Smart home, smart speakers, smart Amazon… PAT PILCHER gets to grips with installable templates that create new, personalised “skills” for Alexa, Amazon’s voice control technology.
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Alexa Skill Blueprints
Witchdoctor rating: 10/10
Amazon’s smart speakers have gone down a treat with Kiwis, and with good reason. For a start, they’re easy to get. While Google bizarrely decided the New Zealand market wasn’t worth the effort, Amazon got stuck in, and now it is possible to pick up an Echo smart speaker almost anywhere.
Even more importantly, Amazon has a considerable lead in the smart home space, with most smart widgets being Echo-compatible.
Last, but by no means least, is Amazon’s master-stroke: skills.
These are the installable smarts that let you add all sorts of nifty capabilities to Alexa, from finding out how many Air NZ air-points I have (bugger-all, sadly), through to changing the channel on my TV. The ever-expanding ecosystem of skills makes the echo incredibly versatile.
Now Amazon is widening their lead even further by opening up Alexa’s skills to anyone, and it’s brilliant.
This comes courtesy of what Amazon have branded “Alexa Skill Blueprints”. You don’t need to know a thing about coding, as it consists of a series of near idiot-proof fill-in-the-blank templates. Creating a skill takes minutes. Alexa has launched 20 Skill Blueprints covering a vast range of things like house instructions, and even dad jokes or interactive adventure stories that you can personalise.
Testing Alexa Blueprints saw it work seamlessly. Firing up my browser, I headed to https://blueprints.amazon.com.au/home and logged in using my Alexa credentials.
I was heading away for the weekend and wanted the house sitters to know a bunch of useful stuff (like where the TV remote was).
After creating the skill, I left a note with a bunch of suggested Alexa phrases for the house sitters to play with. Total setup time: 10 minutes.
Amazon has started with templates for house sitters, babysitters, stories, compliments and interactive adventures. Given how well Blueprints has been received, it is fair to assume that they’ll be building out additional Alexa Blueprint templates.
Amazon is to be commended for their strategic thinking. As they add even more Blueprint templates, the personalised skills will make Alexa an increasingly indispensable part of most households. When business-specific Blueprints are added, the sheer volume of businesses developing Echo skills could explode, and this could make Alexa even more useful.
In short, the ease of customising of the Echo and its sheer personalisation could give Amazon a big lead in the smart speaker market that their competitors are likely to struggle to match.