2 Tools to Help you Get Started with Voice Technology

If you're a content creator of any kind--creating books or audiobooks, podcasts, articles, magazines, videos, you name it--you're eventually going to have to bring that content into the realm of Amazon's Alexa.

With 50 to 60 million Americans now owning Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, the screen-based Echo Show, Alexa-enabled Kindles, or even Alexa-based microwaves and alarm clocks (and millions more across the world) Alexa is now everywhere.

Combine Alexa's ubiquity with Amazon's overall role within the publishing landscape, and you then understand that you can't simply ignore this Alexa thing. You need to understand what she does, the type of ways people will engage Alexa, and how people are already creating voice experiences that can be interacted with--by simply saying things like "Alexa, play This Week In Voice," which will summon the latest episode of my weekly podcast on voice technology, for example.

When Amazon first launched Alexa as a voice assistant, the only way to create an "Alexa skill" – Amazon's nomenclature for what are essentially voice apps which live within Amazon's Alexa ecosystem – was to code one from scratch.

Now, creating an Alexa skill not only doesn't require coding knowledge, but it's so simple that any and all content creators should now be engaging with the platform, if not for any other reason than to see how it all works. This is the future, after all – and we'll be engaging with computers, and the world around us, primarily via voice.

What tools are available for content creators to use to get started today? Here are two:

1. Castlingo – This service, created by DC-based Witlingo, allows anyone to create an Alexa skill. All you do is visit www.witlingo.com/castlingo, download the Castlingo mobile app, fill out a form with your personal or business information (which will be used to help suggest names of your Alexa skill and what other information might be needed for your skill to be validated with Amazon), and within days, you can begin using the mobile app to upload up to 20 "casts" (audio segments up to roughly a minute long each) which then will be played, via Alexa-enabled devices, to your audience when they interact with your skill.

Need more than 20 casts? It's unlikely, but if you do, there are paid options available. Also, there are paid options available to bring the same functionality over to Google Assistant-enabled devices.

Authors can easily upload audio which provides bonus content for books, or brief interview snippets readers will enjoy, via this service. Other types of content creators can record audio that will extend the core experience of their content even further as well. Castlingo is a fantastic way for content creators to get going with voice and do something meaningful, either for free, or for low cost.

2. Alexa Skills Blueprints – Head to blueprints.amazon.com, where a variety of pre-existing templates for Alexa skills (which Amazon calls "blueprints") are waiting for you to download and modify for your purposes, also for free.

You can use a quiz template to create a skill which asks readers questions about your book, or you can go further and create an interactive story involving characters from your content that can further immerse your audience in your universe. A variety of pre-built templates await your exploration here, with Amazon's resource, though they are limited in how they can be modified.

Once you're done, you can name your skill (just like you do with Castlingo) and have your skill submitted for verification before being made available to all Alexa-enabled devices.

Both of these are outstanding options and available now. There's no excuse to not stick your toes in the water of voice technology and see how you can complement or enhance your existing content. And chances are, you'll learn something new about how people engage and even think about what you're creating, while you're peering into the most important emergent technology of our time.

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