Last month we posted an article about the Amazon Echo and discussed some exciting concepts that we’re hoping to work on in the near future. We couldn’t resist playing with Alexa in the meantime, and came up with some ideas for a couple of quick skills we could build while we wait.
• Tongue twisters
• Word of the Day
• Lottery number generator
After compiling some fun tongue twisters, and giving the app a small test run – we realised that the idea was so good Amazon had beat us to it; Alexa has tongue twisters built in. As we know, Alexa (the voice service that powers Echo) provides a set of built-in abilities, or skills, such as the ability to play music, set an alarm, tell you the weather, and many more. The Alexa Skills Kit enables experienced software engineers (like the ones we have here at Matchbox) to employ their impressive knowledge of code to build and add their own skills. So after double checking that Alexa was not able to generate lottery numbers, nor tell us a word of the day, we set about putting these two skills together.
The Alexa Skills Kit is an assortment of documentation, tools, self-service APIs, and code samples. The idea being that experienced developers can add skills to Alexa even though they have no prior experience with natural language understanding, or speech recognition.
So having discovered that tongue twisters were built in, we moved onto option #2 – Word of the Day. Which was quickly renamed to Daily Word once we realised that the submission guidelines required the invocation name to be at least two syllables, and no longer than three words. In order to have a different Daily Word each day, and ensure that Alexa chose the same word if asked multiple times that day, we needed to create a list that would last an entire year, minimum.
It sounds like an easy enough task, however there are a lot of details to consider for each word chosen. It needs to be a fun word to learn, have an interesting (and family friendly) definition, fairly straightforward spelling so it’s possible to pronounce and understand, and yet still be a good addition to one’s vocabulary. After much thought, investigation, googling, and dictionary checking we compiled a list of over 370 words. Here are just a couple of our favourite Daily Word examples;
An adjective referring or pertaining to the day before yesterday.
The fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
Use of archaic words or expressions, for example; thee, dost, thou.
After completing the final steps of development, we passed everything over to the test team to ensure we were ready to submit our skill. The Alexa Skills Kit section of the Amazon developer site is incredibly informative, and provides very detailed information to read and follow to fully prepare your skill for submission – even providing users with a final submission checklist.
This was our first step into the Alexa skills development, and it’s only fuelled the fire. We keep coming up with new ideas; exciting concepts we want to make a reality and imagining the endless opportunities this technology can provide.
We received initial feedback last week, (a few days after submission) and we were excited to see that only a couple of minor changes were needed. After adjusting accordingly, we resubmitted, and our skill was certified the next day! This was great news, and we are thrilled to have our first skill (of hopefully many) available on Alexa. It was an interesting and informative process, and will definitely help shape our future Alexa skills development.