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Amazon gives developers more ways to build Alexa skills

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Amazon today rolled out the ability to quickly migrate a bot made with its Lex framework to an Alexa skill. The Amazon Lex console can now export a Lex bot as a JSON file, which can be made into an Alexa skill using the Skill Builder inside the Alexa development portal.

“The JSON configuration file contains the structure of your Amazon Lex chatbot, including the intent schema with utterances, slots, prompts and slot-types. The export functionality simplifies the process of creating an Alexa skill from an Amazon Lex chatbot,” an Amazon AI services at AWS spokesperson said in a blog post.

Launched last November, the Lex bot framework can make speech and text bots for smartphone apps or chat clients like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Twilio SMS. Lex can also provide deep learning-powered automatic speech recognition and natural-language understanding.

Though Lex bots can respond to speech and rely on the same tech that powers Alexa, Lex bots must be migrated from the Lex console to the Alexa Skills Kit to respond to the Alexa wake word and operate in the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show.

This is the latest move by Amazon to simplify Alexa skill development for developers.

On Tuesday, Amazon released a public beta of the Skills Management API and the Alexa Skills Command-Line Protocol. Together the two can be used to create, test, and launch Alexa skills.

Before the introduction of the CLI and Skills Management API, Amazon developers had to use external tools to export data into the development portal.

Companies like Mobiquity, Smartly.ai and Xapp Media are among those already using these features, an Amazon spokesperson told VentureBeat.

Other platforms, like IBM Watson’s Sandbox or Slack’s Steno, also offer testing grounds for developers to make better bots.

Skill Events were also added to the Alexa Skills Kit this week. Skill Events allow a developer to receive notifications based on noteworthy user behavior such as when a user enables or disables a skill or if they begin to use a third-party account with a skill.

Amazon has not shared the number of developers making voice apps but has said that roughly “tens of thousands” develop third-party skills for Alexa.

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