You couldn't miss the 2024 AI trends on display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, but one announcement that flew slightly under the radar was Amazon's launch of new Alexa AI skills.
Unlike self-driving concept cars equipped with 16K TVs, you can actually use Alexa's debut AI skills right away – and, best of all, they're free for anyone with Alexa-enabled hardware.
Whether it's getting some fitness advice or playing AI's take on the popular “20 Questions” game, here's how to use Amazon Alexa's new skills today.
Wait, What are Amazon Alexa Skills Again?
As a quick refresher, Alexa is Amazon's smart assistant that features on popular products like its Echo range of speakers and displays. Alexa “skills” are basically things Alexa can do or help you with.
They're probably best understood as a cross between an app and a feature or integration, in that while many are built-in to the platform, others are powered by third-parties and need to be enabled.
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For instance, one of the most popular Alexa skills is the helper's ability to tell you the weather forecast. Amazon has built in a weather forecast skill to all of its Alexa speakers and other devices, but you can also separately deploy one from providers like Big Sky.
Similarly, Alexa supports meeting scheduling across a range of common calendars including iCloud, Gmail / G Suite, Microsoft Office 365 / Outlook and more. You just enable the one you want, then ask Alexa to, “schedule a call with David Smith” and let Amazon's digital PA do the rest.
What New Alexa AI Skills are There in 2024?
We're glad you asked, because that's why we're here. At CES 2024, Amazon unveiled three initial Alexa AI skills for you to try out.
The first three new Alexa AI skills are:
- Volley Games
Here's a more detailed look at them.
Character.AI is a popular AI tool in its own right and one of the best ChatGPT alternatives.
It's an AI chatbot that can adopt the persona of anyone from a historical figure like Einstein to a more every day “character” like a travel agent or personal trainer.
Its Alexa skill is an extension of this core functionality, letting you converse with the generative AI chatbot through compatible hardware like Amazon's Echo speakers. It's another way for these devices to help you find stuff out, be it useful or slightly irreverent – as you'll quickly find out many of bots created for Character.AI are!
Splash is an AI music generator. The Australian startup is actually now backed by Amazon itself, so it's no surprise to see it appear as one of the first Alexa AI skills.
Basically, Splash lets you create “original” songs by conversing with it through an Alexa device. Ask it to make a song by specifying a genre, instrument, or style of music, then tweak it by adding lyrics and other additional elements.
Splash says that it has trained its model “exclusively” on self-owned music, so hopefully it's not going to fall foul of any of the AI copyright battle currently raging.
Volley already boasts a handful of popular Alexa skill and lets you bring big name games like Jeopardy! and The Price is Right to your Amazon smart speaker or display.
Now, Volley Games has a new AI riff on “20 Questions” to add to its arsenal. Fire it up and your non-human host will give you a broad category, traditionally something like “animals” or “people.”
It'll then be your job to ask the AI clarifying questions, in the hope of deducing the ultimate answer.
How to Use Amazon Alexa AI Skills Like Character.AI
Using Amazon's new AI Alexa skills is really, really easy.
To get started, all you need to do is engage with Alexa, then asking it to open the specific AI skill you want.
So it's as simple as saying, “Alexa, open Character.AI” to your Alexa-enabled device in the case of the often humorous chatbot.
Alternatively, you can say “Alexa, open Splash Music” to blast out some homebrewed AI tunes, while firing up Volley's new game is: “Alexa, open Volley Games.”
That's the great thing about Alexa skills: activating them is usually just a case of knowing the name of the skill, and then prompting Alexa. In fact, as we're talking all things AI here, it's not entirely unlike how you would use ChatGPT prompts, just infinitely more convenient as all you need to do is speak.