that developer revenue from skills purchases had “more than doubled” year over year.

Amazon will now try to leverage the developer community to drive sales on its retail site as well.

With the new “Shopping Actions” developers can sell Amazon products according to their skills. For example, a role-playing game might suggest that customers buy the tabletop version, like the sci-fi game Starfinder does. Developers can now also earn affiliate income on their product referrals.

Music and media skill developers will be able to use new tools for more entertaining experiences, like a song request skill that DJs can use to take song requests through Alexa, which iHeartRadio will adopt. Others will shorten the time it takes for radio, podcast and music providers to launch interactive experiences.

Other new features aim to make skills more practical and useful.

Image credits: Amazon

For example, restaurants will have access to a Food Skill API that will allow them to create pickup and delivery ordering experiences. A new “Send to Phone” feature will allow developers to connect their skills to mobile devices, and new event-based triggers and proactive suggestions will enable new experiences, such as a skill that reminds users to lock their homes when leave. Amazon-owned Whole Foods will use those features for a curbside pickup experience that will arrive later this year, the company said.

Support for Alexa replenishment, which allows customers to re-order common household items such as laundry detergent or batteries, will also extend to aftermarket parts to better link to other types of devices. household and smart home. Thermostat makers Carrier and Resideo will use it to replenish air filters and Bissell will use it with their vacuums.

Menahile, makers of security devices – like smoke, carbon monoxide and water leak detectors – will be able to connect to Alexa’s security system, Alexa Guard to send notifications to mobile devices.

Amazon is also introducing a set of new tools that make it easier for developers to build skills, including the ability to use Alexa Entities, which is basically Amazon’s own general knowledge set, similar to Wikipedia. They will also have access to new tools to help them with personalized pronunciations as well as the natural language functionality of Alexa Conversations previously only in the United States (now in beta in Germany, preview for developers in Japan and live from all English languages). A longer list of tools focuses on regional extensions of existing toolkits (i.e. AVS, ACK) and others that allow better interoperability with smart home devices – such as those that enable smart home devices. unique wake-up words, among others.



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