Amazon’s new Echo Show doesn’t run traditional apps, it’s based on Alexa “skills,” just like the Echo and other Alexa devices. But Amazon is going to add some new functionality to its Alexa Skills Kit for developers so they can add more visuals and interactivity to their skills on the Echo Show.
First off, out of the box Echo Show uses the skill cards that already exist for Alexa — they’re the same cards you see on the Alexa app or a Fire tablet. These cards can include an image and a bit of text, and Amazon encourages developers to make them “value-added content,” meaning the primary interface is the voice, but the card can add extra info.
For Echo Show, there will be an easy way for developers to send a video to the device, using an Amazon-built video player that controls playback with voice and touch. All a developer really needs is a URL to a video and they’re in business — perfect for responding to a question with a how-to video, for instance. The Smart Home API for Alexa is also being extended so the Echo Show can easily show a video feed from a smart home camera with minimal developer effort.
What’s more intriguing — and a little unclear at the moment — are the “GUI templates” Amazon will offer to developers to make their skill cards more interactive. The updated Jeopardy!, Uber, and Allrecipes skills that have been announced so far might be good examples of the sort of flexibility developers can expect when they get access to these tools later this summer.
It does seem like Amazon wants to keep Echo Show a voice-first experience — in the entire promo video there isn’t a single instance of anyone touching the device — but there’s a touchscreen on this thing, and the typical developer knows a lot more about making touchscreen apps than adding a “GUI template” to an Alexa skill.