In April, Amazon introduced Alexa Blueprints, which Larry Dignan, ZDNet's editor-in-chief, calledb"kinda brilliant" and "a masterstroke." Now, Amazon has introduced four more types of Blueprints.
Blueprints allow you to extend Alexa's capabilities merely by filling out a form. There are templates for basic home information, family stories, and information. By filling in the forms, you can customize (and even name) these Blueprints to fit your family situation. For example, you can build out a babysitter template, so whenever a babysitter comes over, he or she has access to essential information, merely via an Alexa query.
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Alexa can now interact with your family with personal knowledge and provide help that specifically fits your needs. Larry gave six reasons he considers Blueprints so strategic: 1. Apple hasn't done this with Siri; 2. Alexa becomes part of the family; 3. Kids can easily become comfortable customizing Alexa and that follows them into adult life; 4. They make a good test bed for Alexa's business efforts; 5. Personalization matters; and 6. The more you interact Alexa, the more entrenched it becomes.
Last week, Alexa introduced four more skills: Chore Chart, Roommate, Whose Turn, and What to Do.
How many times have you had the fight over whether it's Bobby's time to do the dishes, Nancy's week to take out the trash, or Don's turn to fold the laundry? Chore chart aims to eliminate that never-ending battle by using Alexa to both describe and log chores.
To set up a family chore chart, you tell the Blueprint the members of your family. Next, you'll create a list of the chores that need doing.
Now comes the fun: you'll schedule the chores, and then assign who has to do what. You can leave the skill named Chore Chart, or you can give it a unique name that suits your family.
Alexa also allows you to customize some of the prompts, so after someone hears a list of chores, Alexa will say something like "You can do it!" or "Make it so." There doesn't appear to be a limit to the number of prompts, and Alexa chooses them randomly. This Blueprint also allows completion prompts that you can customize.
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Once done, Alexa creates the skill and updates your account. It does take a little while for the skill to be created. In my case, it took about five minutes.
Once the skill has been created, your family can get a chore list, log a chore (which allows Alexa to keep track of when a chore has been completed), and get a chore score (which helps all members of the family know what's been done by whom).
Roommate is great for students and anyone sharing a rental location. It provides house rules and important information. In fact, the Roommate Blueprint, paired with the Chore Chart, would make an ideal household management tool for those sharing a house.
Back in my engineering school days, we sure could have used this capability to prevent some epic disagreements!
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Roommate allows you to create house rules for each room of the house, as well as provide contact information for key people, like a landlord, plumber, or -- most important -- best pizza delivery in town.
What I think is far more interesting, though, is the 'How thing work' and 'Where to find things' sections. Amazon uses connecting to Wi-Fi as an example for how things work, but you might also need to explain how to set a timer for lights or how to change the water filter on the fridge.
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Where to find things is equally interesting, especially if there are tools or resources a roommate needs to know and might forget.
Whose Turn is a random value selector, using people's names for those values. When you ask Alexa, "Whose turn is it to whatever," Alexa will pick one of the names from the list. As for the "whatever" part, it looks like Alexa ignores that.
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That way, you can ask, "Whose turn is it to pick a movie?" or "Whose turn is it to hold the puppy?" and Alexa will pick a person from the list.
In the hands of someone with a twisted sense of humor (no, not me, never!), Whose Turn could be a blast at Thanksgiving. For example, if you want Alexa to pick Uncle Jimmy more often than anyone else, just enter his name a bunch of times. Then, when you want to ask "Alexa, whose turn is it to complain bitterly about politics?," Uncle Jimmy's name will likely come up, followed by a musical fanfare and family hilarity.
"What do you want to do?"
"I don't know. What do you want to do?"
"I don't know. I asked first. What do you want to do."
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Yeah, you remember these conversations. I sure do, as recently as last Saturday. What to do is really a random item picker. It's power is in the ability to select categories. You can ask What to Do from any category you define, like what you want to eat for dinner, what movie you want to watch, or -- as the Blueprint's name implies -- what to do.
Blueprints are still a work in progress. For example, the Roommate Blueprint has a prompt that says: "Customize Alexa's farewell. When your sitter closes the skill..." Clearly, the Roommate Blueprint was based on the babysitter skill.
That said, all of these Blueprints are interesting. They're definitely a small taste of what's to come. Have you created or shared any Blueprints? If so, let us know in the comments below.
You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.
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