That explosion in Alexa “skills” wasn’t our imagination. Amazon’s voice-enabled virtual assistant has reached a milestone of 1,000 third-party skills in less than a year, the company says. Skills are the equivalent of apps, allowing developers to add new capabilities to the Amazon Echo and other devices that use Alexa.
Amazon announced the milestone this morning, as the company seeks to differentiate Alexa from its rivals and position the technology as a platform for third-party developers. The company cited examples including skills for ordering and tracking Domino’s pizza; accessing Capital One banking information; getting Kayak travel details; hearing Fitbit personal health information; requesting Uber rides; and controlling SmartThings devices in the home.
With its focus on its Echo smart speaker, Amazon’s Alexa has taken a different approach from competitors such as Apple and Microsoft, which offer their virtual assistants Siri and Cortana in smartphones or computers. But Amazon is facing new competition from the recently announced Google Home device.
Another recent example of a new Alexa skill is the ability to use voice commands to access Washington State Ferries information, from Seattle user experience agency BlinkUX. Amazon offers the Alexa Skills Kit for third-party developers to create these capabilities.