A free, once–weekly email roundup of Voice news and articles. Subscribe here.

📰 News and Stories

Echo Dot was the #1 selling product on Amazon globally, from any manufacturer, in any category: Astonishing results after this year's black week. According to the Amazon's press release "Echo Dot was the #1 selling product on Amazon globally, from any manufacturer, in any category."

Reminders API, Calendar Availability, and Integration with Routines all Added Features to Alexa and Alexa for Business in November:
Early this month Amazon rolled out some new features for Alexa and Alexa for Business customers. The Reminders API, calendar availability browsing, and calendar integration with Routines all became available. With these new features, users are able to find free time in their schedule, add their calendar as an action in Routines, and developers can alert users for reasons of their choosing. Launch partners included Kayak (US), NHL (US), TV Guide (UK) and CARADA (JP) with more skills coming later this year. The NHL skill can remind you that your favorite team has a game tonight, and Kayak can remind you of an upcoming flight. Reminders show up as a light pattern and chiming noise on Alexa. In the Alexa companion app, reminders can be viewed and dismissed from the Alerts & Alarms menu.

Recap of AWS re:Invent Videos: In their Twitch channel Amazon published several Alexa-related worth watching.

Introduction to Fairness in Machine Learning (Google Blog): Google: To help practitioners take on the challenge of building fairer and more inclusive AI systems, we developed a short, self-study training module on fairness in machine learning. This new module is part of our Machine Learning Crash Course, which we highly recommend taking first—unless you know machine learning really well, in which case you can jump right into the Fairness module.

📓 Tutorials and Opinions

Why Contextual Awareness Is Important When Designing Conversational Alexa Skills:
When interacting with other people, we can draw from context in real time. We make observations about tone of voice, body language, general topics, previous conversations, and what's happening around us to make conclusions that inform our decisions and what we say. It's amazing how quickly and innately we're able to do this. In the space of a few seconds, we're able to engage all of our relevant senses and our memory to paint a picture of whatever context we find ourselves in, moment by moment. Then, we use that information to help root and guide the flow of dialog. Knowing this, is it even worth trying to replicate human conversation with your Alexa skills? Yes, most definitely. This tutorial will teach you how.

5 Resources on Getting Started with Alexa Skills: Alexa Design Guide, Guide: How to Design a Voice User Interface, Blog: 5 Steps to Build Your First Alexa Skill, Video: Build Your First Alexa Skill in 1 Hour, Blog: Top Developer Tools to Help You Build Alexa Skills.

10 Tips for Designing Alexa Skills with Visual Responses: As Alexa continues to become further integrated into a range of devices with different capabilities, its ability to communicate with customers continues to evolve. And now with the Alexa Presentation Language (APL), you can build multimodal skills that provide customers with visual queues as they navigate through a voice experience, leading to deeper, richer interactions across tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices with screens.So, where should you start? Consider the following 10 design tips as you create your voice-first, visual experiences for Alexa using APL.

📆 Upcoming Events

Enter the Alexa Skills Challenge: Multimodal to Compete for $150K in Total Prizes: Amazon announces Alexa Skills Challenge: Multimodal with Devpost, an opportunity for you to build an Alexa multimodal skill using the Alexa Presentation Language (APL) and compete for cash prizes and Amazon devices. We invite you to build a voice-first multimodal experience that customers can enjoy across tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices with screens. In addition to helping push the boundaries of what's possible with voice-first visual experiences, you can compete for cash prizes. You can also earn a new Amazon device by just publishing an eligible APL skill. Start building APL skills and enter the challenge by January 22.