Tips & Tricks

The 5 Alexa Skill Types Video

The 5 Alexa Skill Types

According to Voicebot, there are over 66.5M users in the US with smart speakers. In this video, we discuss different options and which strategy is right for your business to reach them.

Our Technical Project Manager, Conor, identified the 5 major Alexa Skill types in this video. Check it out below.

We’re happy to match, create, and customize an Alexa Skill for you. For a free demo, contact us for more information.

Cheers!

5 Tips for Giving Alexa a New Voice

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                       Do you know someone that would make for a great Alexa Voice? As much as we enjoy a good Joke from Alexa or a quick update on the weather, her voice playback doesn’t always align in providing the unique brand experience you might want to create. Fortunately, the platform with the right voice talent capabilities allows you to substitute Alexa’s voice for something a bit more...

Customizing Alexa’s Voice

Recently, we’ve worked with our great partner at Cecilia.fm to build out a new skill for a client that is uniquely voice-branded. As part of the project, we thought we share a couple of tips for changing Alexa’s voice.

  1. Write out your complete script and build it with Alexa’s voice first

While writing out your script first seems obvious, building it using Alexa’s native voice first is a must. It will save you time in the long run and help you to plan out each transition in the conversation, so you can build out a very complete Voice asset list.

  1. Don’t forget the unexpected while you have your Voice Talent

Outside of your expected dialogues in your conversation map, don’t forget that errors can occur during a conversation if you don’t have the correct Audio files. Consequently, this will make for an awkward experience transitioning from your voice actor to Alexa voice and back. While cutting audio in the studio, make sure you account for the “Oops”, “That wasn’t supposed to happen”, and all those unexpected awkward moments.

  1. Keep your response pieces under 90 seconds

The only way you will be able to change out of Alexa’s voice is to use the SSML <audio> tag. The amount of SSML Audio playback for a given response is a hard limitation of 90 seconds. Likewise, even though you can use multiple <Audio> tags in a single response (up to 5), the sum of all that audio cannot be greater than 90 seconds.

  1. Using Audio over 90 seconds

If your skill requires Audio that is longer than 90 seconds, you need to use the Audio Player inside your code and your user will be exited out of the skill once the audio finishes. Unfortunately, this is a limitation to the Audio Player for now. If you need to use the Audio Player, it may be helpful to let the user know that they are leaving the skill at the end of the Audio file that plays. Also it is a good practice to kindly remind them on how to get back into the skill to encourage repeat visits.

  1. Using SSML in Slot Filling

If your skill needs to use Slots to capture key data from your users, you can use SSML <Audio> in Alexa Speech Prompts for Slot Filling and Slot Confirmation. However, there can be issues with the SSML formatting if you are entering it using the Alexa Skill Kit interface. We recommend you use the JSON Editor to make the changes in the JSON code directly to ensure the SSML tag is formatted properly. This approach also allows you to make sure you are escaping characters properly to prevent any extra spaces in between you Slot variables and the SSML tag.

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Snippet of Code

For example, here’s a snippet of a JSON file where we used SSML to playback a custom Audio file based on a prior input from the user. In the skill, we ask the user for the length of time they would like and store it in the variable {time}. We then use that {time} variable as part of an URL construct to call a custom audio file.  

Creating a Unique Voice Experience

Leveraging a custom voice can create a very unique and engaging experience for your end-users.  The effort to do so requires a bit more planning and some massaging of the code, but it is worth it at the end. The developer forum at Amazon is a great resource to leverage and we’d be happy to help you if needed. Feel free to drop us a line.

Cheers -

Jay

Photo Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-amazon-echo-on-table-977296/

Owner: Fabian Hurnaus

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Edited with Adobe XD

Tips & Tricks for Alexa Development

Amazon just released a slew of new Echo products. The new expanded product line-up adds variety to their offering. The new products include:  a reduction in size to the standard Echo, the introduction of the Echo Spot, an alarm clock shaped device with a display. They've also released an accessory that allows you to connect your landline to your Echo ecosystem to make and receive calls through voice interaction. With a great new product line-up we thought it would be a good time to share some tips and tricks we've found during our Alexa development projects. These 6 tips might seem fairly straightforward, but they are always good to remember.

  1. When you write your skill’s example phrases, make sure they don’t contain any, emoticons, symbols, exclamation points, or grammatical errors. Example phrases should only include content that is intended to be spoken exactly by Alexa users. Make sure that if any of your intents allow users to ask about specific things that you don't generalize such as, "Alexa, ask example list to add {item} to my list." If you want to write an example phrase like the one mentioned, it should look like this: "Alexa, ask example list to add carrots to my list." Amazon Help Page

  2. If your Skill connects to an outside service, make sure that the user authenticates their account in the app. If they don't compete the account linking, an error message clarifies that the account isn't properly linked. Additionally, that response must create a card in the Alexa app pointing you towards the Link Account page. Without the proper error handling, Amazon will not approve your skill. Amazon Help Page

  3. Only add intents that are fully developed and deployable to a new version of your skill, or it will be declined. Adding intents that are not fully implemented will be tested by Amazon even if it has no utterances. Use version control well, and you will be in great shape!

  4. Select the example phrases that you display in the skill store from the sample utterances you develop in the skill. If the example phrases are word-for-word, you can be sure that the commands will work. Amazon Help Page

  5. If you do make changes to one part of a skill, make sure that you reflect those changes throughout. This can be an easy mistake to make when changing an invocation name late in the game.

  6. Properly manage sessions, by closing them when a user input isn't needed. When Alexa is expecting a response the microphone should be on waiting for user input, but otherwise should be turned off. During a one-shot request, "Alexa, launch {myskill}", or a help request, "Alexa, launch {myskill} help", you also need to make sure sessions are either open or closed intentionally.Amazon Help Page

These are only some of the tricks we've learned while helping our customers develop Alexa skills. If you need help building an Alexa skill you can go to our  Alexa development page to find out more!

The Keys to IoT Product Success

The Keys to IoT Product Success

Putting the Customer Need First

As Matt Roseff in Business Insider reports, a recent survey from consulting firm Accenture shows that consumer interest in IoT products like wearables and connected devices has flatlined since last year.

Why?

According to the survey results, 62% of consumers view such products as too pricey, or viewed another way, they don’t fully grasp the value proposition of the IoT products being marketed to them.  

Additionally, the survey revealed that 23% of respondents didn’t know what device would be useful to them and 17% found IoT devices to generally be confusing.

Are these artifacts of an early market being pushed by Technology companies trying to build products instead of traditional Product companies incorporating  technology?   

As product developers for brands look ahead in 2016 and beyond and consider how -- and if -- to include connected technology in their roadmaps, this kind of information should be kept top of mind along with a few basic business principles the industry should go back to.

 

What Consumers Care About

What does the customer want? There is nothing more important than this, and it should be the foundation of any product development plan -- regardless of whether or not connected technology is included.

As one survey from Affinova revealed, 92 percent of consumers say that it’s very difficult to pinpoint what they’d want from smart objects, but they’ll know it when they see it. They’ll know when the product solves a problem they have or not. Novelty products may generate near-term publicity and showcase your business as innovative, but unless the product hits a consumer pain point, companies may struggle to generate a ROI.

Another opportunity lies in data. Today’s wearables and consumer-focused IoT devices can amass endless amounts of data.  It’s key to convert data to information with actionable insights that influence positive behavior modifications. Ideally, these would be behavior modifications it’s common for people to want to make (ie, increasing exercise). Then, the new product will create trusted relationships with consumers.

 

How to Integrate IoT Into Your Strategy

When we work with clients on ideas for new products, we always touch on these points during the concepting phase of the project:

    1. Identify the consumer problem first. We encourage clients to get practical. Start with a consumer problem first, then think of ways to solve it with connected tech if it makes sense to do so.

    2. Use IoT to deepen the relationship with customer. Ralph Lauren, for example, doesn’t have as deep of a connection directly to consumers since so many of their products are sold by third party retailers (Macy’s). Unique product integrations with mobile apps, like Ralph Lauren’s “polo tech” shirt deepen the customer’s relationship to brand and introduce the brand to new consumers who are actively looking for tech-enabled apparel.

Connected tech is not the only way

 Connected technology is a pretty, new color in your crayon box, but it’s not the only way to draw a picture. In other words, connected technology is a cool, new, technology -- yes. But it’s not the only way to do these things. Proceed accordingly.

When thinking through your product roadmap for 2016, keep your eye on the future, yes, and certainly take connected technology into consideration. But more importantly, keep your eye on the customer.