Amazon Alexa devices are ambient computers, not the kind you use all day. When you do ask your Echo a question or take a peek at the small screen of your Echo Show, the voice assistant only has a brief chance to impress. Today, Amazon is announcing that it’s going to give more of these opportunities to third-party developers, including all-new widgets and featured skill cards that could take up some of your smart speaker’s precious real estate space.
Here’s what to expect from those and everything the company is announcing today at its Alexa Live event.
As you can see in the Amazon mockup above, widgets look pretty much as you might expect. In a blog post, Amazon describes them as “rich, customizable, easy-to-access, and automatically-updating skills content views” where you can check off items in a task list or activate functions in a task list. skill, without having to say “Alexa” first. It’s not yet clear how limited they are or if they could actually be a way to make a touchscreen app for an Echo Show.
Featured Skill Cards may be slightly controversial, depending on their usefulness. It promotes new Alexa skills on your home screen, even if you haven’t requested them. It’s not exactly an advertising service, said Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Amazon Alexa Skills. The edge, not something the developers will have to pay for. “It’s open to anyone to raise their hand and say they want to be a part of it,” he says, adding that you’ll see personalized results based on other signals you send to Alexa. One of the first skill cards featured will be Comedy Central, and Rubenson says he might just see it because he already listens to comedy in his Alexa Flash Briefing every morning.
But even if you don’t have an Echo device with a display, other Alexa skills might be suggested to you soon. Amazon says it is expanding its unnamed interaction toolkit to allow skills to be promoted when you say phrases like “Alexa, how did the Nasdaq behave today?” ”
“We let the developers raise their hands and say, ‘My skills can handle this demand,’ says Rubenson. And if you agree to use the skills suggested by Amazon, Alexa can forward your request instead of having you repeat it.
While Amazon was the only one that previously profited from physical goods sold through Alexa, the company will now let Alexa skill developers sell products according to their skills also with Alexa buy actions and also get a 10% affiliate marketing commission from Amazon. As expected, you can only sell products listed on Amazon.com, although they don’t need to be your some products. (Rubenson couldn’t say if Amazon would allow skills that are actually just stores.) Amazon is also introducing paid skills, so don’t be surprised if you have to pay before using your next Alexa app instead of using an in-app purchase afterwards.
While Amazon still doesn’t seem to have drawn rivals Apple, Google and Samsung to its voice interoperability initiative, it has news on this front as well. Rubenson says Samsung will have a fridge with Bixby and Alexa “working side-by-side,” and the company’s personalized Alexa assistant (which allows brands to create their own Alexa-powered assistant) will appear in a Verizon smart display where Alexa can. manage standard Alexa. tasks while the new Verizon Assistant can handle requests such as checking your wireless bill. Rubenson says they can pass requests to each other as well.
In addition to those highlights, here’s a quick bulleted list of other Alexa updates that caught my eye:
- Food skills API for “high quality food delivery and pickup experiences”. Domino’s Pizza will use it at some point; here is an example :
- Send to phone where “customers can start an experience on their Alexa-enabled device and continue on their mobile phone”. McDonald’s UK, Twitter, Husqvarna, Iberia Airlines, Cookpad and Lysol will connect their mobile apps to Alexa skills.
- Event-based triggers and proactive suggestions: “For example, if a client is coming to work, clients may choose to ask a skill to proactively suggest that they lock their house.” Whole Foods will launch a “curbside pickup experience” later this year.
- Find my opens up the “Alexa, Find my” command to more businesses with Tile-like device trackers, with Samsung and Remote + arriving later this year.
- Getting to know the Alexa device will be able to discover new categories of devices such as printers and smart TVs.
- Alexa entities Now allows any skill developer to access Alexa’s knowledge graph for general answers.
Note that this is not the whole list: there are even more in the full Amazon blog post. Additionally, Amazon is announcing today that nearly all Echo smart speakers will support Matter, an ambitious new open standard for smart home devices.
The new features are all arriving today as part of the company’s Alexa Live developer conference, where it is looking to attract the next generation of programmers to develop their voice assistant skills. Amazon says it now has 900,000 registered developers and 130,000 skills (up from 750,000 developers a year ago and 100,000 skills in September 2019), and Rubenson tells us that developer revenues have doubled every year, some developers skills earning over a million dollars a year.
Update, 1:04 p.m. ET: Adding a link to Amazon full blog post, and some embedded videos.