Alexa-enabled devices are surging in popularity. One of the neatest features of Alexa is the "Flash Briefing". This is a stream of news Alexa reads to you when you say "Alexa, what's the news?" or "Alexa, Flash Briefing". This feed can be customized by skills. But what would you do if your favorite news site does not have a skill? Amazon makes it surprizingly easy to make your own skill.
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Step 1: Check to See If the Skill Already Exists
This step is important. There is no point in making a duplicate skill! Open the Alexa app, and go to Menu > Skills. Search for the site you want to turn into a skill. If there are no results, then continue with this Instructable.
Step 2: Start Creating the Skill
Go to https://developer.amazon.com/edw/home.html#/skills. This is where you can start making skills. You will need to sign in with your Amazon account first. Once you've signed in, click the "Add a New Skill" button.
Step 3: Skill Information
Fill out information about your skill.
For "Skill Type" select "Flash Briefing Skill API".
For "Language" select your language. I live in the US and speak English, so I chose "English (U.S.)".
For "Name" type the name of your skill. I am making a skill for the website "How-To Geek", so I called the skill "Unofficial How-To Geek". The "unofficial" part is important, because the website you are making a skill for might not want people to think that the skill is by them.
Click "Save" and then "Next".
Step 4: Interaction Model
Lucky you! You don't need to code an interaction model, because you are making a Flash Briefing skill! Click next.
Step 5: Configuration
Time to configure your skill! First, you need to find a RSS feed for your site. I searched "how-to geek rss feed" and found https://feeds.howtogeek.com/HowToGeek. Next, you have to invent an error message. It can be whatever you want. I will go with "How To Geek is not available right now, so you are missing out on geeky news. Sad face". Type the message into the "Custom Error Message" box. Click "Listen" to ensure Alexa can pronounce it.
Now click "Add new feed". Fill out the information:
Preamble: What Alexa will say before reading the feed. I will use "From how to geek...". The preamble must start with "in" or "from". Click "Listen".
Name: Type the name of the website. I used "How-To Geek".
Content update frequency: Select how often the site has new content. How-To Geek publishes new articles every few hours, so I chose "Hourly".
Content type: Select "Text".
Content genre: Select the genre of your content. I chose "Technology".
URL: Put the RSS feed link here. How-To Geek's feed is https://feeds.howtogeek.com/HowToGeek.
Feed icon: Time to get artistic! Use a computer drawing tool to make a circular icon. I used Inkscape. Export it as a 512*512 pixel PNG file. Also export a 108*108 version for later on. Click the button to upload your 512*512 image.
Now, click the save button in the "Adding Feed" section, then the "Next" button in the main section.
Step 6: Test Your Skill!
If it is not selected already, click the toggle next to "Show this skill in the Alexa app" so the toggle is orange. Click "Next". Go to the Alexa app's skills page and tap "Your Skills". Find your new skill and tap it. Tap "enable skill" and then "manage in flash briefing". Make sure the skill is toggled on, and that it is in the correct order. Now ask your Alexa-enabled device "Alexa, flash briefing". It should read you news from your site you chose. There may be some strange things Alexa says like "Click here to continue reading". That is because the RSS feed is meant to be read on a computer.
Step 7: Publishing Information
Fill out the information so users can know what your skill is. When you come to the "images" section, upload the images you made previously. Under "Testing Instructions", put something like "You should not need to do anything special, it is just a flash briefing skill." Be sure to put a disclaimer stating that the skill is not official in the description. Mine read "This is not made by How-To Geek and is not endorsed by them in any way."
Step 8: Privacy and Compliance
Step 9: Wait and Get Skill and Free T-Shirt!
Now it is time to wait as Amazon certifies your skill. Once that is done, you (and anyone else who wants to) will be able to download your completed skill from the Alexa app!
Amazon gives away t-shirts to anyone who makes an Alexa skill. Go to https://developer.amazon.com/alexa-skills-kit/alexa-developer-skill-promotion to claim yours.
Participated in the
Internet of Things Contest 2017