Earlier this year, Amazon introduced “Alexa Blueprints” – a way for anyone to create their own customized Alexa skills for personal use, without needing to know how to code. Today, the company will allow those skills to be shared with others, including through text messages, email, messaging apps like WhatsApp, or social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
The idea is that you could create a skill for your friends or family to use, to save them the work of having to edit Amazon’s provided templates with your own content. Amazon suggests the new sharing feature could be used among study groups, who have built a custom “flashcards” skill, for example, or shared among family for a birthday. (Presumably, the skill is part of your present?)
Blueprints, so far, have been a fun way to play around with Alexa in your home, teaching it to respond to questions like “who’s the best mom?” (me, of course), creating lists of your family’s favorite jokes, playing customized trivia games, and more.
But adoption has been fairly limited – it’s a neat trick, but not a must-have for all Alexa users.
The skills themselves are simple to build: Amazon provides templates, which are basically filled in and ready to go, but you change the answers to suit your needs.
Now, you when you’re viewing the list of skills you’ve made, you can toggle the skill’s status under the “Access” section to either “just me” or “shared.” (You can un-share a skill at any time, too, by choosing “revoke.”)
Sharing creates a link to your skill that you can paste into a text message, email, social media, or anywhere else. When the recipients clicks the link, they’re taken to the Alexa Blueprints site where they can enable the skill for themselves.
While this could make it easier for people to use Blueprints, it would be interesting if there was a way to share the skills more publicly, too – currently, you can’t publish skills to the Alexa Skill Store, as they’re meant for personal use. But having some sort of community section for Alexa owners within the Blueprints site itself could be interesting – maybe you could share your own Blueprints templates here, or ask others to collaborate on creating one with you.
Imagine a Blueprint trivia game built by all the fans of a favorite TV show, for instance. Or maybe you could share a set of Blueprints with your extended family, since, you know, you’re “the techie one.”
Of course, it’s hard to justify investing in a project that still has a niche audience at this time – but on the other hand, building a community of Alexa owners around homegrown skills could prompt that audience to grow, and help to inform professional developers about what kinds of skills people really wanted.
Amazon declined to share numbers related to Blueprints adoption, but there’s little chatter about it online.
“We’ve been excited about the level of adoption for Alexa Skill Blueprints and have seen particular interest in the Custom Q&A, World’s Best Dad, Burns, Houseguest, Compliments and Fairy Tale templates,” a spokesperson said. “The popularity of Blueprints with customers has been higher than expected and we anticipate it to increase as we introduce new features, like sharing,” they added.
Alexa Blueprints are free to use at blueprints.amazon.com.
Update, 6/13/18, 3:20 PM ET: Story updated with comment from Amazon.