Intro to Alexa Voice Assistant

  • Author: m0ther
  • Topic: Voice Bots
  • Posted:
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Alexa is the market-leading home assistant that ships on an ever-increasing variety of devices, most prominently on the purpose-built Amazon Echo, Dot & Tap, as well as connected devices like fridges and modern cars.

Primary Use Cases
Alexa is the biggest value-add when there is a strong hands-free use case, such as streaming media controls in the kitchen or car, or integrating with home automation and IOT appliances. While some use cases are extremely strong not everything lends itself to voice control and the interaction model can be tricky.

Best Use Cases to Date

  • Streaming Media Controls
  • Household Shopping Lists
  • Home Automation Controls
  • Reference look-up
  • News Briefings
  • Joking around, Alexa can be quite funny!

Ordering Products on Alexa
Alexa is Amazon-centric and ships with voice ordering on, which has since been made famous by various mishaps. Voice ordering model is best for repetitive orders since you can’t see the product or review your order visually.

Alexa Skills
Alexa ships with a lot of built-in functionality but stands apart from many other assistants in its extensibility. Developers can add their own “Skills” to an ever-growing catalog of what are basically free voice apps. Over ten thousand these have been published in the last months, but most are very simple use cases that don’t add a lot of value and there are significant issues with discoverability and usability.

Skills require that the user remember how to interact with them and that limits the amount of Skills that are practical to have enabled. You don’t have the same kind of visual triggers you do on a phone. Skills have to be called by name, in combination with Alexa’s wake word.

Geography
Alexa works in English and German right now and is not multi-lingual. Presumably for these reasons the international release is very limited, although you can order the product from B&H and have it shipped internationally.

The Good
Alexa is pretty good (but not perfect) at hearing you and figuring out what you’re saying quickly. It is always on and listening for its wake-up word and this makes it much more accessible to everyone in earshot than the assistant you probably already have on your phone. Alexa excels at hands-free use cases and its functionality is increasingly quickly with skills.

The Bad
Alexa is very early in its development and some of the limitations will be addressed as new features get released. Alexa can’t recognize voices yet, which limits integration with more personal services behind a clumsy auth model, but Amazon is reportedly working on this.

There is no notification or interruption model aside from an alarm with a timer. For now Alexa can’t tell you that something just happened or prompt you on its own. And the companion app leaves a lot to be desired.

Read more about our Alexa Skill Development and our Google Assistant Action Development!

If you’re interested in learning more about how your product could integrate with Alexa, we would love to chat with you.

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Alexa Skill Development