3 Things We Learned at Alexa Dev Days

This week we had the great opportunity to attend Seattle’s Alexa Dev Days conference. This event will be visiting multiple cities from now through February 2018.

This conference focuses on learning how to build new and engaging Skills for the platform and attendees work toward building a Skill of their own throughout the day while listening to speakers and following along with workshops. While it won’t be possible to dive into everything from the full-day conference, we are excited to share some of what we took away from the day.

Alexa Skills Kit (ASK)

ASK is Amazon’s framework that all Skills are built on. ASK brings a collection of APIs, documentation, tools and templates to make building a Skill as easy as possible. During the event we were able to dive deep into this and better understand the different components of a Skill and how to bring these components together to build a cohesive and robust application using the Alexa Skills Kit.

Natural User Interfaces

When the announcement from Amazon came for the upcoming conferences, Vice President of Alexa, Steve Rabuchin stated that natural user interfaces “represent the next major disruption in computing.” Here at AIM Consulting, we totally agree. Voice interface and natural language is very quickly gaining traction with users and it has some unique benefits that other user interfaces simply don’t have.

  • Easily initiate often-repeated tasks

Rather than reaching into your pocket to retrieve your mobile device, opening the app and then navigating to just the right section each time you want to order your favorite Starbucks drink, with the Starbucks Reorder Skill, it is as simple as saying to Alexa “tell Starbucks to start my order.”

  • Simple navigation of complex tasks

It might be a difficult task to go to your banking app and find how much money was spent at a certain location last month, but Capitol One has a Skill that can do just that for thousands of potential vendors. Simply asking “How much did I spend last weekend?” or “How much did I spend at Amazon in June?” Alexa will respond with exactly the information you need.

Voice Design Considerations

With natural language there will always be multiple ways of asking the same question. “What time is the baseball game?”, “When does the game start?” and “When are the Mariners playing today?” all ask the same thing in different ways. It’s important to take this into account and Alexa’s “Utterances” help us out with this. With Utterances, we can add multiple variations for user inputs so that we can give Alexa the best chance of correctly identifying what a user means when they say or ask something. Creating custom “Slot Types” are another key to helping Alexa understand users. Letting Alexa know up front what type of response we expect to get