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1

ID: 212262

URL: https://www.theverge.com/2021/7/21/22586033/amazon-alexa-widgets-featured-skill-api-developers-echo-show-screen

Date: 2021-07-21

Amazon will let devs compete for your Echo Show’s screen and everything else Alexa just added

Amazons Alexa devices are ambient computers, not the kind you use all day. When you do ask your Echo a question or glance at your Echo Shows diminutive screen, the voice assistant only has a brief chance to impress. Today, Amazon is announcing its going to give more of those opportunities to third-party developers — including brand-new widgets and featured skill cards that might take up a chunk of your smart speakers precious real estate. Heres what to expect from those and everything else the companys announcing at its Alexa Live event today. As you can see in Amazons mockup above, widgets look pretty much as you might expect. In a blog post, Amazon describes them as rich, customizable, glanceable, self-updating views of skill content where you can check items off a to-do list or activate a skills functions, without needing to say Alexa first. Its not yet clear how limited they are or if they might effectively be a way to build a touchscreen app for an Echo Show. Featured skill cards might be slightly controversial, depending on how useful they are. It promotes new Alexa skills on your home screen, even if you havent asked for them. Its not exactly an advertising service, Amazon Alexa Skills VP Aaron Rubenson tells The Verge, not something developers will have to pay for. Its open to everybody to raise their hand and say they want to be part of it, he says, adding that youll see personalized results based on other signals you send Alexa. One of the first featured skill cards will be Comedy Central, and Rubenson says he might well see it because he already listens to some comedy in his Alexa Flash Briefing each morning. But even if you dont have an Echo device with a screen, you may get more Alexa skills suggested to you soon. Amazon says its expanding its name-free interaction toolkit to let skills volunteer to be promoted when you speak phrases like Alexa, how did the Nasdaq do today? Were letting developers raise their hand and say, My skill can handle that request, says Rubenson. And you agree to use Amazons suggested skills, Alexa can pass along your request instead of making you repeat yourself. While Amazon was the only one that previously profited from physical merchandise sold through Alexa, the company will now let Alexa skill developers sell products inside their skills as well with Alexa shopping actions and get up to a 10 percent affiliate marketing commission from Amazon, too. As expected, you can only sell products listed on Amazon.com, though they dont need to be your products. (Rubenson couldnt say whether Amazon would allow skills that are effectively just stores.) Amazons also introducing paid skills, so dont be surprised if you have to pay before using your next Alexa app instead of using an in-app purchase afterward. While Amazon still doesnt seem to have attracted rivals Apple, Google, and Samsung to its voice interoperability initiative yet, it does have some news on that front as well. Rubenson says Samsung will have a fridge with both Bixby and Alexa operating side by side, and the companys Alexa Custom Assistant (which lets brands create their own Alexa-powered assistant) will appear in a Verizon smart display where Alexa can handle standard Alexa tasks while the new Verizon assistant can handle requests like checking your wireless bill. Rubenson says they can hand off requests to each other, too. In addition to those highlights, heres a quick bulleted list of other Alexa updates that caught my eye: Later this year, @WholeFoods will launch a proactive curbside pickup experience using event-based triggers and proactive suggestions. #AlexaLive Thats not the whole list, mind you: theres even more in Amazons full blog post. In addition, Amazon is announcing today that almost every Echo smart speaker will support Matter, a new ambitious open standard for smart home devices. The new features are all coming as part of the companys Alexa Live developer conference today, where its seeking to attract the next generation of programmers to build skills for its voice assistant. Amazon says it now has 900,000 registered developers and 130,000 skills ( up from 750,000 developers a year ago and 100,000 skills in September 2019), and Rubenson tells us developer revenue has doubled annually, with some skill developers making over $1 million a year. Update, 1:04 PM ET : Added a link to Amazons full blog post, and some embedded videos.