Amazon just made the Echo’s voice-activated assistant, Alexa, a little more developer-friendly.
The eCommerce giant has rolled out an improvement to the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to include new features for the technology, including the ability to tailor Alexa’s volume, how it plays back media, set timers, etc. The features will also be available for Alexa’s other products, which includes the Fire TV.
What this means is that developers can use AVS to add Alexa’s services into their own devices, such as speakers or vending machines. Or, as the case with a Scout alarm, Alexa will be integrated into a home security system. Amazon initially gave developers a preview of this last year, but now, Amazon has announced that it was going through “architectural improvements that include updated APIs and message structures,” along with more Alexa app support.
Here are some of the new features, according to Amazon:
- Volume Control: Ability to adjust and mute/unmute volume on your product using voice or buttons.
- Media Control: Ability to control media playback (e.g., play/pause) on your product using voice or buttons.
- Timers and Alarms: Ability to create and manage timers/alarms on your product using voice.
- Amazon Alexa App Enhancements: Control volume, media playback (e.g., Amazon Music, Audible), as well as manage timers/alarms on your product using the Amazon Alexa App.
Prior to these upgrades, AVS enabled functions such as playing music, forecasting weather, providing local news, giving traffic updates and asking questions. And, by using the Alexa Skills Kit, developers had the power to access third-party skills in their own Alexa-enabled products.
In other related news for Alexa, as part of the PYMNTS.com Alexa Challenge, 12 innovative companies will have the chance to be invited into the Alexa ecosystem but also mentored by Alexa Head of Developer Marketing Paul Cutsinger and PYMNTS.com CEO Karen Webster over a four-week period.
Starting April 27, these innovators will have 30 days to create a skill under the helpful eyes of Cutsinger and Webster. These 12 lucky companies will have the chance to take their voice-activated ambitions to the edge — eliminating a friction, unlocking a massive store of value under the careful tutelage of Cutsinger and Webster.
Perfected Alexa skills will be submitted on May 25 and debuted during a Digital Discussion Webinar on June 1. The winner will be announced June 15 after PYMNTS’ audience has weighed in with their votes. Following their debut, the PYMNTS community will vote for which one they believe best fulfills the Alexa mission: to demonstrate a unique and novel application of voice technology that adds value to consumers and businesses.