Amazon is making it possible for almost anyone to make their own Alexa skills with their new Alexa Skill Blueprints program. That means it's now easier than ever for Alexa to say what she wants.
Sure, Alexa's third-party skills have been around for years, but writing them still meant you had to have a fairly good understanding of computer coding. And it's a big effort to ask people to simply get Alexa to roast their family members. I'm not saying it would not have been worth it, but Blueprints makes everything much, much easier.
Programming Alexa is as easy as completing a couple of blanks
With Blueprints, programming Alexa is as easy as completing a couple of blanks, Mad Libs style. To get started, go to blueprints.amazon.com and sign in to the Amazon account you use for Alexa.
Developing skills is easy: simply choose your template and fill in the blanks
Once you have logged in, you will be presented with a list of possible options to develop your skill. The new Skill Blueprints are essentially easy-to-use templates to create your own Alexa skills. Developing skills is easy: simply choose your template and fill in the blanks. Some templates are a little more complicated than others. For example, compliments or insults only ask you to complete a list of phrases that you would like Alexa to choose at random and choose a name for the skill, and the question and answer games basically equate to adding a list of questions.
But others, like the nanny model, are much more complicated; There are fields for things like allergies and medications, daily schedules, where to find things in the house and emergency contacts. The various storytelling tools have a complete interactive text editor, complete with sound effects and complete blank fields (which allow you to insert elements such as the name of your children in the story) that must be added separately.
Once you have finished your skill generated by blueprint, simply press the "create skill" button to finish. That will boost your account and any Alexa device you have. The process takes a few minutes to start, so you should be a little patient. Then, just activate the skill by asking Alexa, as you would with any other Alexa integration. You can also view a list of all your installed skills and edit them through the Alexa Blueprints site.
You are limited to the sandbox that Amazon is offering here
Amazon offers many options in terms of what you can build with various plans, but you are very limited to the sandbox that Amazon is offering here. So, while there are plenty of trivia templates (for everything from family trivia to multiple-choice questions for couples), you still have to play within Amazon's specific rules, which limits you to text-based answers. (Therefore, if you want to create a question and answer game that plays fragments of songs, for example, you have no luck). This also means that you can not hijack standard Alexa commands such as "play music" with some unrelated response.
The main difference between the skills generated by Blueprint and the full abilities of Alexa is the scope. While developers can post their skills in the extensive Amazon Alexa skills market for anyone to enjoy, the skills created with Blueprints are linked to their Amazon account and will only work on their devices. That is good and bad. If you are creating a skill with detailed information about your home for guests or a question and answer game with your family history, you may not want it to be public. But that also means there's no way to share your amazing Game of Thrones question and answer game with your friends if they want to install it on their own devices.
Amazon has great ideas for custom skills
While many people will probably only use Blueprints to say weird things for a quick viral fame, Amazon also provides for more practical uses for personalized skills. The Houseguest template, which allows users to leave easily accessible information on where to find things in the house, the Wi-Fi password, or how to close the back door or use the TV, seems tailor-made for Airbnb hosts. Templates for business cards and questionnaires seem legitimately useful for studying.
Alexa Skill Blueprints is being deployed, and it will be very interesting to see what people do with the new features in the coming days and weeks. But there are millions of Alexa devices in people's homes around the world, and Amazon has made it possible for almost all of them to personalize those products like never before. Who knows what will happen next?