What Can Alexa Skills Do?
The Alexa Voice Assistant opens up great possibilities for developers. Here is a quick reference guide of what custom Alexa skills can do.
The Amazon Echo, powered by the Alexa Voice Assistant, opens up so many great possibilities for developers and content creators. It’s obvious the first time people try it just how powerful and accessible it is. And it’s easy to imagine so many creative ways to take advantage of the platform. But there are subtleties and tricks to building for Alexa, and mastering them can be the difference between a great skill and a mediocre one. To help you become an Alexa ninja, here is our handy quick reference of just what the custom Alexa skills can do.
Quick Reference CardBelow, we summarize what Alexa skills can do depending on which state they are in:
|How To Interact||“Alexa, enable My Skill”||Wait For The Prompt And Respond Built-in Intents||“Alexa, open My Skill” “Alexa, tell My Skill to Play”||“Alexa, open My Skill” “Alexa, tell My Skill to Play” Built-in Intents|
|Time To Respond||N/A||~5.5 seconds||N/A||N/A|
|Number Of Reprompts||N/A||1||N/A||N/A|
|Supports Text to Speech (TTS)||N/A||Yes||N/A||No|
|Playback Duration||N/A||90 seconds||N/A||Unlimited|
|External Audio Format||N/A||MP3 (via SSML) HTTPS required||N/A||MP3, M4A, HLS , PLS, M3U HTTPS required|
|External Audio Quality||N/A||16khz, 48kbps||N/A||16kbps – 384kbps|
|Supports Built-in Intents||No||Yes||No||Yes|
Alexa Skill StatesWhat follows is a detailed description of each of the states and capabilities.
Disabled StateIf people are going to use your skill, they need to first enable it. This can be done via the Alexa app or website. For example, here is the Rise Above skill. Or by voice, by speaking to your Echo device like so:
Alexa, enable My SkillOnce enabled, users can begin to interact with it. They just say:
Alexa, open My Skill
In-Session StateIn-session means that someone has opened up your skill. Two types of content can be presented to the user:
- Alexa Text-To-Speech (TTS)
- Short-form audio content
Out-Of-Session StateWhen your skill is out of session, a user needs to re-open it to interact with it. They can do this (obviously) by simply saying:
Alexa, open My SkillOr they can jump into a particular part of your skill by saying:
Alexa, tell My Skill to tell a joke
Playing Audio StateThe AudioPlayer allows playback of long-form audio. The long-form audio can be high-quality (up to 384 kbps) and be a stream or fixed-length content. This is how to playback music, podcasts or other content that is longer than the 90-second window provided when in-session. However, this power comes with some constraints:
- The user cannot be prompted during long-form audio playback – i.e., you can’t ask them a question and wait for a response
- The Alexa voice cannot be used for Text-To-Speech, except upfront before the long-form audio begins playing
SummaryWe hope this is a super-helpful summary of the Alexa’s capabilities. And we did not even touch on Smart Home Skills or Flash Briefing Skills – they provide more tailored APIs for specific purposes. Don’t forget about them! Our goal at Bespoken is to make Alexa development as easy as possible, so if you have questions or comments, talk to us on Gitter. And stay updated through GitHub
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