+ Sunday January 19th, 2020

We’re all familiar with Skills for Amazon Alexa – they’re like the apps you install on your phone. If you’ve ever wanted to make a Skill for yourself but can’t wrangle the code to make it work, Amazon has something for you launching today in Australia – it’s a Skill templating service called Blueprints.

Blueprints is a service that lets you select a preset template, customise it and make it your own. Get Alexa to tell your own jokes, run a quiz, settle an argument over whose turn it is to do the chores, or provide a question-and-answer service – no coding required. The available Blueprints have a pretty rich set of features considering they’re code-free – customising text is like filling in a form.

Blueprint Skills can be really useful, sometimes beyond their initial intention. Each Skill has a confiuration page that lets you fill in text and responses and control the basic flow of the Skill, and sometimes you can also upload some custom sounds to play at particular moments.

When you’ve created your skills, they’ll appear in your Alexa app on your Android device under My Skills as a list of Private Skills.

Here’s a few ideas we came up with during our demo session:

  • AirBnb Guide – Set up an Echo Dot in your AirBnb property that can recite instructions for guests to connect to Wifi, control the TV, find supplies and more;
  • Interactive Instructions – Let your babysitter interact with Alexa to find things in your home or get instructions for your child’s routine (or your petsitter – it’s versatile!);
  • FAQs – Write a question-and-answer script for your business, and link it from your website. Your customers can install the Skill and get quick answers to common questions (and you can update it)
  • Things To Do – You could create a Skill that randomly selects an activity from a predefined list to give the kids something to do on the Christmas holidays;
  • Quiz Master – Demonstrate your knowledge of a subject by making a quiz about it, and include some detailed information about the correct answers
  • Story Teller – Tell your kids a bedtime story or a fairytale – you write your own script, and you can add your own sounds at key moments
  • Chore Tracker – Set up a list of household chores and the names of people who should do them. Alexa will remember whose turn it is to do each chore each day.

If you’ve created a Skill that you think is pretty cool and want to share it with the world, you can do this from the website. Shared Skills get a URL that you can send to recipients (or publish on Twitter, your website, etc) and it lets other people install and use your Alexa Skill. Pretty neat.

Amazon didn’t have the sharing feature available at launch in the US, but added it in response to user feedback, and that’s a big thing with Blueprints – listening to user feedback and adding features (or entire new skill templates) in response to demand. Amazon’s listening and wants to help Alexa users make their own skills.

We were interested in Blueprints when it launched in the US earlier this year, and now that Amazon’s brought it to Australia there’s lots of possibilities. Maybe Alexa will be keeping your kids entertained over the Christmas holidays, or maybe you’ll think up a new idea for your business. Let us know what you come up with in the comments!

Jason Murray   Deputy Editor

Jason Murray

Before discovering the Nexus One, Jason thought he didn't need a smartphone. Now he can't bear to be without his Android phone. Jason hails from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane depending on his mood and how detailed a history you'd like. A web developer by day with an interest in consumer gadgets and electronics, he also enjoys reading comics and has a worryingly large collection of Transformers figures. He'd like to think he's a gamer, but his Wii has been in a box since he moved to Sydney, and his PlayStation Vita collection is quite lacking. Most mornings you'll find him tilting at various windmills on Twitter - follow @JM77 and say hi!

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Will Google ever do anything similar?



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