In a bid to help Alexa developers create more functional and engaging Alexa Skills, Amazon has now announced the introduction of some new tools for development. The announcement was made via Amazon's Alexa Blogs via its developer website on April 5 and the new tools include two main focal points.
One of the improvements comes in the form of a new API which has been included to help with the creation of skills that take advantage of location-relevant data. The API effectively allows the user's location data to be configured and accessed by a skill. There are currently two levels at which that can be accessed, providing the skill with the user's full address or just their country and postal code. Either of those levels requiring the user to agree to that access via a prompt, which they will receive on their device unless the skill was activated by voice. If the skill was activated by voice, Amazon says that the default of neither will be selected. However, developers can then provide a "card" to the Alexa application, allowing the skill to access the data if the user chooses to allow it. If the user does not respond to the permission request, the company recommends falling back to asking for a location each time the skill is called upon by the user. Amazon helpfully lists example skills that could take advantage of the new feature, such as a skill to help a user order groceries or find a local gym, but the breadth of what the new API opens up for developers is really only limited by a developer's imagination.
The second improvement to the developer tools has its focus set on enhancing the performance of skills themselves. More specifically, Amazon's new Metrics Dashboard helps developers come to grips with information regarding skill use. The dashboard provides data on the number of unique customers using the skills, times when usage peaks, and "utterance distribution by intent." Going beyond those basic metrics, the dashboard also provides data to help developers gauge the quality of users' experience with their skills, see which "intents" are being used the most, and to see which session types are most successful. The metrics dashboard is already accessible through the developer portal. Users simply need to log in, choose the "Alexa" tab and then the "Alexa Skills Kit," followed by a simple click on the metrics dashboard option – which sits just to the right of a skill on the list.