Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Getting started with Alexa 2021 for Developers

It is not too late to get started coding for Alexa - making Alexa skills. Let's get started! updated December 2021. 


Alexa design : Why Voice Design Matters: We Don’t Speak the Way We Write (2018)
  • Workflow: Build Test Launch and Measure
  • Use the Alexa Developer Console
  • Start with a custom skill or Flash Briefing or Smart Home or Video skill
  • Invocation name that is unique for your Alexa app
  • Build an interaction model voice user interface (VUI)VUI (specific to voice apps)
  • Need to provide examples, sample utterance
Wake word wakes up Alexa, for example "Alex, reminder me to ..." Alexa is the wake word.


  • How user interacts with Alexa? How does it work Source 1 (also see above image from source 5)
  • Innovation name is used often, succinct and unique is good
  • Intent is what your skill app can do
  • Utterances is how or the language that users expresses to your skill the right intent
  • Slot accept inputs from users
  • Connect other APIs use interfaces
  • JSON editor. You can use the visual console to enter intents and utterances or you can write JSON code.
  • Specify end point where the code will live. End point receives request. "where the custom logic will live". Not the interaction model. 
Source 6

User Alexa Interactions

  • The user says the wake word, Alexa.
  • Alexa hears the wake word and listens.
  • The Alexa service uses the interaction model to figure where to route the request.
  • A JSON request is sent to the skill's lambda function.
  • The lambda function inspects the JSON request.
  • The lambda function determines how to respond.
  • The lambda function sends a JSON response to the Alexa service.
  • The Alexa service receives the JSON response and converts the output text to an audio file.
  • The Alexa-enabled device receives and plays the audio.
Direct quote from Source 5

Free Alexa Developer Training Course

Use this full end-to-end training course from Amazon Source 5

Best practice

  • Welcome prompt is important. Provide important information.
  • Avoid jargons - difficult or professional words that are hard for users to recall, use or understand. See what I did there? Avoided jargons. 
  • Use conversations that are natural. Ironically, you should even test if your conversation models are natural. Does it understand common utterances - things users say or use? Is it what the users expect?
  • One breath test: dialogs should be finished in one breath
  • Read out loud to test the dialog scripts
  • Can use Alexa simulator to test. 
  • Recommend testing and get user feedback before submitting for certification
  • Take pauses 
text here <break time="600ms"/> more text here

More best practices source 7

Create Alexa Skills with Blueprint

Blueprint is the no-code way to get started building with Alexa. Minimum coding skills required! It's possible to non-engineers to build a common pattern alexa app quickly using Alexa Blueprint!

Example Flash Briefing Blueprint Source 12

Create Alexa Skills with APIs

Some available APIs.

Create Alexa without code

Alexa for Gaming

Read the document or join a hackathon to learn more.


    • The backend is usually a lambda function and is interacted via a lambda endpoint
    • A simple storage service (S3) is provisioned if hosted on AWS

    Other resources

    • Amazon often hosts Build Your First Alexa Skill in 1 Hour Webinars
    • Udacity Natural Language Processing nanodegree (NLP) for deep learning and machine learning teaches Alexa and IBM Watson skills.
    • Twilio Autopilot can build smart language interaction models based on sample utterances, and outputs JSON files that can integrate with Alexa.
    • Shark Tank Mark Cuban talks about how he uses Alexa and why developers should develop for Alexa. Source 8
    • Amazon Pay in Alexa example Blu ai Source 9
    • Alexa Skills Kit Developer Console Source Source 11
    • Alexa for Business allows businesses to host private skills within the organization Source 13
    • You can write Alexa backend in either Node.js or Python
    • Alexa can speak other languages such as English, Japanese, Spanish, Italian etc. Unfortunately it cannot speak Chinese right now. Source 14
    • Alexa is on many IoT devices including driving speakers, and Facebook Portal photo frame and video call. 


    Can brand with a sound or a familiar tune. 


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    8 -
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    10 - Best practices
    11 -
    12 - Flash Briefing
    13 -
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