Since we got the Amazon Echo Dot in the office we wanted to build an Alexa Skill for it. Alexa is the AI that users can access through the Echo. While using the Amazon Echo Dot, one is actually accessing Alexa and all the available skills (think apps on your mobile) are installed on the device.
A Skill or an Alexa Skill is basically like an app – a way of extending the capabilities of Alexa and the Amazon Echo itself.
Amazon provides some examples of how to start building your own Alexa skill. There is a section on Amazon developer console website dedicated to Alexa skills.
There are two parts that we need to take into account in order to build an Alexa Skill.
The first one is the Lambda function where the Skill logic resides. Its responsible for processing the input in order to provide the desired output. Its the place were an API call can be performed or the connection to another service.
The second is the interaction model were we specify a mapping between the user’s spoken input and the intents our cloud-based service (in this case a lambda function) can handle.
Read an interview with Amazon’s VP of Alexa here – it’s quite interesting if you haven’t followed this topic much.
There are a fair amount of skills available in the UK already, that range from News, transport information and even recipes by Jamie Oliver. As usual with new technology, we believe this is something we should be part of.
With this in mind we decided to build our first Alexa skill. After starting with a simple app that would just present a random fact about us we decide to build something with a bit more interaction. The idea was to present our services using Alexa voice interaction. The app will understand “yes” or “no” answers and in some cases also the options which it provides with the question.
The skill provides an insight into our services using only voice. One of the most interesting features is the ability to get a rough estimation for a digital product after replying to a set of questions.