One of my favorite features of Amazon’s voice controlled speakers, the Echo and Echo Dot, is the Alexa News Flash skill. Out of the box, it plays you a quick news briefing from standard news sources. What you probably didn’t know however was that you can customize your Alexa Flash Briefing with literally thousands of skills, tailored perfectly to the news you want. Here’s how it all works and how to set it up.
When Alexa recognizes your voice, stories and news items you’ve already heard will be skipped. To set up voice recognition, say “Alexa, learn my voice.” This is feature is especially useful if you listen to flash briefings on weekends when many flash briefings don’t post new content. With Alexa voice recognition enabled, you won’t hear the flash briefing episodes you already listened to.
Google Assistant doesn’t have flash briefings in the Alexa sense — instead, you’ll be publishing your audio content as a podcast. This is a little more technical than Alexa’s process. First, your briefing will need its own homepage. Second, you’ll need to edit the briefing’s RSS feed to include snippets of code that are required for Google Assistant to recognize it in its directory — check out all the requirements here. Google doesn’t require setting up an Assistant action. Once you’ve included the necessary code in your RSS feed, your podcast will show up automatically within search results.
Because Amazon opened up the development of Alexa Skills to anyone with the free Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) in 2015, anyone can create an Alexa Skill. As Alexa uses Natural Language Programing (NLP), those looking to build a skill don't need to worry about complex speech recognition. The ASK tools also makes it easier for novices to work with sophisticated NLP ideas.
The next step in our Alexa flash briefing tutorial is to set up an Alexa skill for delivering the briefing. First, visit the Amazon Developer Console to create a new skill. Begin by giving it a name, then click “next.” You’ll be offered a selection of Alexa skill models to choose from. Select “flash briefing” from the list, then you’ll be met with a series of Alexa flash briefing options.
Now you’re ready to set up your flash briefing feed. First, type in a custom error message, which can be up to 100 characters. Alexa will say this text to the user if the skill fails to deliver the content. For instance, you might say something like, “[Skill name] is not available at the moment.” To hear a preview of Alexa saying your error message, click the Play button on the right.
Many Alexa Skills are tailored for news and information. Alexa's Flash Briefing, a quick update of top headlines, can be pulled from a preferred media source: Fox News, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and The Daily Show are just a few options. Users can also check train or bus schedules, check for someplace to eat through Restaurant Finder, check the traffic, or find a select store's hours.
With new Alexa Skills constantly bring released, there a new skill for almost any need. With an Alexa-enabled device everyone can have their own Alexa to boss around. Is that something people want? Due to the huge number of Alexa Skills out there already — and the number of Amazon Alexa devices already sold — the resounding answer to that questions is: "Alexa…"
You can create a flash briefing skill if you own, or have the right to distribute, original text or audio content that updates frequently. You should understand web technologies and have the ability to configure HTTPS, RSS and/or JSON content. The voice interactions for a flash briefing skill are defined by Amazon, but you must be able edit the format of your content so that the flash briefing Skill API can understand it.
If you have an audience that cares about what you and you have content that you would like to share with that audience, Alexa Flash Briefing is an ideal way to engage with that audience. Whether you are posting your Flash Briefing hourly, daily, weekly, biweekly, or some other frequency, enabling your audience to add your content to their Flash Briefing is an easy way to become part of someone’s routine. Examples of Alexa Flash Briefing content would be updates from experts (health news, stock tips, political campaign news). See below for a more extensive list of examples. But the sky is the limit. If you have something to say and you have people who would love to hear from you, and hear your speak the content in your voice, Flash Briefing is ideal.
Alexa Skills themselves are quite helpful. However, even with an updated Skills section in the Alexa app and the ability to add skills using only your voice, discovering new and useful skills is a less than desirable experience. So much so that Amazon actually created a skill called Skill Finder which, you guessed it, helps you discover new skills. Launch it by saying, "Alexa, open Skill Finder" or "Alexa, tell Skill Finder to give me the skill of the day."