Learning to develop an Alexa skill

I wanted to find out about developing a Voice User Interface as the opportunities to use such an interactive voice resource within a learning environment, especially a ‘personal’ learning environment – whether formal, informal or non-formal, appears to be considerable.

I’ve signed up to AWS (Amazon Web Service) and also Amazon Developer so I can create an Alexa skill. I’ve already practiced creating a skill using the Amazon step-by-step guide and this works, so now I need to put this into practice with developing my own particular Alexa ‘skill’.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

I’ve thought about what my first attempt will be and I think something along the lines of a specific knowledge base of technical terms for a specific subject area. So, the sort of question you might ask Alexa will include ‘describe’; ‘what is’, explain’, ‘define’, .. these will form part of what are called the ‘utterances’, whilst the ‘intents’ will be how I structure the content of the replies.

I see this type of voice user interface being of particular use when someone is reading a text and/or carrying out some form of learning and require clarification or reinforcement of a particular term. Asking the speech application (i.e. in this case the Alexa skill) will not distract the learner in a way that going to a different text book or searching the web might, but will just be part of a natural pause in studying, and will then give time to reflect on what has been received back from the Alex skill and the learner can more seamlessly carrying on which their line of thought and study.

The aim is to enrich a learning environment, hopefully making it not just more engaging but also more fun, and with a learner actually wanting more.

I do have a couple of weeks leave to take shortly so this will be an ideal project to develop and learn some new skills (excuse the pun) along the way.

Chris Gray, 31st January 2018