Note: This feature only works in the USA at the moment, but there’s no doubt that Amazon will bring Alexa Blueprints to the UK and the rest of the world very soon!
What is Alexa Blueprints?
It’s pretty simple.
Amazon has made it as easy as possible for people to use the skill-building feature. All you have to do is visit Amazon Alexa Blueprints and select what kind of skill you want to build.
The process is very similar to filling out an online survey (but far less boring), with pre-filled templates and demo’s so you know how the skill will work once completed.
Check out this handy video from Alexa Developers, covering the basics of using Alexa Skill Blueprints:
What kind of skills can you create?
The expansion allows users to have a lot more fun with their Alexa-enabled device, by making the whole experience more personal and giving Alexa a sense of uniqueness we’ve not seen before.
You can get Alexa to roast your family!
As well as a bunch of other cool stuff like helping kids with revision and even reading them a personalised bedtime story.
We’ve been experimenting in Alexa Skill development to see what we could come up with… And so we decided to create an addition to our Speed Dating app which mimics a game of ‘two truths, one lie’ for each member of our team.
So here’s how we built an Alexa Skill in under five minutes (with videos for each step).
1) Choose a skill category:
Now because we want a skill that can mimic a game of two truths, one lie, we need a skill that has a Multiple choice feature. Luckily, the Trivia category can do that for us.
Once you’ve clicked on the skill of your choice, you’ll see a sample recording of the Alexa skill in use as well as a transcript underneath it to give you an idea of how the skill would work.
2) Add your skill content:
You need to fill in a couple of things.
The default Trivia skills are movie-themed. Unfortunately, we don’t have any academy award-winning actors at 3 SIDED CUBE (yet)… So we’re going to make a few changes to the first question.
If you watch the video below, you’ll see that I’ve changed the question to ‘Which is the lie?’ and replaced Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock and Penelope Cruz with the two truths and one lie that apply to Kev (one of our awesome front-end developers).
The highlighted tick tells Alexa which answer is correct. And you can also add a follow-up fact which Alexa will say once the question has been answered (this is optional by the way).
3) Customise your skill experience:
This is where things get a bit complicated… Wait, no they don’t, it’s still a piece of cake.
You can change the game intro, customise the sounds Alexa makes, personalise player greetings, and even change the way Alexa responds to correct and incorrect answers!
4) Name your new Alexa skill:
There’s not much else to say about this stage (without insulting your intelligence)…
So just check out the (thrilling) video of the final stage of the process if you need to.
5) Create and use your skill:
Once you’ve named your skill, just click ‘Create Skill’ and voila!
Done. If you’ve signed out of your Amazon account you might be prompted to sign back in. But afterwards you’ll be taken to the ‘skills you’ve made’ page, where Amazon let’s you know that it’s creating your skill.
Once finished, you should see this (note that it does take a few minutes to generate the skill, we’ve just sped it up so you’re not watching a wheel slowly spinning for 5 minutes straight whilst the skill is being created):
Limitations of Alexa Blueprints:
Although this new feature rekindles the novelty of Amazon Echo devices, you are somewhat limited in the skills you can create.
Mainly due to simplicity, as Alexa Blueprints are so easy to use, you obviously lose some of the functionality and possibilities that you may find in commercially-available Alexa Skills.
And because the Alexa Skill is linked to your Amazon account, you can’t share it with your friends!
But maybe this is something that Amazon plans on changing in the not-too-distant future.