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.
For tracking your food, you can use the Track by Nutritionix skill, which lets you record your food intake using your voice, or ask for caloric values of foods. (Alexa does the latter by default.) Say things like, "Alexa, tell Food Tracker to log a cup of almond milk" or "Alexa, ask Food Tracker how many calories are in two eggs and three slices of bacon."
After your kids are asleep, Alexa can help you doze off with the Ambient Noise skill and its companion skills. There are several different sounds to choose from, all of which come with their own skill. You can fall asleep to the sounds of a thunderstorm, rain, ocean, wind chimes, babbling brook, rain on a tent, city sounds and much more. For all available sounds, just say, "Alexa, ask Ambient Noise for a list."
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.
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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.
Amazon's Alexa-powered speakers are great for a lot of things beyond playing music or changing the color of your smart bulbs. Alexa can play audiobooks or read your Kindle books to you, if you don't have the audiobook version. It can give you the forecast, the latest tech news (with CNET!) or tell you if you should expect traffic on your way to work. And it can, of course, tell you a few jokes.
How does Alexa work? Once you buy an Amazon Alexa device — Amazon Tap or an Echo Dot — the device connects through WiFi or Bluetooth to the internet and then to other devices. With the most common devices, the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, people merely say "Alexa," which wakes up the device, and then ask for what they want. Alexa Skills radically expands the bots repertoire, allowing users to perform more actions with voice-activated control through Alexa.
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.
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