Getting Started Creating Alexa Skills
Voice Assistants including Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home are overwhelming the market today with over 20 million Alexa devices sold worldwide. Amazon is encouraging developers to create Alexa Skills for their voice assistants similar to apps in the App Store and Google Play.
I jumped on the Alexa Skill development bandwagon in 2016 with Steve Youngblood, and we became one of the first 1,000 Alexa Skill developers. Today, we have a portfolio of Amazon approved and published Alexa Skills.
This is the beginning of a multi-part series on creating “apps” for voice assistants including Alexa and Google Home. I have created numerous approved Google Home apps and will cover Google Home development in a future post.
Pre-requisites to creating your first Alexa Skill:
2. CLI – Command Line Interface knowledge is preferable but not required
Next, you’ll need an AWS account and an Amazon Developer account.
- Go to https://aws.amazon.com/ and create your account (if you don’t already have one). AWS accounts require a valid credit card to create a new account.
- Next, go to https://developer.amazon.com/ and create an account there (if you don’t already have one). No credit card necessary for an Amazon Developer account, and you can usually use the same credentials as your existing Amazon shopping account.
After creating your account(s), head over to the Alexa Skills Kit tutorials and try out a tutorial. Even if you’re a seasoned developer, the tutorials are great just to understand the process of creating and submitting an Alexa Skill to Amazon. I suggest you start with the Fact Skill tutorial here.
Mastered the Fact Skill tutorial, have you? Great! Now update the facts to facts about yourself and rename the skill, “My [Your Name Here]” and see if it still works.
Want a real challenge? Create a skill on a Raspberry Pi.
Now that Alexa can recite 10 facts about yourself (when you say, Alexa, launch My Cassie), let’s move on. Try another tutorial from this list. Complete each tutorial and the modify the code until it does something different. Too easy huh?
If you’re a Linux fan, you’ll love ASK CLI. What is ASK CLI you ‘ask’? ASK CLI is Alexa Skills Kit Command Line Interface. This is the fastest way to create and deploy Alexa Skills known to man/woman today. Check out the ASK CLI setup guide here. Disclaimer: This is not for click-and-drag GUI folks.
What are other ways to learn how to create Alexa Skills?
1. Webinars – Amazon offers bi-monthly webinars to keep you up-to-date on best practices and new features available for developers.
2. Alexa Dev Day – Full-day of hands-on Alexa Skill training with Rob McCauley. Amazon has held 2 Dev Days in Atlanta. Check out my Alexa Dev Day post here.
3. Amazon has put together an entire library of resources to teach us more about creating skills.
What will this cost me? I can personally say that I have never been charged computing or storage for any of my Alexa Skills to-date. When I got started, I used the AWS Free Tier, and after I published my first skill, I applied (and was approved) for $100 in AWS promotional credits every month. Once you publish your first Alexa Skill, you can apply for AWS promotional credits here.
Why create Alexa Skills?
1. Free Swag – Amazon has a great Developers Perks Program that provides FREE Amazon swag just for creating Alexa Skills. I personally have received for free from Amazon multiple Echo Dots, t-shirts, hoodies, socks, and most recently the ROAV VIVA(Alexa for my car).
2. Street Cred – Stay on the cutting edge of technology, voice technology that is.
3. Voice apps are the next App store. If you’ve ever loaded an app on your smartphone, this is the same thing for over 20 million voice assistants.
4. All Skills are free to enable, but Amazon recently released in-skill purchasing
5. Most importantly, if you are a company today with an app in the iOS and Google Play store, you want to stake your presence in the Alexa Skill Store.
Check out our published Alexa Skills here:
Still wondering what the heck an Alexa Skill is? Check out my skill demo on YouTube below.