Over the years, voice assistants like the Amazon Echo Plus and the Google Home have seamlessly integrated with our everyday life. With the ever-increasing number of skills, the use of these AI-powered assistants has grown to include more than the simple commands.
But these assistants do not always function the way you want them to. For example, take the case of the Amazon Echo. It can play songs, help you remember things or even double up as an intercom. But ask it to play you a story of your choice, or repeat the current password of your Wi-Fi network, it won't be able to do so. To counter this, Amazon has come out with an interesting feature — Amazon Alexa Skill Blueprints.
What Are Amazon Alexa Blueprints
Alexa Skill Blueprints are a set of templates with which you can customize your own set of skills by building on top of them. Long story short these are text in/text out mechanism, where you have to fill in the relevant details to create a particular skill.
For instance, if you want your Echo device to repeat your favorite inspirational quotes in the morning, you can enter any lines you want and set the name of the skill. The next time you want a bit of a motivational push, all you need to do is ask Alexa for the same.
There are handful of templates/blueprints available currently — Greetings & Occasions, Fun & Games, Learning & Knowledge, and At Home.
Note: Alexa Blueprints may vary from country to country. Please check that you have logged into the correct region before attempting to set up a skill.
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How to Set up Alexa Blueprints
Step 1: Open Blueprints and sign in using your Amazon account. Select a template of your choice and tap on Make Your Own.
Step 2: Once done, tap on Next to enter the Intro messages. These are the set of sentences that Alexa will use to greet you with. It can be a simple word such as 'Welcome' or a couple of lines.
Having done that, enter the name of the skill, preferably an easily pronounceable name. Currently, Alexa doesn't support common nouns. Hence, words like 'Welcome Home' works better than 'Tom, Welcome.'
Step 3: Now, all you need to do is tap on Create Skill button at the upper right corner. Congratulations, you just created your first skill.
Wait a couple of minutes for the skill to be created. Now, summon Alexa and test your first skill.
To end a skill, just say 'Alexa, stop.'
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How to Use Alexa Blueprints
Let's take a look at few examples of the skills for Alexa Blueprints.
Welcome a House Guest
This skill is particularly important if you have house guests over frequently. Alexa helps to answer simple questions like emergency contact numbers, the location of common things and repeat passwords when you are not home.
Some of the examples of questions are:
What is the Wi-Fi password
Where are the house keys
Where is the pet food
Cool Tip: You can also enter a customary farewell message.
Create a Custom Fairy Tale
You must certainly check out this template if you have kids who love listening to bedtime stories. Not only can you write your own story, but you can also enter your kid's name, add musical effects and the likes.
The best thing is there are a plethora of sounds to select. To add to it, you can also include a pause or two in between.
Build a Set of Motivational Quotes
Inspiration is your perfect shot if you want to listen to motivational quotes before you start the day. Simply select the skill and enter your favorite quotes. By default, there is room for three, and you can increase it via the Add Quote button.
Once done, rename the blueprint and ta-da!
Pro Tip: The inspiration quotes do not necessarily have to be from great men. Enter a line or two of your own and add in a funny name.
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Customize your Questions
You can also add your own set of questions and answers through Custom Q&A. Similar to the House Guest skill, you can add a set of questions and their respective answers.
Whenever you forget something, wake up Alexa and it will guide you through the issue at hand.
Share Skills with Friends
Why have all the fun alone, when you can share it? Open the skill via the 'Skills you've made' tab at the top. Click on details and select the Share with others button.
Enter the email or copy the link. The person to whom you've sent the skill needs to just enable the skills, and that's pretty much it.
Cool Tip: The Details page conceals the option to delete skills.
Common Problems and Solutions
1. Alexa Skipping Names
If Alexa is skipping names, especially in the Story skills, the chances are that you may have added a space in between names. The odds of Alexa understanding Wonderland is better than Wonder Land.
Also, if skills have names like 'skill', 'Alexa' and 'Amazon,' the said skill won't work as expected. Simply head over to the skill on your PC or phone, and edit it.
2. Skills Not Working
Blueprints particular to a region won't run in another region. Meaning, if your account is set to India and you try to set a skill particular to Amazon.com, it won't work.
Hence, check your account before creating a skill. Also, do check the Amazon account with which you created the skill is also the same that as the one linked to your Echo device.
3. Alexa Not Answering Questions
Alexa will reply to a particular question only if you have asked it as you have entered it. So, 'Where is my wallet' cannot be changed to 'Where is my purse.'
You see, Alexa is very particular.
All Set Up?
Amazon Skill Blueprints lets you take a step further with their voice-activated smart assistant. Not only do these skills add meaning to the word 'Assistant' but they also allow you to add your personal touches as well.
Hopefully, in the coming years, assistants such as Alexa or the Google Home will be able to understand the context even when you've forgotten to add a word or two to a sentence.