Amazon announced 31 new features for its Alexa voice platform, aiming to help developers increase usage and engagement of their voice-enabled apps and experiences.
The new capabilities, unveiled Wednesday at Amazon’s Alexa Live event, come as Alexa usage has spiked during the pandemic with people spending more time at home. Engagement with Alexa skills has nearly doubled over the last year.
“With these new features, you can create natural and conversational experiences that allow customers to interact with your skill in an unconstrained way, while freeing you to focus on the highest value parts of your experience,” Amazon wrote in a blog post.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the Alexa Skills Kit features:
- Amazon says it is adopting deep neural networks to improve Alexa’s natural language understanding of individual words and sentences. It is applying deep learning for Alexa Conversations, a new dialogue manager that aims to make it easier for developers to design voice apps without worrying about specific command phrases or the order.
- APL for Audio offers a faster way to mix speech, sound effects, music, and other audio.
- Web API for Games helps developers build voice-controlled gaming experiences for the Echo Show and some Fire TV devices.
- Skill Resumption lets customers return to a skill after doing another task or a long pause. It enables Uber’s voice app, for example, to let a user know their car has arrived after booking a ride.
- Alexa for Apps makes it easier for developers to “deep link” mobile customers via an app or website. For example, customers can soon ask, “Alexa, ask TikTok to start my recording,” or, “Alexa, ask Twitter to search for #AlexaLive,” and the content will show up on their phone.
- Discoverability can be a roadblock for voice developers, so Amazon is rolling out Quick Links for Alexa, which adds a link from a mobile app, website, or online ad that launches a voice skill. Amazon also added the name-free interactions toolkit, which lets developers add five suggested launch phrases or “signals” that can surface a given skill.
Amazon still leads the voice industry but Google and Sonos are cutting into its market share, according to January data from Voicebot.
Amazon earlier this month added hands-free activation to its Alexa apps for iOS and Android, giving users the option to say “Alexa” aloud rather than pressing the button inside the app before giving the voice assistant a command or asking a question.
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