The Alexa Revolution: building voice apps for Amazon Alexa

The Revolution is Upon Us

In 2018, around 100 million voice-controlled devices were installed in homes around the world. The voice assistants that control them, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, are becoming increasingly more powerful as more resources are being used to improve their usability.

Fast-forward to today, and thousands of third-party voice apps are being created for these devices each month, further enhancing their impressive list of capabilities. Voice apps enhance the way users interact with these assistants, whether they are asking for the weather, requesting sports scores, or listening to music.

According to a statement made in Tech Crunch by Amazon, there are currently more than 130,000 live skills published on Alexa with millions of Alexa devices being used billions of times every week. The truth is there remains a big opportunity for new creators, designers and developers to start building skills of their own.

The Alexa Revolution, written by Xavi Portilla Edo and Vicente Guzmán, is one of the first books printed in Spanish and English that offers a comprehensive guide to designing, building and deploying voice-based apps for Alexa. Within its pages, you'll quickly learn how to develop your own skills - Amazon lingo for voice apps you can download and enable on your Alexa device. These skills unlock the power of Alexa, allowing these devices to perform a seemingly endless list of tasks and commands from retrieving specific information to ordering food to pairing with smart home devices in your home.

The best part about The Alexa Revolution is you don't need to be a developer or have previous programming knowledge to read it. The book walks you through the entire Alexa skill development process from scratch. That way, you can master the basics first before diving into more advanced concepts as you read on.

A Conversation with the Author

🎙 Voiceflow sat down with Xavier to discuss his book, his inspiration for writing it, and why it's a must-read for anybody interested in voice design and development.

Q1: How would you describe this book to someone who isn't familiar with Alexa or VUI design?

Xavier: This book is one of the greatest places to start if you're interested in learning about voice. It begins by explaining what a voice interface is and how you can interact with these devices. It then goes deeper into the process of designing and developing "skills" - which are interface-specific apps run on Alexa.

You don't need to know how to code or have any prior expertise with Alexa skills to benefit from this book. You'll learn everything from the ground up, starting with the fundamentals - like explaining what Alexa is and how voice interactions work.

Q2: What was your inspiration for writing this book? 

Xavier: I've always wanted to write a book. And I started seriously believing in voice technology when I began developing Alexa skills in 2019. I really felt that this technology could help humanity in a lot of ways.

And so, I wanted to put everything into this book that I learned over the past two years developing Alexa skills and creating voice interactions. I wanted to empower others to get started and encourage people to create things that will help benefit others. For example, inspiring someone to found a startup or business that designs and develops smart healthcare devices or voice applications for the elderly.

Q3: Why did you focus on building for Alexa?

Xavier: I also build for the Google Assistant and other custom assistants, but for me, Alexa is the most natural interaction one can achieve with a voice assistant nowadays.

Q4: How did you structure the the book to make it accessible to new Alexa designers/builders?

Xavier: When it came to writing this book and organizing the content, my vision was to create a course using the book as a resource. This is why I started from scratch - to build up a person's understanding of voice-enabled devices or Alexa and then work my way through deeper explanations of voice interactions chapter by chapter. This structure can help open the door to more complex understandings later on - such as introducing what an utterance or an entity is or what differentiates the many voice assistants out there.

Q5: Is this book useful for developers?

Xavier: Yes, it is. When you open up the book you will see that there is a Github link with all the code uploaded in a repo. So as you go through the book, you will find all the code neatly tied to its relevant section. This is particularly useful when you are tasked with creating your own Alexa skill in the Alexa Developer Console. As you continue to improve your skill chapter by chapter, you can easily reference the code as you build.

Q6: How can reading this book help Voiceflow users?

Xavier: With this book, you will learn all the fundamentals behind voice-enabled devices and how we as humans interact with them. Absorbing this basic and fundamental knowledge will then make it easier to understand what goes into designing and prototyping voice experiences in Voiceflow. This is because the book teaches you both the theory and the technical side of building Alexa skills.

Although Voiceflow is much faster and more intuitive than using the Alexa Developer Console (ADC) to create voice experiences, it can be helpful to understand what's happening underneath the hood. As a visual design tool that supports coding, Voiceflow is well suited for both designers and developers. However, those with no coding experience can better understand the inner workings of their voice experience by tackling the exercises in this book.

About the Authors

Xavier Portilla Edo • Valencia, Spain

Xavier graduated from the Polytechnic University of Valencia with a bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering in 2014, and went on to earn his master's degree in application software development in 2017. During his academic career, he worked on a variety of projects, including the Hyperloop UPV, which many consider to be the future of transportation.

Today, Xavier works as an infrastructure engineer at Voiceflow. An Alexa Champion and founder of the Spanish Alexa Community, he has written numerous articles about Alexa focusing on developer tools, testing, and automation. His podcast El Interior De Alexa dives deep into the voice tech universe highlighting the latest news, features, and applications within the Alexa ecosystem.

Vicente Guzmán • Guanajuato, Mexico

Vicente is a computer systems engineer from Guanajuato. He currently works as a developer at Xamarian while consulting for a number of commercial companies and government agencies.

Vicente was named Alexa Champion in 2020, and is the only Mexican to have received the honour. He has a bachelor's degree in computer science and two master's degrees, one in information technology and the other in commercial management and marketing.

📖 Interested in owning a copy of The Alexa Revolution? Click here.