Amazon Alexa device owners just got a pleasant surprise on Nov. 5 after Amazon announced that they will now be able to equip it with skills, which can be bought at Amazon.com. The comprehensive list of skills being offered demonstrates the range of what Alexa can do.
To those not in the loop, Alexa is Amazon's answer to Google Assistant, which runs its own range of smart home devices. Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo and Tap can respond to voice commands and perform different tech-related tasks. For example, it can be asked to play music, display news, turn-off the lights and even fact-check Donald Trump's statements, among others.
"This is the first time that we are offering a pre-login discovery experience for Alexa skills," David Isbitski, chief evangelist at Alexa, said in a statement. "Before now, customers would need to log in to the Alexa app on their mobile device or browser. Developers can also improve organic discovery by search engines by optimizing skill detail pages."
The available skills at the dedicated Amazon store page also show how Alexa is more oriented toward the abilities that enable it to become more of a tool for the smart home. Aside from skills that work with Smart Home apps and technologies, the virtual assistant also has access to a slew of productivity, food and drink, lifestyle, shopping and health skills.
A skill gets automatically implemented to all of the owned Alexa-enabled devices after installation. It can also be disabled on a whim. In order to access it, a user will have to trigger the virtual assistant on by saying, "Alexa". A skill has one key invocation name but could respond in different variations. If the Twitter Reader skill is activated, for instance, Alexa can respond to queries involving retweets, Twitter mentions, latest Twitter updates, trending information and liked tweets, among others.
Users will be able to browse around 3,200 Alexa skills. At present, most of these are free to enable. It is not yet clear if paid skills will soon find their way into the store. The company seems to be giving Alexa dev T-shirt to developers who will publish skills using its flashcard skills template.
Presently, some of the most useful skills include Alexa's Home Exercise Skill, Your Stock Portfolio, Smart Home Control, a banking skill called Capital One Banking: Voice Activated and the capabilities to get Uber and order from Domino's Pizza.
Overall, the Alexa skills marketplace demonstrates a key difference of the Amazon smart home technology from Google Assistant or Google Home. Unlike Google's automatic AI update, Amazon seems bent on giving its Alexa users more control over the evolution of their smart assistant, one that is specifically tailored to their needs.