You’ve probably used your Amazon Echo for a variety of tasks and skills, from listening to music and playing games to finding information and controlling smart home devices. But what if you could create your own Alexa skills? You can, thanks to a feature called Alexa Blueprints. You can use templates to create your own stories and games, or concoct personalized answers to specific questions. No programming skills necessary.
After completing your custom skills, you have the option to limit them to just your own household so only you and your family can access them, or you can share them with the world. Amazon now allows you to share your skills with certain people or publish them to the US Alexa Skills store for anyone to use. The process isn’t that difficult, though it does entail several steps. Let’s check it out.
Start at the Blueprint Website
To start, open the Alexa Skill Blueprints website and sign in with your Amazon account. There is a short video tutorial about the blueprints to check out. You can also look through the different categories of blueprints, including Featured Blueprints, Greetings & Occasions, Fun & Games, Learning & Knowledge, At Home, and Storyteller.
Before you get started creating your own skills, take a look at what you can do with your Alexa device. You can create a flash briefing to alert you of important information in the news. Many users have also created flashcards for studying, set up a task tracker, put together a workout schedule, or started a countdown to an important date. Remember to have fun too; there are many different quizzes, games, and question-and-answer options.
How to Create a Quiz Skill
We’ll kick things off with a quiz. Scroll down to the Learning & Knowledge section and click on the Quiz button. At the Quiz page, click on the Play button to listen to a sample quiz. Then click the button to Make Your Own.
Choose Your Quiz
At the Customize the Quiz page, type each question you want Alexa to ask, followed by the correct response. You can also add a follow-up fact for each entry. At the bottom of the screen, click on the Add Q&A button if you want to add more questions. When you’re done, click the “Next: Experience” button in the upper-right.
At the Customize the Experience page, type your own customized introduction to the quiz. Then select the sound you want Alexa to play when the quiz starts. Type three customized greetings that Alexa will choose from to welcome the players. Click on the Add Greeting button if you want to create more greetings.
Choose Quiz Responses
Under Quiz Responses, you can customize the sound and message played for each correct answer. You can then do the same for each wrong answer. Next, choose a sound and create a message for Alexa to play when someone wins to end the quiz. If you have an Echo Show $229.99 at Amazon, select a visual theme to display during the quiz. Click the Next button for Name.
Name Your Quiz
At the Skill Name page, type the name you want to use to request the quiz. Keep the name simple and limit it to two or three words. Click the Next button and Amazon will create your skill.
The first time you create a skill, Amazon prompts you to update your account on its developer portal so you can publish your skill should you choose to do so.
Access Your Quiz
Try it out by saying “Alexa, open [name of skill].” Alexa will then rev up the quiz and ask your questions randomly. If you need to edit your skills, access them from the Skills You’ve Made page. Click on the edit button to make changes or the delete button to remove it from your account.
How to Create a Storyteller Skill
Now, let’s try a different skill. At the Skill Blueprints page, we will create an interactive story for Alexa to tell. The story works like a Mad Libs piece in which Alexa asks you to name certain items and then uses your responses in the story.
In the Storyteller section, click the genre you prefer. In this example, we will use Sci-Fi. At the Sci-Fi screen, click the Play button to hear a sample story. Then click the button to Make Your Own.
Create Your Story
The skill starts you off with a sample story that you can customize by modifying or rewriting the existing content and adding your own sound effects. Change the blanks, such as “Name of Someone in Room,” into phrases of your own choosing. When finished, click “Next: Name.”
Name Your Story
At the Name screen, cook up a name for your skill. Click the “Next: Create Skill” button and Alexa will create it.
Access Your Story
When your story is ready, you can play it by saying: “Alexa, open [name of story].” Alexa first asks you to respond to the blank phrases, the same as you would do for a Mad Libs story. After you’ve given your responses, Alexa reads the story using your answers as well as the text and sounds you created and customized.
How to Create a Game Skill
Next, let’s try a game. In the Fun & Games section on the Skill Blueprints page, click the button for Birthday Trivia. This game challenges people at a party to answer trivia questions about the birthday boy or girl. Play the sample at the Birthday Trivia page and then click Make Your Own.
Customize Your Game
At the screen to Customize the questions, modify or create the questions and the multiple-choice responses. Click the Add Q&A button to add more entries. Click the “Next: Experience” button to move to the next screen.
Choose Game Experiences
At the screen to Customize the experience, type the name of the birthday person, customize or create an intro to the game, and choose a sound.
Choose Game Responses
Next, customize the player greetings and random messages. Fill out the rating responses, round responses, and winner responses. For an Echo Show, choose a visual theme. Click the “Next: Name” button.
Name Your Game
Name the game. Click the “Next: Create Skill” button and make it available to use on your device.
Access Your Game
Say “Alexa, open [name of game].” Alexa explains the game and challenges two to four party-goers with different questions. The birthday person confirms each answer by telling Alexa if it’s correct.
How to Create a Game Show
You can create even more interactive games by building your own Game Show skill. These games use two or more Echo Buttons $19.99 at Amazon to provide buzzers for players to tap when they know the answer, just like many game shows on TV. There are already quite a few of these games available to play on your Alexa-enabled device.
How to Create Custom Q&A
You can create custom responses to specific questions you ask Alexa. On the Skill Blueprints page, navigate to the At Home section, and click the button for Custom Q&A. Play the sample and click Make Your Own.
Create Your Q&A
At the screen to Customize your questions and answers, type the questions and answers that you want Alexa to handle for this skill. Click the “Next: Create Skill” button.
Access Your Q&A
After Alexa creates the skill, you can start asking Alexa the questions you posed. But wait until other members of the household are there so Alexa can surprise them with the answers.
How to Share a Skill
Okay, now let’s say a skill you created is so cool you think people outside your household will enjoy it. You can share it with only certain people or publish them to the US Alexa Skills Store where anyone can use it. From the Skills You’ve Made page, click the skill you want to share.
Choose Share Options
At the skill’s page, click the “Share With Others” link. You will then be asked if your skill is intended for kids under the age of 13. You can then share the skill via email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or by copying a link to it.
How to Publish Your Skill
If you want to share your skill with a wide audience, though, you can publish it to the Alexa Skills Store. Note that if you have already shared a skill, you will have to revoke access to it in order to publish. Head to the skill’s page and click the Revoke link.
Now with the share link revoked, you will notice that the Publish to Skills Store button is visible. Click the button to send the skill to the Skills Store.
Start Submission Process
In order to officially add your skill to the store, you will have to go through a submission process. Click the Get Started button to proceed.
Submit Skill Name
At the next screen, you can modify the name for your skill to make it more unique. You may need to play around with the name as Amazon poses several naming restrictions and limitations. Click the button to Save opening phrase.
After the phrase has been saved, you should test the skill before proceeding. Use the opening phrase to ask your own Echo to play the skill. If all is well, you can then tweak the Alexa Skills Store name, which doesn’t have to be the same as the opening phrase. Confirm your name. Click the Next button for Details.
Set Skill Details
At the Details page, you must choose a category and keywords for your skill. Toward the bottom the page, enter a short description of your skill, and then a longer, more detailed description in the appropriate sections. If you want to add an image associated with your skill, you can either upload your own or create an icon right on the page. Under the Skill Icon section, tap upload to add an image from your computer. If you don’t feel like hassling with image sizes, you can click the Create button to customize an existing icon. Inside the editing menu window, you can choose a specific image to edit. Teak the icon however you want by changing the color, border, and shadow. Click Save to complete your changes.
Answer Skill Policy Questions
At the next screen, you’ll answer some questions regarding your skill in relation to Amazon’s own policies. Once finished, click “Next: Review.”
Review and Submit Skill
At the next screen, you have the opportunity to review the information for your skill before publishing it. Click Edit if you need to change any details. Take your time here because once your skill is submitted, you can’t edit it. If you need to change any details, you’ll have to withdraw the skill and go through the submission process again. After your review, click the Publish to Store button.
Feedback From Amazon
Once the skill has submitted, you will have to wait a day or two for Amazon to review and approve it. You will then receive an email from the company letting you know whether or not it has been approved. If the company rejects the skill, the email will explain why and how you can fix it. You can then go back into your skill from the Skills You’ve Made page and edit it in order to meet Amazon’s requirements.
View Published Skill
Once you have received final approval from Amazon, the skill will go live. If you wish to view your creation, go to the Skills you’ve made page and click into the published skill. Click the link at the top of the skill’s page to view and share your skill from the Alexa Skills Store. You can share or disable the skill right from the store’s page.
This article originally published at PCMag