Alexa Skills Kit March Update Roundup: Alexa for Business Blueprints, Versioning, Alexa Auto Detection and more…


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Last month Amazon launched several new updates to its Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), including Alexa for Business Blueprints, the introduction of versioning, the ability to tell if a skill is being used in a car, and more. This post is meant to serve as a roundup of the most important ASK March updates, read on for more.

Alexa for Business Blueprints

Alexa Skill Blueprints now offers two Business skill blueprints for Alexa for Business customers to create and publish private skills to their organizations. The Business Q&A Blueprint allows users to create their own set of questions and answers pertinent to their organization or business. For example, a user could ask, “Alexa, what are the hours for IT?”. The OnBoard Guide Blueprint helps new employees become familiar with their organization and its best practices. For example, a user could ask, “Alexa, how do I submit an expense report?” and have Alexa respond with the appropriate steps. The blueprints became available in late March.

Alexa Can Reserve Meeting Rooms

The Alexa Skills Kit now offers a Meetings Skill Type which makes it easier to create a voice-enabled room-booking service. Users can leverage a pre-built voice user interface (VUI) and set of intents from Alexa for Business to implement voice meeting room bookings. With this implemented, skill users will be able to ask Alexa to find and reserve meeting rooms throughout their office by saying things like “Alexa, find me a room at 2 pm for half an hour,” “Alexa, who booked this room?” or “Alexa, book the room for an hour.” The Room Booking API is available to U.S. users. Here is the technical documentation.

Versioning Makes Skill Building More Efficient

Developers using the Alexa Skills Kit Command Line Interface or Skill Manager API can now automatically preserve a version of the interaction model on each successful build. Being able to look at different versions of the interaction model will allow developers to evaluate the performance of different models. Users will also be able to submit a particular version for skill certification. Here is the technical documentation.

Detect When Your Skill is Being Used in an Alexa Auto Vehicle

Users will now be able to detect when their skill is being used from an Alexa Auto vehicle or device. This will allow developers to make the experience of a skill much more contextual. The feature is available globally, and Amazon has dedicated a blog post to explain how to use this feature, and the technical documentation can be found here. Alexa Auto began shipping mid-March to Amazon’s invite-only customers.

New Slot Values Can Be Uploaded at Any Point Within a Skill Session

Amazon has also added new dynamic entities capability that allows users to upload new slot values at any point within a skill session. This will allow developers to personalize their skills by providing new context and responses as conversations progress. The updated slot values will also help Alexa’s speech recognition, natural language understanding, and entity resolution accuracy. Here is the technical documentation.

These updates to the Alexa Skills Kit are indicative of Amazon’s continuous pursuit to maintain their smart speaker market share. Making it easy for users to develop content for Alexa, and continuing to provide updates and documentation point to their dedication and continued interest.

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