This week Amazon announced the opening of its ‘Video Skill API’ for Alexa. This is the latest Alexa skill to become available to developers and looks to act as a bridging element between Alexa and video content from third-party services and providers. This is interesting for a number of reasons, although one of the most obvious is that if the skill is adopted by third-party video providers, Alexa will then be able to take care of finding and playing content from almost any service or provider. As to be expected with such a skill, in addition to simply finding the content to play, the skill will allow Alexa to control the whole viewing process, including play/pausing, muting, and so forth. The announcement blog even goes on to detail that Alexa will be able to do this all without needing the user to actually specify the service or provider where the content is offered. As long as the service/provider has been added to Alexa’s repertoire, the user will be able to make use of simple commands such as “Alexa, play House of Cards” and Alexa will be able to understand the command, source the content, and start playing it.
While Amazon has now announced the expansion of this skill to third-party developers (it was already available for in-house services), the availability of this skill will be largely dependent on whether third-party developers decide to include the skill with their services. On that note, the Amazon announcement does detail that some companies (including DISH, Netgem, and YouView) are already adopting the Video Skill API and are including its features, to some degree. So while it might take some time for the feature to start penetrating a large number of video services and providers, it has already started that journey.
Speaking of Alexa skills, the announcement also reiterates an announcement that was made earlier in the month, where any developer who publishes a new skill between June 1, 2017 and June 30, 2017 will be eligible to apply to receive a free Echo Dot. This promotion is limited to US developers only and to the first 2,500 developers to publish a skill. There are promotions available for developers in India, Germany, and the UK - although not for an Echo Dot.