Amazon Offers Alexa Presentation Language To Customize Devices

As part of a larger effort to outsmart Google and Apple's smart devices, Amazon is offering developers a new design language to build multimedia experiences for Alexa.

With the new Alexa Presentation Language -- or APL -- developers can now customize graphics, images, slideshows and video for Amazon’s growing array of voice-activated gadgets.

As early as next month, Amazon’s Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV and select Fire Tablet devices should support “skills” built using APL, the tech giant said this week.

Later this year, third-party devices built using the Alexa Smart Screen and TV Device SDK are also expected to add APL support.

Beyond audio and voice, Amazon wants developers to start thinking about designing “multimodal” experiences, according to Amazon tech evangelist Paul Cutsinger. That means combining voice, touch, text, images, graphics, audio and video in a single user interface.

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“You can provide customers with complementary information that’s easily glanceable from across the room,” Cutsinger notes in a new blog post. “Or you can use the screen to enrich your voice-first experience and reduce friction for customers.”

For instance, Cutsinger suggests developers consider offering visual cues for confirmation or show lists of items during a content search experience.

Included in the Alexa Skills Kit, APL will offer various tools and resources for translating voice-first experiences to screens.

The launch of APL coincides with the relaunch of Amazon’s Echo Show, which is essentially an Echo smart speaker with a video display. Since its launch about two years ago, users have interacted with visual skills hundreds of millions of times, by Amazon’s count.

More broadly, Google, Amazon and Apple remain locked in a battle for smart speaker dominance.

During the second quarter, the Google Home Mini was the best-selling device, followed closely by Amazon’s Echo Dot, per new findings from Strategy Analytics.

Although Apple’s HomePod failed to rank among the top five selling devices -- accounting for just 6% of shipments -- it still managed to top the market value rankings with 16% share of wholesale revenues.

That’s because the HomePod’s $350 price tag is significantly higher than Google’s Mini and Amazon’s Dot.

“The Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot accounted for a combined 38% of global shipments, although they contributed just 17% toward the value of the market, due to their low price,” David Watkins, director of strategy analytics’ smart speaker service, notes in a new report.

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