Beyond Voice Alexa

Amazon’s Latest Alexa Developer Challenge Adds Visuals to Voice

Amazon and Devpost have opened a new Alexa Skills Challenge to encourage developers to think about non-audio dimensions for their apps. The Alexa Skills Challenge: Beyond Voice is offering a total of $97,000 in prizes to those who design the best Alexa skills with visuals, movement, motion-sensing, and other elements using the new developer tools like Alexa Web API for Games and the Alexa Presentation Language (APL).

Multisensory Alexa

The contest is open to any developer who wants to build or update an Alexa skill with non-audio elements. The deadline to submit is November 17, with 10 finalists announced on December 18 and the winners declared on Jan. 20 next year. The judges will pick a grand prize winner, who will receive $20,000, while finalists win $5,000. There will also be $2,000 category prizes given out for the best skills in subjects like food and drink, education, health, and skills for kids. Also, 300 of the best skills will earn their developers a $50 Amazon gift card. There are already more than 800 submissions to the contest, so judges will have plenty of options to choose from.

The tools Amazon wants contestants to use help developers create those experiences in different ways. For instance, APL for audio lets developers combine Alexa speech with other audio and combine voices with sound effects. That audio can then be synced to visuals, layering the effects based on user input. The audio can also be adjusted with volume filters to make sounds fade in and out or get cut off, depending on what’s happening in the app. The Alexa Web API for Games also helps create animated, even 3D voice-based games, but with some features that APL doesn’t Offer. The Alexa Web API has a specific focus on web-based games that can also be played on Echo Show smart displays and some Amazon Fire smart TVs. The motion and sensing APIs are more self-explanatory but bring new dimensions to otherwise purely audio experiences.

“Customers now have tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices with screens,” Amazon and Devpost explained in their announcement. “And they want more voice-first, multimedia experiences that are immersive, entertaining, and engaging.”

Community Challenges

The new competition is one of several Amazon sponsors. The fourth Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge is happening right now, and the Alexa Skills Challenge for Kids, the Alexa Life Hack Challenge, and the Lego Mindstorms Voice Challenge: Powered by Alexa all attract plenty of interest from organizations and individual developers. The challenges work to bring new ideas and talent to the hundreds of thousands of people in the Alexa developer community, upping the number and variety of skills for Alexa and opening up new ways for Amazon to entice potential customers to buy Alexa-powered devices and be part of their tech ecosystem. The long list of updates for Alexa unveiled at the Alexa Live conference in July helped set the stage for the new contest, as did the new Echo Show 10 smart display that arrived last month. Amazon wants to leverage all of its creations for expanding its customer base, and a few hundred grand in contest prizes is a low-cost way for the tech giant to do exactly that.


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