Amazon Technology

Alexa Can Now Make Third-Party Skills Suggestions

Amazon just took a major step toward improving the accessibility of Alexa, the voice-based assistant found in Echo, by integrating its AI capabilities in the browser.

Amazon recently launched a new feature that allows Alexa to offer suggestions of third-party skills in response to questions she cannot answer.

In the past, Alexa would simply say she couldn’t help you (or respond with “Hmmm. I don’t know that.”) when asked a question to which she didn’t know the answer. And if you wanted to find a specific skill, you’d have to browse through the Alexa Skill Store on the web or in the Amazon Alexa companion app.

But now, according to news from TechCrunch, if you ask Alexa to do something that she’s not capable of, the virtual assistant will suggest a skill that can do it instead.

While Amazon has confirmed the new functionality in the Echo, the feature hasn’t widely launched in terms of supported skills or Alexa’s customer base.

“Currently, in limited scenarios, Alexa will respond to certain questions by suggesting skills that may be helpful,” said an Amazon spokesperson. “We are excited for this feature to expand and to roll out to more customers over time to help them discover new skills and get information through Alexa.”

Voicebot.ai first noticed the new feature when asking Alexa about a stock price. Alexa responded, “I don’t know that. Maybe the skill Stock Prices by Opening Bell can help. Do you want to try it?” In a separate instance, the virtual assistant recommended the voice app Fifty-Two Week Low for further information.

E-Marketer has predicted that Alexa, and thus the Amazon Echo, would hold 70 percent of the voice-controlled speaker market this year. And it already has far more skills available compared with rivals — over 15,000 as of this July. But many of these are unused, because consumers don’t know they exist or because they’re poor quality.

Amazon also announced new developer tools today — the Alexa Skill Management API (SMAPI) and the Alexa Skills Kit Command-line Interface (ASK CLI) — which will make Alexa Skill management easier for developers accustomed to working in a command-line interface.

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