Now you can use Alexa to create music playlists
The recent arrival of the Apple HomePod and Google Home Max have demonstrated, if nothing else, what a smart speaker can be when it’s music first.
On the other hand, audio’s never been as much of a driver on Amazon’s Echo line, though the company did take a small step in that direction with its recent refresh.
This week, the company’s adding another small but useful musical addition to its smart assistant. Users can now create and modify playlists using Alexa.
The assistant is now able to make a new playlist from scratch or a specific song and add tracks to different lists.
The feature was first introduced in beta a few weeks back and started rolling out to Amazon Music Unlimited users in the U.S. today. Amazon says it was one of its most requested features, showing that people are, indeed, using their Echo devices to listen to music.
Of course, while Amazon’s own products aren’t nearly as focused on the audio experience as the competition, the company has begun partnering with third-party hardware manufacturers like Sonos and Harman to offer a more music-focused listening experience.
For now, at least, the likelihood of a truly high-end Echo speaker doesn’t seem particularly high as the company focuses on low-cost hardware in an attempt to undercut the competition.
That said, unlike the HomePod, Echo devices also let users offload the sound to other speakers through Bluetooth and an auxiliary output.
Storyline lets you build and publish Alexa skills without coding
Thirty-nine million Americans now own a smart speaker device, but the voice app ecosystem is still developing. While Alexa today has over 25,000 skills available, a number of companies haven’t yet built a skill for the platform, or offer only a very basic skill that doesn’t work that well. That’s where the startup Storyline comes in. The company is offering an easy to use, drag-and-drop visual interface for building Amazon Alexa skills that doesn’t require you to have knowledge of coding.
As the company describes it, they’re building the “Weebly for voice apps” – a reference to the drag-and-drop website building platform that’s now a popular way for non-developers to create websites without code.
Storyline was co-founded in September 2017 by Vasili Shynkarenka (CEO) and MaksimAbramchuk (CTO). Hailing from Belarus, the two had previously run a software development agency that built chat-based applications, including chatbots and voice apps, for their clients.
Their work led them to come up with Storyline, explains Vasili.
“We realized there was this big struggle with creating conversational apps,” he says. “We learned that creative people and content creators are not really good at writing code. That was the major insight.”