Amazon has announced skill connections for Alexa, a new function that allows for developers to use features supplied by other services and apps, according to a report by VentureBeat.
The new functionality is available in the Alexa Skills Kit in every region that Alexa can be found.
“A skill connection lets you invoke a specific task provided by another skill from within your own skill so you can offload common tasks to outside providers while retaining control over your customer experience. Skill connections are available today for printing, booking a restaurant table, or arranging transportation,” Amazon said in a blog post. “Previously, you built every function within an individual skill. Now, skill connections let you request other skills to perform simple tasks that expand you own skill’s abilities. Adding a printing skill connection to your gaming skill, for example, lets your customer print the game’s all-time leaderboard. If your skill relates to dining, add a skill connection to help your customer book a table.”
One of the first companies to take advantage of skill connections was Allrecipes, which harnesses the HP skill to print them out.
“Adding printing capability enhances our skill’s overall experience for customers,” said Meredith Digital VP of innovation Corbin de Rubertis. “Now home cooks can easily print the recipes they want using the Allrecipes skill on Alexa, all within the same conversation.”
The tasks available are print image, Print PDF, Print Web page, schedule taxi reservation and schedule food establishment reservation.
There are two types of skill connections. Skills that offload tasks are called requesters. Skill connections will auto-identify context when someone makes a request. For example, if someone asks about an appointment or an address, it will be routed to the correct skill without needing any sort of additional direction, unless it’s a target skill that hasn’t been used before, in which case Alexa will ask for it to be enabled.
Skills that do tasks for other skills are called providers. The provider library right now includes printers like HP, Canon and Epson; ride-hailing app Uber; and OpenTable to make a reservation at a restaurant.
A developer can create a requester by putting in the required handlers and then publishing it in the Alexa Skill store again. They can create a provider by updating a skill’s manifest and implementing the handler prior to submitting the skill through the required certification process.