Tech

Amazon Alexa Gets ‘Custom Interfaces’ To Better Interface With Games, Devices With Multiple Unique Skills

Amazon Alexa, the virtual assistant that offers interactive responses based on auditory instructions and queries, is getting ‘Custom Interfaces’. The new Alexa Skill will allow software and app developers to explore new and unique ways of connecting and using electronic gadgets with Alexa and Echo smart speakers. The Custom Interfaces is part of Gadgets Toolkit that Amazon introduced last year in association with popular toymaker Hasbro.

Amazon is attempting to further boost the usage of its internet-connected, always-on virtual assistant, Alexa. The company has launched Custom Interfaces which will allow developers and end-users to create and explore new and custom ways of connecting, using and interfacing with smart toys, gadgets, and electronic devices. Additionally, the new feature set should be helpful to parents and other end-users to have new experiences while using Alexa-dependent smart speakers. As part of the launch, Amazon has launched an invite-only private beta testing program for Custom Interfaces for kids under 13.

Amazon Alexa Custom Interfaces To Spur Development of Dynamic Interactions With Smart Toys And Gadgets

There are currently more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. This simply means users are increasingly depending upon Alexa for multiple tasks. Amazon keeps on improving the Alexa virtual assistant with Alexa Skills, which is essentially new functionalities like games and tutorials. One of the most common uses of Amazon Alexa is teaching children and helping them grasp new knowledge. Realizing well that allowing developers and even end-users the ability to develop new functionality is important, Amazon has launched Custom Interfaces, which is essentially an extension of Alexa Gadgets Toolkit.

The Alexa Gadgets Toolkit can be used to dynamically and remotely manipulate devices. Simply put, the added functionality can be used to do things based on an Alexa timer or music. Custom Interfaces allows for more dynamic integration of devices with Echo speakers. Customers can have extended as well as custom functionality depending on the complexity of the devices being used with Alexa. As users and app developers further test the limits of Custom Interfaces, Alexa could quickly become an even deeper and immersive aspect of extended dialogues or storylines. The impact would be on toys and board games as Alexa would become an even more important and valuable participant depending on the level of interaction and capabilities of the gadgets.

With Custom Interfaces, custom Alexa skills could allow manufacturers to configure directives or messages from the skill to the device and from the device to the skill. In other words, Amazon Skills and the capabilities of the device could augment each other and offer extended benefits and use case scenarios. Some of the most obvious examples would be adding some congratulatory music when a player scores or even parents turning Alexa into a piano teacher when it is paired with a toy electronic piano keyboard. When paired with a printer, users could demand a quick printout of games like Sudoku. Toy designers could use the Custom Interfaces to add new functionality like counters and timers to their toys.

How To Begin Using Custom Interfaces For Amazon Alexa?

To kick-start the creation of new and unique functionalities using Amazon Alexa, Amazon has introduced an invite-only private beta for Custom Interfaces for kids under 13. Needless to add, Amazon mandates that all such sessions must obtain the permission of a child’s parent to launch. The Custom Interfaces API is available for developers to try now. Moreover, Amazon has already offered quite a few sample projects to get the development started.

Eager testers can quickly start adding new functionalities and extending already available functions. Testers can make use of popular single-board computers Raspberry Pi and tools like Python-based software also. The software includes sample applications and step-by-step guides that simplify the process of getting the prototypes connected and plugged into the capabilities of Alexa Gadgets Toolkit. Once paired, users have additional flexibility using off-the-shelf components, such as servos, buttons, lights, and more. Incidentally, the Private Beta is limited to commercial developers and that too by invite only. However, once Amazon irons out any issues, especially pertaining to security and privacy, end-users could start experiencing new functionalities.

To allow developers to quickly start using the Custom Interfaces on Alexa, Amazon has uploaded technical documentation and other guides and tutorials in the resource library. Custom Interfaces is an API that could allow developers to push the boundaries of Amazon Alexa’s capabilities. However, there are always risks lurking. Moreover, most major tech companies that have their virtual assistants, have been relying on actual humans to improve the functionality. That means Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Skype, and Google’s virtual assistant have a long road ahead to firmly reestablish consumer trust. Nonetheless, with this new functionality, Amazon Inc. can get experienced and novice developers experimenting with Alexa.


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