Amazon’s Alexa voice service can do a lot of things. You can ask an Alexa-enabled device like an Echo speaker or a Fire tablet for traffic, news, or weather updates. You can add things to your grocery list. And, of course, you can use it to order items from Amazon just by talking to Alexa.
But there are also tens of thousands of third-party “skills” that let you play games, interact with apps and services, and generally get more out of Alexa. Skills are basically apps for Amazon’s voice platform.
While Amazon has done a pretty good job of attractive developers to the platform, now the company is rolling out a feature that lets you build (relatively simple) skills without learning to code.
It’s called Alexa Skills Blueprints, and it’s basically a way to create custom responses to questions or requests or basic skills.
A blueprint is basically an app with fields that you can change. For example, the Family Jokes blueprint has 4 jokes that aren’t particularly funny. But you can change the punchline or add your own jokes by typing in a question and answer. And the Fairy Tale blueprint has a whole story written out, with blanks for you to insert a few names. But you can also change any of the other words in the story if you’d like, Mad Libs-style.
At launch there are about 20 Blueprints in four categories: Fun & Games, At Home, Storyteller, and Learning & Knowledge.
This initiative sort of reminds me of all the make-your-own-app services that are supposed to help you create a mobile app by choosing from a few existing options and entering custom URLs or text. It’s not anything like actually coding, but it will spit out a simple app… as long as you’re cool with a basic app that doesn’t do very much.
What may be a little different about Alexa Skill Blueprints is that while they’re not particularly complicated, they take just a few seconds to set up and they give you more control over a device you may already own (like an Echo speaker).
Want to create a flashcard-style skill to help you study for a test? Just customize the flashcard blueprint. Want to make sure the babysitter knows where the diapers are and how to operate your 16 TV remotes? There’s a customizable babysitter blueprint (and pet sitter and house guest ones too).