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Amazon Promotes Alexa Skills Development with $100 Usage Credits

Amazon is awarding $100 promotional credits to developers who publish Alexa skills, which provide natural language commands to voice-controlled home computing devices such as Echo.

Monthly credits will be available for developers who use the Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) free tier to publish Alexa skills and subsequently exceed the limits of that program and thus incur usage fees.

The AWS free tier offers 1 million AWS Lambda requests and up to 750 hours of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) compute time per month for no charge.

If a developer creates a skill -- say, to play a song, answer a question or control smart home devices -- that becomes so popular that regular usage charges kick in, AWS will e-mail a $100 promotional credit in the middle of the next month, good for the remainder of that month.

Also, all developers who publish a live Alexa skill will be eligible for a $100 credit, good for one year.

"There is already a large community of incredibly engaged developers building skills for Alexa," said exec Steve Rabuchin today in a statement. "Today, we're excited to announce a new program that will free up developers to create more robust and unique skills that can take advantage of AWS services. We can't wait to see what developers create for Alexa."

Amazon indicated the program would benefit developers who see varying levels of usage for their published skills, such as the Hurricane Center skill that leverages AWS Lambda to provide storm information to users. "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," the company quoted the service's creator, Terren Peterson, as saying. "It puts my mind at ease and allows me to help more individuals be prepared for storms."

The Alexa development program provides a free SDK called the Alexa Skills Kit self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples) that leverages the Alexa Voice Service to bring voice capabilities to connected devices.

By leveraging machine learning (ML), the Alexa skill service continually adapts to user input and gets "smarter," Amazon said. The company characterized the program as a good way for developers to get started early with ML and other cutting-edge technologies, such as speech-based natural user interfaces.

However, while developing Alexa skills and other intelligent assistants such as Google Home can serve to learn new technologies, the area hasn't paid off well so far for developers, according to recent research from VoiceLabs, which provides "voice experience analytics." The company said in January: "As of this report, no [voice-first] application has successfully monetized. By Q2, 2017, we predict one of the major platforms will deploy a compelling monetization method."

Coders can visit the Amazon developer site to apply for the program.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for 1105 Media.

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