Amazon Opens Beta For Alexa List Skills API

Amazon today announced a new API that will let developers integrate Alexa within their own list applications. The goal here is to make it as easy as possible for people to add items to their lists by asking Alexa to do it for them.

The List Skills API is an addition to the existing Alexa Skills Kit. The ASK has been around for some time and is what developers use to add skills -- or features from their own apps -- to Alexa. As part of that greater whole, the List Skills API specifically targets list applications. Amazon imagines a not-so-distant future in which people can say, "Alexa, add buy soccer cleats" to my to-do list.

Amazon says the List Skills API is able to tap into its standardized language model. This is good news for developers because it means they won't have to create a voice interaction model on their own. (Better to hook into Amazon's with a few extra lines of code than to build an entire speech engine by yourself!) The List Skills API frees up developers' time to create the skills and then connect them directly to Alexa's shopping and to-do list functions.

On the technical side of things, the List Skills API features a bi-directional interface. This means lists will be updated across all devices/channels as users make Alexa requests. The API will notify developers each time users make a speech request. Alexa can convert the request into a shopping or to-do list item, and send a notification to the developer that the item was added. The List Skills API is smart enough to know it should update lists for Alexa when users alter their lists from a mobile device or Web interface.

"Customers are increasingly using voice interfaces as a hands-free way to manage their lives. By using Alexa’s built-in Shopping and To-do lists to keep track of items to buy and things to do, customers on millions of Alexa-enabled devices only have to 'ask' and it's at their command," said Amazon's David Isbitski in a blog post. "By integrating with the List Skill API, you will make it easier for your existing customers to keep track of their important tasks and shopping items in the home, and introduce your brand to a new group of Alexa customers."

Amazon isn't offering the List Skills API to every developer just yet. The company has opened a limited beta program with a few cherry-picked participants, including and Todoist. Both companies have put the List Skills API to use in their own apps as a way to showcase what the API can do. Developers interested in the List Skills API can apply to participate in the limited beta here. Amazon expects to make the new API available to more developers over time.

In the interim, be sure to check out some of the documentation, which includes details about the API, as well as more general information about the Alexa Skills Kit, training with Alexa, and of course the Alexa developer forums.



Be sure to read the next Artificial Intelligence article: IBM Provides Developer Kits to Jumpstart Working with Watson


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