Amazon today announced the general availability of Multi-Capability Skills for Alexa, a way to combine smart home and custom Alexa apps into single, unified voice apps. Starting this week, developers can publish and maintain an Alexa app that enables both internet of things and third-party features for their devices, extending built-in smart home commands with custom voice interaction models to support nearly any feature without forcing customers to enable and invoke two separate apps.
Before the advent of Multi-Capability Skills, Alexa developers had to publish and maintain multiple apps to enable custom features: a smart home app to leverage built-in smart home capabilities and a custom app to support capabilities not included in the Alexa smart home API. Now they don’t — and customers don’t have to remember two different app names. In this way, Multi-Capability Skills make it easier for developers to create better Alexa experiences. For example, they could leverage Alexa’s support for utterances to create an app that recognizes the commands “Alexa, ask Roomba to vacuum the kitchen” and “Alexa, ask this skill ‘What can this device do?'”
Amazon says that already Dyson has built a Multi-Capability Skill to enable customers to interact more naturally with its devices via Alexa using commands like “Alexa, set the fan speed to 5” and “Alexa, set Oscillation to wide,” as well as setting night modes and quiet modes in their Alexa-programmed routines. For its part, TP-Link used Multi-Capability Skills to let Alexa users in the U.S. with compatible TP-Link routers access expanded features in a single skill, like control over internet access across a household’s connected devices (e.g., “Alexa, pause internet for Timmy’s iPad” or “Alexa, ask TP-Link to enable gaming mode”).
Developers with existing Alexa apps can update those apps through the Alexa Developer Console as part of the configuration workflow or add models to base apps using the Alexa Developer Console. Alternatively, they can create Multi-Capability Skills on live app development, allowing for the testing of expanded feature support before the app (or apps) are submitted for certification.
There’s a reason Amazon is devoting time and attention to smart home device integrations. Smart home device shipments are expected to experience a 26.9% year-over-year uptick to 832.7 million units by 2020 and to hit 1.6 billion units by 2023. And of the 75% of respondents to a recent Dashbot survey who use voice assistants like Alexa at least once a day, 23% say they control smart home devices with their assistant. Of that group, 63% tap assistants for home automation multiple times a day.
The arrival of Multi-Capability Skills comes after Amazon broadly launched new Alexa controls for kitchen appliances, shades, and garage door openers. In a related development, the Cooking API recently became available, allowing Alexa customers to control conventional ovens, pressure cookers, coffee makers, toasters, slow cookers, and more with voice. This was accompanied by support for inventory sensors, or connected smart home devices that use consumables or have replacement parts, which lets customers know when supplies their device uses are running low.