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Small Appliances

Amazon's new tool lets anyone make an Alexa skill in minutes

Available now, Alexa Skill Blueprints are free online templates that'll let anybody create custom Alexa responses or personalized skills within minutes.

Ian Knighton/CNET

There's an awful lot that Amazon's virtual voice assistant Alexa can do, and that's thanks in no small part to her ever-growing library of "skills." Each one is essentially an app that teaches Alexa a new trick as soon as you enable it -- and now, Amazon is making it easier than ever for you to make skills of your own.

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Amazon's making it easy for people to tinker with their own Alexa skills.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Specifically, Amazon is today launching Alexa Skill Blueprints, a set of fill-in-the-blank-style templates for creating quick, custom Alexa skills. Use them, and you'll be able to craft a skill within minutes, Amazon says. Once you've created one, it'll be available instantly on all of the Echo devices associated with your Amazon account (and only those devices, I might add).

"You don't need experience building skills or coding to get started," said Steve Rabuchin, vice president for Amazon Alexa. "My family created our own jokes skill in a matter of minutes, and it's been a blast to interact with Alexa in a totally new and personal way."

To start, Amazon is offering up 21 different Blueprints spread across four categories, with more said to be on the way. Some are very simple -- skills that create custom responses to preset questions, for instance. Others seem more creative, like a Blueprint for crafting an interactive adventure game starring your kid.

Other Blueprints are designed to make Alexa more personally informative, and to teach her pertinent info about your family and your home so that she can relay it to people like houseguests, babysitters and pet sitters. I'll go ahead and predict that tech-savvy Airbnb hosts will make good use of those, with custom skills that let Alexa remind couch surfers when checkout is.

Alexa Skill Blueprints are available now on Amazon's Blueprints website. For now, the templates are exclusive to users in the US. No word from Amazon yet on when we might expect to see them arrive elsewhere, though Alexa's been on the move lately, with Echo devices launching in Australia, Canada and India.

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For now, here's the full list of Blueprints to choose from, as described by Amazon.

At Home
- Custom Q&A: Customize responses to your questions
- Houseguest: Make your guests feel at home with quick access to important info
- Babysitter: Help your sitter find things, remember steps and get important info
- Pet Sitter: Help your pet sitter care for your favorite animal

Fun & Games
- Family Jokes: Create a list of your favorite jokes for when you need a laugh
- Trivia: Create your own multiple choice trivia game on any topic
- Inspirations: Curate a list of your favorite inspirational quotes
- Family Trivia: Play together and brush up on family history
- Bachelorette Party: Play to find out how well the bride's friends know her
- Birthday Trivia: Play to see who knows the birthday girl or boy best
- Burns: Roast your friends and family with lighthearted burns
- Compliments: Flatter your favorites with a list of custom compliments
- Double Trouble: Find out which couple knows each other best with this customizable game
- First Letter: Play a game of categories starting with a certain letter

Storyteller
- Adventure: Write an adventure story where your child is the hero
- Fairy Tale: Customize an interactive prince and princess-themed tale
- Sci-Fi: Create an interactive story with a far-out theme
- Fable: Create a short narrative with a moral of the story

Learning & Knowledge
- Flash Cards: Study, test yourself, and master any subject by voice
- Facts: Keep a list of facts on your favorite topic, all in one place
- Quiz: Challenge yourself and others with a customizable quiz

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