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Alexa Live 2022: Stretching possibilities for voice AI at home

New Matter integrations, financial incentives for well-written Skills, and future plans are all on display today

Amazon's annual Alexa Live event was staged this week and saw new features revealed for developers and device makers alike. 

Alexa Live is Amazon's developer conference for "the future of ambient intelligence, smart home and voice AI." Basically a chance to show off what's coming down the line in the next year or so. 

Announcements made during the keynote from Amazon Devices and Services SVP Dave Limp were numerous, covering Alexa's role in smart homes, as well as updates and features relevant to hardware folks and Alexa Skill developers.

Alexa smart home features

Amazon's smart home efforts focused on Alexa Ambient Home Dev Kit and updates to Matter – an IP-based IoT device communication standard used by companies including Amazon, Apple, and Google.

The Ambient Home Dev Kit is "a new collection of services and APIs that seeks to unify the ambient smart home experience for our customers," Amazon said in a roundup of Alexa news. 

At launch, the Ambient Home Dev Kit will include five APIs: 

  • Home State APIs that can sync Alexa devices based on people being (or not being) present, and schedules for sleep, meals, vacation and the like.
  • Safety and security APIs that will let developers extend Alexa Guard to their own apps.
  • A credentials API which will eliminate the need for users to manually login to Matter-enabled devices when setting them up.
  • A device and group organization API that can sync device and group names between Alexa and apps.
  • A Multi-Admin Simple Setup for Matter API, which is designed to simplify the process of adding Matter admins to Matter devices.

Alexa Connect Kit is also getting an SDK for Matter that will bring ACK features to Matter-enabled devices. Amazon said cloud connectivity, over-the-air updates, logs, and metrics are included in the kit. 

Alexa features for device makers

For device makers, features center around Amazon's Voice Interoperability Initiative (VII), through which the online souk wants to allow multiple voice services to exist side by side on the same product. VII members include Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Facebook. Google and Apple – makers of the other two leading digital assistants – are absent.

Amazon mentioned just a couple of specific items in this category: 

  • Universal Device Commands that will let customers speak commands with any compatible voice assistant's wake word, even if the assistant wasn't used to make the initial request. UDCs are paired with new Agent Transfers that will allow voice services to transfer requests to other services better equipped to handle the request.
  • The Alexa Voice Service SDK 3.0 will combine the Alexa Smart Screen and AVS SDKs into a single product.

Universal Device Commands are specifically mentioned as "future capabilities" that will be enabled sometime within the next year.

Alexa features for Skill developers

The bulk of the new features announced at Alexa Live 2022 concern developers working on Alexa Skills. The list is long, and what follows is a quick summary. Amazon has written extensively on many of the new features in blog posts published along with the event; for more information be sure to read Amazon's Alexa roundup linked above.

  • Skill Developer Accelerator Program will provide financial incentives for developers that build high-quality skills. It includes additional good news for developers earning less than $1 million per year, who will get an increased developer revenue share beginning next year.
  • Developers can set up promotional campaigns for Echo devices with screens, like the Show, and apply discount deals as well.
  • Alexa Routines Kit will let users enable pre-built routines through simple voice consent.
  • Voice consent can be used to link apps to Alexa accounts.
  • Alexa Shopping Kit will let developers embed Amazon item purchase options into Skills for a commission of up to 10 percent.
  • Dialog Testing Tool API will let developers create test sets for multi-turn dialogs.
  • A/B testing tool for Skills.
  • Alexa for Apps SDK will let developers embed voice assistants inside apps.
  • The Food Skill API has been updated to use newer conversational AI.
  • The Alexa Presentation Language for Audio is getting new templates that let devs add new voices, sound effects, and music to Skills. APL is also getting best practices and accessibility guides.
  • Multimodal response builder will let devs build visual responses for the Skills on Alexa devices with screens.
  • An automated Skill Quality Coach that provides advice based on analysis of successful Alexa Skills.
  • The website is being redesigned for ease of use.
  • The Alexa Learning Lab in the developer portal lets devs submit code and get real-time feedback
  • The Alexa Conversations and Interactions Model is getting a unified developer experience.

Alexa Live ran on Wednesday only, however registered attendees can view sessions on demand afterward. ®

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