Amazon Takes ASK CLI Open-Source

Amazon has turned its proprietary Alexa Skills Kit Command Line Interface (ASK CLI) into an open-source tool kit. People can examine the source code on GitHub and come up with new ideas and ways to improve its functionality.

Collaborative Skill-Building

ASK CLI was created by Amazon as a way to create and manage Alexa skills for professional programmers. Developers can use it to build, test, and update skills before sending to Amazon for approval and publishing. Previously programmers could use the tool, but couldn’t alter the way it worked. With the move to GitHub, people can now examine how the toolset functions and add in new features or ideas to make it better. The open-source form of CLI is currently in beta. Along with the open-source beta, Amazon added a way to speed up publishing skills with its new AWS CloudFormation.

“In addition to many under-the-hood improvements, the new ASK CLI now makes it easier than ever for you to manage and deploy your skill’s infrastructure using AWS CloudFormation,” Amazon said in its blog. “With CloudFormation, you can define and deploy your skill with just a single file, enabling you to easily version, share, and scale your infrastructure as code.”

Easy Alexa Development

Amazon has continually explored several ways to make Alexa Skill building easier and to expand the community of developers. The company has made it very clear that it wants everyone to build Alexa skills, regardless of technical training. At VOICE19 earlier this summer, the company announced Skill Flow Builder as a tool for non-technical developers to build skills. Centered on game developers, Skill Flow Builder offers the potential to build a much broader range of skills to anyone looking to create something for Alexa. It uses a visual flow editor rather than the command line system of ASK CLI to make it simpler for designers, writers, and developers to collaborate, but the principle applies to the open-source version of ASK CLI.

Amazon’s efforts to grow the Alexa developer community have paid off in some ways already. A recent Voicebot survey of voice industry professional found that Alexa easily outranked other voice development platforms when it comes to user experience features, and developer tools. Skill Flow Builder and the open-source ASK CLI represent two different but related approaches by Amazon to further cultivate the voice developer community.


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