Amazon gave the Alexa voice platform on its arm after seeing a decline in skills upgrades over the past year, showing a lagging interest from third -party voice app developers. At the company’s Alexa Live developer event today, the company announced many new features and tools for the developer community – in fact its biggest new gadget to date. Among the new releases are those that encourage Alexa device owners to discover and engage with Alexa skills, new tools for monetizing skills and other updates that will encourage customers to make Alexa more part of their daily routine.
Retailers ’hopes for Alexa as a voice shopping platform may not be as lost as expected, as only a large number of Alexa customers make Amazon.com purchases through smart speakers. However, Alexa’s footprint and the larger developer community remains quite large, Amazon said today, noting there are “millions” of Alexa devices used “billions of times” each week, and more than 900,000 registered developers who have published more than 130,000 Alexa skills.
Still, Amazon hasn’t solved the challenge of helping customers find and discover the skills they want to use – something that has historically been difficult on voice -only devices. That’s improved with the launch of Alexa devices with screens, like the Alexa Show, that offer a visual component.
But for the most part, Alexa device owners continue to use its most basic functions – smart home controls, play music, set alarms and reminders, create lists and other simple queries. It has yet to produce what is considered, by most, a “hit escape” sound app.
In an effort to address this issue with more features, Amazon says it will introduce a way for developers to create Widgets for their skills, which customers can then add to Echo Show or other Alexa devices with screens later this year. Developers can also build Optional Skill Cards to promote their skills in the main screen rotation.
In other words, Amazon’s solution is to make Alexa more like a mobile device in terms of app discovery. While it may be useful for those with an Alexa device with a screen, that’s not a good sign for Alexa’s future as a voice -only platform.
Meanwhile, for voice -only devices, developers can now provide their skills when Alexa responds to general requests, such as “Alexa, tell a story,” “Alexa, let’s play a game,” or “Alexa, I need a workout,” among others. Alexa will begin providing personalized skill recommendations based on similar skill usage by customers, while a new “contextual discovery” mechanism will allow customers to use natural language and phrases to complete tasks across skills.Of course, Amazon has tried other ways to demonstrate skills before, but the impact cannot be ignored on the larger skills ecosystem. (Some efforts even annoy users.)
Amazon also says it is expanding the way developers get their skills.
Already, it offers tools like consumables, paid subscriptions and purchases in skills. Now, it will add support for Paid Skills, a purchase in new skills that allows customers to pay a one -time fee to access content provided by skills. It will also expand skills purchases to India and Canada.
So far, purchases in skills have not driven significant results. The 2019 report found that Alexa’s skills revenue in the first 10 months of the year was just $ 1.4 million, well below Amazon’s $ 5.5 million target. It is uncertain that another way to make a purchase will change that trend.
Amazon doesn’t discuss how much revenue its developers make, instead just saying that developer revenue from purchases in skills has “more than doubled” year -over -year.
Amazon will now be working to leverage the developer community to drive sales on its retail website as well.
With the new “Shopping Actions”, developers can sell Amazon products according to their ability. For example, role-playing games could suggest customers buy a table version, such as the sci-fi game Starfinder. Developers are also now able to earn combined revenue on their product referrals.
Developers of music and media skills will be able to use new tools for a more entertaining experience, such as Song Request Skills that DJs can use to retrieve song requests via Alexa, which will be adopted by iHeartRadio. Others will shorten the time it takes for Radio, Podcast and Music providers to roll out interactive experiences.
Other new features aim to make the skills more practical and useful.
For example, restaurants will gain access to the Food Skill API that will allow them to create an ordering and delivery experience. The new “Send to Phone” feature will allow developers to connect their skills with mobile devices, and new event -based triggers and proactive recommendations will enable new experiences – such as skills that remind users to lock their homes when they’re out. Amazon-owned Whole Foods will use these features for the roadside recruitment experience that arrives later this year, the company said.
Alexa recharging support, which allows customers to rearrange common household items such as laundry detergents or batteries, will also evolve into spare parts to better suit other types of household appliances and smart homes. Thermostat makers Carrier and Resideo will use it to refill air filters and Bissell will use it with its vacuum cleaner.
Meanwhile, makers of security devices – such as smoke detectors, carbon -monoxide and water leaks – will be able to connect Alexa’s security system, Alexa Guard, to send notifications to mobile devices.
Amazon also introduced a bunch of new tools that make creating skills easier for developers, including the ability to use Alexa Entities, which are essentially Amazon’s general knowledge set like Wikipedia. They’ll also get access to new tools to help with specific pronunciation, plus Alexa Conversations ’natural language feature that is only available in the US (currently in beta in Germany, developer previews in Japan and running all English). The longer list of tools focuses on the expansion of a range of existing tools (such as AVS, ACK), etc. that allow for better interoperability with smart home devices – such as allowing unique wake -up calls, among others.