Image credit: Amazon Blueprints
“Alexa, who is the absolute worst cook in this family?”
Yes, that’s something you can now program your Amazon Echo to answer using the recently released Alexa Skill Blueprints.
Many companies have already been using Alexa Skills to create personalized AI abilities for their products, but now, the average user has the power to make Alexa say (almost) anything. From answering specific questions to creating trivia games, there’s an ever-expanding world of possibilities.
If you’ve heard about this but still a little hazy on the details, here’s what you need to know about this blueprint release.
What are Alexa Skill Blueprints?
The Alexa Skill Blueprints are essentially a collection of templates where anyone can fill in the blanks and create their very own skills or responses. Steve Rabuchin, Vice President of Amazon Alexa had this to say about it,
“You don’t need experience building skills or coding to get started—my family created our own jokes skill in a matter of minutes, and it’s been a blast to interact with Alexa in a totally new and personal way.”
No coding needed, you say? It’s officially open season on innocent family and friends living around newly personalized Echos. But on a more serious note (barely), there are plenty of useful ways to channel this new power aside from making Alexa tell a dad joke.
What can you do with the Alexa Skill Blueprints?
When entering the Blueprints homepage, you’ll be greeted with a screen like this:
You can get the gist of what can be done pretty quickly, but here’s a rundown of the most popular uses:
Personalized responses and jokes: From inspirational quotes and compliments to family jokes and burns, you can now create a Skill that anyone can access just to get a fun response in a slightly robotic voice. But the personalized responses feature has a much more sober use in assisting houseguests and sitters with what they should do and where they can find things. Now that’s something parents and even Airbnb hosts can get on board with.
Trivia and custom Q&A: For entertainment purposes, you can create a Skill that asks trivia questions as your latest party trick. But this can also be used for educational purposes, where quizzes and flashcards can be created to help students prepare for exams. The custom Q&A blueprint allows you to specify responses to your own questions (cue Alexa saying you’re the greatest chef in the world.)
Storytelling for kids: For the busy parents who can’t make it home in time to tell their kids a bedtime story (or simply can’t be bothered), you can create an Alexa Skill for story time or even type out a tale of your own creation and add sound effects for Alexa to narrate.
What can’t you do?
So far, you can’t make Alexa swear. (Trust us, we tried.) And there is only so much you can personalize considering you’re given a template where you just fill in the blanks. Also, the language for all your personalized Skills is currently limited to US English. But that will likely change over the next few years as the Echo expands into more countries.
As of now, there are 21 different Blueprints available. A list which can only grow, probably faster than we can even keep up. Although Amazon has already set the board by releasing these blueprints in the first place. The codeless ability for personalization is something Google, Microsoft, and Apple have yet to offer for their voice devices. The Echo will be widely embraced now more than ever, simply because Amazon knows just how much we humans love to personalize things.
If you’re interested in getting more involved with Alexa and personalized voice technology, you’ll love what David Isbitski, Chief Technical Evangelist at Amazon has to say about it at VOICE. Plus, there will be workshops where you can learn how to code and design for voice so you can do a whole lot more than use blueprints to make Alexa roast your family.