Ever curious what’s happening behind the scenes with voice developers to build Skills for Alexa? Developers are constantly looking for new ways to build skills for the 40+ million users of Amazon Echo devices. Although there have been several improvements with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) Software Development Kit (SDK), there are still restrictions to third-party voice developers for Amazon Alexa. Below are the top seven requests developers are asking the Amazon Alexa team right now:
#1 Activate Skills with Routines
Routines are one of the most powerful abilities Alexa offers to its users. Within the Amazon Alexa companion app, users have the ability to tie together multiple skills to a single voice command. For example, a user may set a Routine for when they leave the house, a simple “Alexa, I’m leaving the house” will turn off all of the house lights, decrease the temperature, and arm the house alarm.
Currently, Routines only use first-party skills and integrations. The ask from developers is to enable third-party skills to become part of the daily Routines. If Amazon were to enable this feature, it would drastically drive usage of third-party voice apps and allow users to easily access them through a single voice command.
Interested in setting up a Routine through the Amazon Alexa companion app? Check out this easy to understand blog post from Voicebrew.
#2 Control when a Skill goes Live
When a developer submits a Skill for the Alexa Skills Store, it goes through a certification process before it launches live. The issue developers are having is the Skill will go live without control of a set time or day. A relatable comparison is the Apple App Store, where an application can be kept hidden after it has passed review until the developer releases it to the public.
If the Alexa team were to introduce a feature to allow developers after the certification process to set when a Skill is live, developers could then promote and set expectations for their potential users. It would also allow for support to be ready, set up monitoring, and for the developers to manage any APIs the Skill uses.
#3 The ability for Alexa to pause and wait for a response
Imagine being asked a question and being forced to respond within roughly 8 seconds. This is the current situation with Alexa rushing users at times to respond and forcing developers to work within the time constraint. This can especially be an issue with everyday interruptions such as the kids coming home from school, the phone ringing, or the dogs running in with mud on their paws while trying to play a Song Quiz.
Developers want the ability for the user to say “wait”, “pause”, or “one sec” to give the user more time to respond. The idea would then be to allow the user to say “ok” or “I’m ready” and resume the conversation. Fixing this would create a conversation with Alexa who understands sometimes we need to think a little longer, or that life happens.
#4 Enable and allow true push notifications
Push notifications on a cell phone are a subtle reminder from a mobile app that allows developers to keep a higher level of engagement. Currently, voice apps lack these features and consequently suffer from a comparatively low level of engagement and retention from its users.
The ask from developers is to allow push notifications from voice apps to the users cell phone using the Amazon Alexa companion app. If the Amazon Alexa team were to allow these type of third-party push notifications, it would tap into a similar type of engagement mobile app developers benefit from.
#5 User specific flash briefing content
Wouldn’t it be great to hear personalized news, tips/tricks, and local sales based on your interests?
Alexa users are in a one-size-fits-all approach to their flash briefings without the ability to hear tailored content – a subtle reminder of the early days of mobile without personalization. The lack of user-specific flash briefings leaves a gap for developers in a voice-first environment where users desire and have become accustomed to that level of attention. Voice developers and content creators, as well as anyone in marketing and sales, are asking the Alexa team to help them tap into one of the most widely used features of Alexa with flash briefings.
Services like Alexa can only get smarter with more personalized, user-specific interactions, and it’s something third-party developers can’t wait to enable themselves.
#6 Bring Multi-Room support to AudioPlayer API streaming
Users of third-party voice skills are currently locked down to one device without the ability to interact or use a skill throughout the home. This limitation can lead to a stagnant interaction with a voice app instead of the free roaming benefits voice services can provide to its users.
Developers and users alike recognize having multi-room support for Skills such as Spotify has made those Saturday mornings a breeze. If Amazon were to allow use of the AudioPlayer interface to match the ability of first-party Skills, developers could then provide multi-room support for their users. This could enable a lot of different levels of interaction, including some interesting games around the house – hide and go seek with Alexa, anyone?
#7 Open Skills by an Alarm
Similar to the issues mentioned in the first request to allow third party skills with Routines, Alexa doesn’t allow third party skills setting up alarms either in the Alexa companion app. With alarms currently restricted to music, developers see another potential way to interact with their users - at a set time. The benefit could mean waking up to a room with the light turned on, the thermostat set high, followed with the weather for the day from Big Sky and music slowly increasing to the morning tune.