Getting started with Alexa development (free PDF)

As Amazon Alexa has grown in popularity, interest in developing tools for the platform has taken off. This ebook covers what you need to know to begin working with Alexa.

What is the Alexa developer program?
Alexa is a service that allows for a user interface to leverage a human voice command to perform tasks. The Amazon Echo is one of the primary ways through which these tasks are accessed, which is often set up through a companion app. The Alexa Voice Service (AVS) can be integrated into a host of other products, as long as they have a microphone and speaker. Amazon also offers the Amazon Lex service, which allows developers to build conversational bots using the same technology Alexa is based on.

Terren Peterson, an Alexa Champion and the vice president of platform engineering for retail and direct bank at Capital One, said that many people see Alexa as simply a talking speaker. However, Peterson said that the real value of working with Alexa isn’t just the ability to talk back to the speaker but “the ability to be able to change things with your voice.”

Users interact with Alexa through voice commands called “skills,” which are created by developers to enable a specific experience through the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). Currently, developers can create three types of skills: Smart Home Skills for home automation, Flash Briefing Skills for information and news, and Custom Skills for any other kind of request.

Sarah Sobolewski, who works on the PR team for Alexa, said that it is free to use both the ASK to develop skills and the AVS to integrate Alexa. Sobolewski also said that Alexa will continue to play into Amazon’s overall business strategy and the company’s work with developers.

“Much like mobile was a decade ago, we see natural user interfaces like speech as a major shift in computing,” Sobolewski said. “We’re excited by the customer response so far, but it’s still very early and think there’s a lot of potential in this space.”

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