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Brian Donohue

Amazon Alexa Skill Tutorial

Brian Donohue

  • Dec 15, 2018
  • 10 Min read
  • Dec 15, 2018
  • 10 Min read

Build your first Alexa skill

Alexa Skill Terminology

Each Alexa skill is comprised of an “Invocation Name,” which you can think of as your app name, a set of “Intents,” the phrases that map to each intent, and the software that can detect the intent and return an appropriate result.

Hello World Skill

We are going to create an adaptation of the classic “Hello, World!” program. Once we finish, Alexa will learn this "skill" and be able to appropriately respond to new voice commands that apply to it.

Skill Steps

Building your first skill will comprise of four steps.

  • First we’re going to copy the “Hello, World!” code into Amazon Lambda, which will be responsible for running the code.
  • Next we’re going to set up our skill in the Amazon Alexa Skills Developer Portal, and link our lambda account to that skill.
  • Then we’re going to test using the Amazon service simulator and on an Alexa-enabled device.
  • Lastly, we’ll walk through the steps of customizing your skill to your needs.

Alexa Skill Links

I put together a list of resources at, which is a public Instapaper folder I've set up to make sharing my list of links easier. The slides will refer to each of these links. I’d recommend having this open in a separate tab, so you can refer back to the links easily.

Step 1

Step 1: Lambda

Step 1a: AWS Login

  • Login using the same Amazon account to which your Alexa device is linked (recommended) or create a new account.

Step 1b: Amazon Lambda Function

Enter the name of your Lambda function. This name needs to be unique. For now, you can simply use “HelloWorld". In the top right, it should say “N. Virginia”. If that’s not the case, please select “US-East (N. Virginia)” from the dropdown menu.

Why North Virginia? As of the time of this writing, the Alexa Skills Kit is only hosted in East US (N. Virginia.)

Step 1c: Copy Source Code

Step 1d: Paste Source Code

Back in Lambda, you’re going to scroll down a bit and paste the code you copied from GitHub into the large text box under “Lambda function code”.

Step 1e: Set Execution Role

Scroll down a bit further to the “Lambda function handler and role” section. Set the role to “lambda_basic_execution”.

If this is your first time using Lambda, you’ll have to create the “lambda_basic_execution” role. You can do that by selecting the first option “* Basic Execution” and clicking the blue button on the next page. After you take that step, you should be able to select “lambda_basic_execution”.

Step 1d: Finish Creating Lambda Function

Once you’ve created the function, click on the “Event Sources” tab. Then click the blue “Add event source” link, then select “Alexa Skills Kit” from the modal dropdown.

Please note if you’ve never signed up for the Amazon Developer Portal, you’ll have to do that first before the “Alexa Skills Kit” will appear from the Event Sources dropdown. Please also make sure to use the same Amazon account as the one that's being used with AWS and your Alexa device.

Step 1 Done

Step 1 Done

Keep the Amazon Lambda tab open though, we’ll come back to it!

Step 2

Step 2: Amazon Skills Portal

Step 2a: Amazon Developer Login

Open the Amazon Developer Skills portal and log in with the Amazon account connected to your Alexa device.

Step 2b: Navigate to Add New Skill

Click the yellow “Get Started >” button under “Alexa Skills Kit”. Then, click the yellow “Add a New Skill” button on the next page.

Step 2c: Name and Invocation Name

The name of your Amazon Alexa skill must be unique for your account, and the invocation name is what you’ll use to activate the skill. “Alexa, tell to say Hello, World”.

If you can't think of anything else, no worries! You can use "Hello World" as the invocation name. Click the yellow “Next” button when you’re ready!

Step 2d: Interaction Model

This is where we tell the skill which intents we support and which words will trigger each intent. Get ready to copy-paste.

Step 2e: Copy Intent Schema

Open the Hello World intent schema and copy all of the text in the box.

Step 2f: Paste Intent Schema

Back in the Amazon Skills portal, paste the copied schema into the "Intent Schema" field.

Step 2g: Copy Sample Utterances

Open the Hello World sample utterances and copy all of the text in the box.

Step 2h: Paste Sample Utterances

Back in the Amazon Skills portal, paste the sample utterances you copied into the Sample Utterances field. Click the yellow “Next” button after you’ve pasted the Sample Utterances.

Step 2i: Configuration

Change the radio button from “HTTPS” to “Lambda ARN”, and select the “No” radio button under "Account Linking". Now we’ll have to go and grab the Lambda Amazon Resource Name (ARN) from our Lambda tab. You still have that open, right?

Step 2j: Copy ARN

The ARN is at the top right of the Lambda function page. I have it selected in the image above. You’ll want to copy the selection next to "ARN". This field looks somewhat like a source path.

Step 2k: Paste ARN

Paste the ARN into the text field, and press “Next”.

Step 2 Done

Step 2 Done

Step 3

Step 3: Amazon Skill Test

Step 3a: Service Simulator

After you click “Next” on the “Configuration” tab, you should be on the “Test” tab. Under the “Service Simulator” portion, you’ll be able to enter a sample utterance to trigger your skill. For the “Hello, World” example you should type something like “Say hello world.” On the right you should see the output from the Lambda function you created: “Hello, World!”

Step 3b: Test on Device

If you got the correct output using the Service Simulator, try it on the Amazon Echo. We were using “last name” as the invocation name in this presentation, but you should use the invocation name you set in step 2c.

Alexa, tell Hello World to say Hello World

Step 3 Done

Step 3 Done

Step 4: Customize

Step 4: Customize

Step 4a: Change Sample Utterances

Go back to the “Interaction Model” tab in the Alexa Skill Developer portal, and edit the words on the right of “TestIntent” with the words you would like to say to Alexa. An example might be “Who is the coolest person on earth?”. In this case, you would prompt by saying “Alexa, ask who is the coolest person on earth?”

Next we’ll customize the output.

Step 4b: Change Lambda Output

  • Go to the "Code" tab in Lambda.
  • Scroll to line 104 and replace "Hello, World" with your output (Keep quotes around your output).
  • Click "Save".
  • Test in the Amazon Developer Portal.

Step 4 Done

Step 4 Done

Congratulations, you just created your first Alexa skill! 👏👏 Keep making more skills to enable Alexa to perform new tasks.