Open Source Insider

Mar 15 2017   2:35PM GMT

Amazon makes Alexa skills free, using AWS

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

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Amazon has announced a new programme designed to allow Alexa developers to build and host most Alexa skills using Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Alexa is an ‘intelligent’ personal assistant developed by Amazon that was made popular by the Amazon Echo smart-speaker. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, news reports, traffic and weather etc.

AWS Free Tier

The firm says that many Alexa skill developers currently take advantage of the AWS Free Tier, which offers one million AWS Lambda requests and up to 750 hours of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) compute time per month at no charge.

However, if developers exceed the AWS Free Tier limits, they may incur AWS usage charges each month.

Now, developers with a published Alexa skill can apply to receive a US$100 AWS promotional credit and can also receive an additional $100 per month in AWS promotional credits if they incur AWS usage charges for their skill – making it free for developers to build and host most Alexa skills.

 “There is already a large community of incredibly engaged developers building skills for Alexa,” said Steve Rabuchin, vice president, Amazon Alexa. “Today, we’re excited to announce a new programme that will free up developers to create more robust and unique skills that can take advantage of AWS services.”

Hurricane Center

Hurricane Center, an Alexa skill that provides the latest storm information based on data from governmental agencies, uses AWS Lambda. “

The customer response to Hurricane Center has been incredibly positive, and Alexa has offered us an entirely new way to deliver the latest in weather and storm information,” said Terren Peterson, Hurricane Center’s developer and an experienced technology executive. “Now, if my skill sees extensive use during hurricane season, I can be assured that those scalable costs will be covered with this new program. It puts my mind at ease and allows me to help more individuals be prepared for storms.”

Darian Johnson, a technology consultant and Alexa skill developer, uses AWS Lambda and Amazon DynamoDB for his Alexa skill, Virtual Librarian, which provides reading recommendations based on bestseller lists, award nominations, and user reviews.

The skill won Most Useful API Mashup in a recent Hackster.io contest.

“AWS services, like Amazon DynamoDB, have allowed me to create more robust skill experiences,” said  Johnson. “Now that I’m able to freely create and scale skills, and have the peace of mind that I’m covered if my skill takes off, I’m motivated to see what next big skill I can create.” 

Developers can visit developer.amazon.com/alexa to apply for this program and for info on the Alexa Skills Kit and AWS.

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