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15/01/2018 – News / Amazon / Alexa / Smart Home / VUI

“Alexa, microwave for 50 seconds on high” – Amazon adds cooking to its list of Smart Home Skill APIs

Customers have already connected tens of millions of smart home devices to Alexa, including cameras, door locks, lights, entertainment systems, and thermostats. Now, Amazon has added cooking capabilities as part of its Smart Home Skill API. The new announcement means that manufacturers can build skills to enable customers to control their microwave ovens using Alexa. Support for other cooking devices, such as conventional ovens, is set to follow soon.


Dinners on demand


Customers are increasingly using voice user interfaces (VUIs) as a hands-free way to manage their lives – and hands-free control is an especially valuable capability when cooking, for obvious reasons. With the built-in cooking device controls in the Smart Home Skill API, appliance manufacturers will make it easier for their customers to control a cloud-connected microwave. Instead of pressing multiple buttons to enable advanced microwave features, the consumer can now use their voice.  For example, a customer can say “Alexa, defrost three pounds of chicken” or “Alexa, microwave for 50 seconds on high.”


Initially, there are four new capability interfaces in the Smart Home Skill API – Alexa.Cooking, Alexa.Cooking.TimeController, Alexa.TimeHoldController, and Alexa.Cooking.PresetController. Manufacturers can leverage these interfaces today for microwaves and for appliances that support preset cooking. The interfaces are designed for future extensibility as support for more cooking devices becomes available.


Initially available for US customers only, Alexa’s cooking capabilities will also be available in other countries soon.


Remote control in the kitchen


Whirlpool has created an Alexa skill leveraging these new cooking capabilities in the Smart Home Skill API for its connected microwaves, and expects to launch it soon. The skill enables customers to easily configure, start, and operate their connected Whirlpool microwaves. Customers can ask Alexa to set microwave cook times, modes, power levels, and more – instead of using the traditional, and often confusing, microwave experience.


In addition, GE Appliances, Kenmore, LG, and Samsung are working on using the cooking capabilities in the Smart Home Skill API to let customers control their ovens and more appliances using Alexa in the future.


‘Smart Kitchen’ evolution 


Additionally, Amazon has just announced that its venture capital arm, Alexa Fund, has invested in June Life – manufacturer of the June Oven, a countertop ‘smart oven’ that makes cooking easier, faster and tastier. In a statement, Amazon announced: ‘We are excited about the innovations June is bringing to the smart kitchen, including their existing Alexa skill, and look forward to what they will create when we introduce support for ovens in the Smart Home Skill API.’


“We’re already bringing hands-free voice control to customers via our June Oven custom skill, which makes it incredibly convenient for them to do things like preheat the oven while they’re mixing ingredients, set and check timers, and stop cooking without taking off their oven mitts,” said Matt Van Horn, Co-Founder and CEO of June Life. “This next development in Smart Home Skill API support for ovens will enable our owners to give shorter, simpler commands to their June Ovens and receive updates on their food as it is cooking. We look forward to exploring what else we can do with our skill as the oven support rolls out.”

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