At its annual Echo device event held in Seattle, Amazon introduced some new Alexa features and developer tools, including an easier setup process, a connect kit and a new development language for screen display.
Smart home devices bring convenience to homeowners’ lives. However, the set-up process at the beginning may not be easy, especially for devices that don’t have a screen.
To tackle this problem, Amazon has introduced a new feature called Wi-Fi Simple Setup, which enables seamless set-up when users install their connected devices.
The feature utilizes Amazon’s Wi-Fi lockers to store user’s Wi-Fi credentials and share them with other smart home devices. When a device supporting Wi-Fi Simple Setup is plugged in, it will automatically look for the Wi-Fi Simple Setup network and connect to it. Amazon says the process shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds.
The company has worked with Wi-Fi router companies including TP-Link and Eero on Wi-Fi Simple Setup, so that customers can reuse their network credentials to set up new devices.
Amazon’s new US$24.99 Smart Plug also supports the Wi-Fi Simple Setup. The device will be available in October.
Alexa Connect Kit
In order to let third-party manufacturers easily connect their devices with voice assistant Alexa, Amazon has introduced a new developer tool called Alexa Connect Kit.
The Alexa Connect Kit includes a low-cost Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi module on a wireless circuit board. Device makers can add the kit to any devices with a microcontroller, enabling Alexa features with it.
Amazon’s new own-brand microwave oven was developed with the Alexa Connect Kit. It has an Alexa talk button on the device. After pressing on the button, users can talk to Alexa and voice-control the microwave. For example, users can say “Alexa, heat it for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.”
The microwave communicates through a nearby Echo device, which delivers commands over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. It doesn’t have full Alexa functionalities but enables Alexa capabilities quickly on other devices.
Alexa Presentation Language
Amazon has released a new development tool called Alexa Presentation Language (APL) for developers building voice skills with visual experiences, along with the announcement of the new Echo Show.
Developers can include images, graphics, slideshows and video in their voice skills using APL. The tool supports all Alexa-enabled devices with a screen display, including the Echo Show, Echo Spot and Fire TV.
Third-party device makers will also be able to use APL through Alexa Smart Screen and TV Device SDK. Amazon said Sony and Lenovo will be the first partners to use the new development tool.
APL was just released for Developer Preview, and Alexa device owners are expected to experience APL-powered voice skills starting in October.