Amazon Releases Developer Tools to Connect Smart Toys and Gadgets to Alexa
Amazon has launched a new way for developers to integrate its Alexa voice assistant into a broad range of smart devices. The new Custom Interfaces feature of the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit will allow Alexa to power new interactions with devices far removed from standard smart speakers and televisions.
Alexa in the Toybox
The new feature is aimed at making it simple for developers to apply Alexa to their products. Alexa can be a scorekeeper for a toy basketball net, a teacher for a smart keyboard, a Sudoku puzzle maker, and even a drone autopilot executing maneuvers by voice command.
According to the blog post announcing the new feature, people have bought more than 100 million devices that can use the Alexa voice assistant. A large chunk of that is Echos and other smart speakers and displays, but plenty of tools, toys, and gadgets have taken built Alexa skills for their creations as well. Amazon clearly sees the Custom Interface feature as a way to speed up and streamline connecting devices to Alexa, with direct communication, voice interaction templates, and tools that are supposed to be able to adapt to whatever the product might be.
The toy aspect, in particular, stands out. Amazon is running a private beta specifically for developers working on games and toys for young children, such as interactive teddy bears and building blocks. Amazon has been facing complaints and legal action over Alexa’s interaction with children recently but, while the company is not giving up on that customer base, the announcement explicitly says that any device using Alexa that caters to kids must set them to require parental permission to unlock.
New Ways to Monetize with Alexa
A key element of the new feature is that the interactive experience available to developers can include premium elements that can be purchased. Monetization is a growing part of Alexa’s value to Amazon and its developer community, expanding since 2017 and the subscription for the Jeopardy! game skill. Now, plenty of Alexa skills include extra content and bonuses for people willing to pay. Amazon has made it easier for developers as well, creating a tool to integrate monetization directly into the skill software.
Developers take a 70 percent cut of in-skill sales and have the ability to add or remove new products from their virtual store. Paying for lessons on the smart keyboard, or new analytics from a smart pet toy is a logical extension, and one that could net significant profits for both developers and Amazon. For Amazon’s larger strategy of integrating Alexa into as many places and devices as possible, improving how developers bring Alexa to their creations could encourage even more interaction with the voice assistant.