Alexa Skill Models

What are the Different Alexa Skill Models?

Talking to Amazon Alexa surely seems so fun, doesn’t it? However, do you ever wonder about what goes behind making Alexa work like the way it does? The answer clearly lies in the Alexa skill models. Amazon Alexa, or simply Alexa, is the virtual assistant of Amazon, and its use is evident across various platforms. Initially, Alexa was meant for Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers.

Now, you can find Alexa compatible with platforms like Fire TV, Fire HD, Android, iOS, Linux, and Cortana. The wide range of languages in which you can find Alexa is also attractive propositions. In addition, Alexa’s capabilities show the effectiveness of Alexa Skill builder. Alexa has capabilities for voice interaction, setting alarms, playing audiobooks, music playback, and providing real-time information.

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Alexa is also ideal for controlling various smart devices by leveraging its capabilities as a home automation system. The capabilities of Alexa extend when users install skills or the additional functionalities developed by third-party vendors. When you think of different Alexa skills, you are actually looking at apps that provide the desired functionality of an Alexa skill. The following discussion would help you get an ideal impression of the Alexa skill models for clarity about Alexa’s working.

Importance of Alexa Skill Models

Alexa provides a wide range of skills that address specific functions. The skills help in adding more capabilities to Alexa, such as ordering food online from Zomato. So, the basic instrument underlying the development of different Alexa Skills is an Alexa skill model. When you can understand the various skill models in Alexa, it will be easier for you to understand Alexa skill development. First of all, what do you mean by an Alexa skill model?

The first step for building any new skill on Alexa is the identification of functionality of the new skill. The understanding of the functionality of the new skill can help in determining the approach for the integration of the skill with Alexa service. Most important of all, the basic outline of what you need your skill to do helps in another major concern.

You can be able to find out exactly what you need to build. The Alexa Skills Kit can provide the necessary support for developing various types of skills. You can find that various Alexa skills have unique interaction models. The interaction model is what refers directly to the Alexa skill models. These models help in determining the capability of a skill to handle requests.

Furthermore, skills models help in determining the words that can help in starting up requests. The foremost type of model that you can find is the custom interaction model. With the help of the Alexa skills kit, it is easier to find pre-built models. The pre-built models have potential requests and phrases for activating the requests or “utterances” pre-defined already. So, let us attempt to understand various skills models that we can find in Alexa.

1. Custom Interaction Model

The foremost entry in this discussion on Alexa skill models refers to the custom interaction model. The custom interaction model is ideal for building skills that also imply maximum control over the experience of users. Such types of skills are known as custom skills. The custom Alexa interaction model can help a developer define various aspects of a custom skill. Developers could define the requests that skill could address.

The requests are known as intents. The examples of various intents for a skill include looking up tide information. Intent could also be ordering a pizza or engaging the user in a game such as puzzles. So, the intent of a custom skill could extend according to the level of your imagination.

The next element in the custom interaction model refers to the words that help in activating the system to perform requests by users. The interaction model also needs a voice user interface that can help users in communicating with a particular skill. Some of the examples of the voice user interface include “Find high tide info for Seattle” or “Order a large pizza.” Developers could map these phrases on the relevant intent to enable the activation of skill by using particular phrases.

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Developers can also define the visual and touch interactions that users could experience and could invoke with a skill. The custom Alexa interaction model helps in creating skills that can use combinations of visual, voice, and touch interactions. This is applicable in the case of devices that support Alexa and have a visual display and touch interaction support. On the other hand, developers could also develop a custom skill without any screen functionality.

Developers could define the name for identifying the skill in the custom Alexa skill models. The name is known as the invocation name and is applicable at the time of making a request. For example, the skill for ordering a pizza could be “Pizza Boy.” So, a user could say, “Order a large pizza from Pizza Boy.” Alexa would understand this request and sends the “OrderPizza” intent to the service for Pizza Boy skill.

The custom skill could address any form of the request if the appropriate code is created for fulfilling the request. Developers should also provide the relevant data to the interaction model for helping users invoke the request. Custom skills are generally very complex projects in Alexa Skill builder, albeit with the advantage of flexibility.

2. Smart Home Skills

The other types of skill models that you can find for Alexa are pre-built models. The first entry among pre-built Alexa skill models is Smart Home Skills. The Smart Home pre-built model is ideal for building a skill to control smart home devices. Development is simpler in the case of this interaction model, albeit with lower control over user experience.

In addition, the skills are easy to invoke by the end-users because there is no need for invocation names. The API for Smart Home Skills defines requests that the skill has to handle. It also defines the words used for invoking the requests. The requests that skill could handle are known as device directives such as “turn on/turn off” or “lock a door.” The developer defines the response of skill to a particular directive.

Specific code for turning a light on when the skill receives directive for “turn on the light” is the developer’s contribution. AWS Lambda function hosts the code. An important concern, however, is that skills built using Smart Home Skill API respond only to supported device directives.

3. Flash Briefing Skills

Flash briefing skills are the next important entry among pre-built Alexa Skill models. This Alexa skill model serves as the sole approach for providing content for a flash briefing of a user. The Flash Briefing Skill API defines words used to invoke certain requests for flash briefing skills. The examples can refer to ‘tell me the news’ or ‘give me my flash briefing.’

The developer has to define certain factors for completing the design of a flash briefing skill. He should define the name, images, and description for the flash briefing skill that can help customers choose. The developer should also define one or more content feeds to support the flash briefing skill. The content feeds involve audio content or text content Alexa presents to the customer.

Also Read: Top Alexa Skills to Try Yourself

4. Video Skills and Music Skills

Video Skills are also one of the pre-built models for Alexa’s interaction. The video skill is meant for providing video content such as movies and TV shows to customers. The Video Skills API defines the words needed for making requests such as ‘change to channel 5’ or ‘play Ocean’s Eleven.’

Developers have to define the name, images, and description for a video skill that helps customers choose a suitable skill. Developers should also define the requests that the video skill could handle. The requests can include playing and searching for video content and the manner of displaying video content search results. Along the lines of video skills, Alexa also has pre-built models for Music Skills.

Music skills can help in providing audio content for Alexa users. The Music Skill API defines the words used to invoke a request and controlling audio content. The API transforms such utterances to requests, which subsequently go to the relevant skill. The AWS Lambda function hosts the skill code and manages the requests and responds appropriately.

5. List Skills

The final entry in the Alexa Skill models refers to List skills. Interestingly, there is no API for creating list skills for Alexa. List skills could provide the use of list events by understanding and reacting to changes happening to lists by the common utterances on Alexa. The Alexa Skills kit command line interface (ASK CLI) helps in the creation of list skills.

You can include an optional custom component that can help in integrating custom skills. The List API defines the intent and user actions for triggering list events like adding or removing an item from the list. Developers or skill creators have to define the endpoint for receiving list events and handlers for processing and responding.

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Bottom Line

On a final note, we can note the various functionalities from Alexa Skill models. The different skills models show us opportunities for a future where we can train Alexa to execute various tasks conveniently. The focus on smart home skills, flash briefing skills, video skills, and music skills can grow substantially in the future.

With the introduction of new advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, Alexa shows promising potential for autonomous operations. However, the primary basis of developing Alexa skills is in the understanding of approaches of users to interact with skills. After all, the effectiveness of an Alexa skill depends largely on the user’s response to the skill!

If you are aspired to build a career with Amazon Alexa as an Alexa Skill Builder, validate your skills with the AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder Specialty certification exam. Once prepared, check your preparation level with the AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder Specialty practice tests and get ready for the certification exam.

About Pavan Gumaste

Pavan Rao is a programmer / Developer by Profession and Cloud Computing Professional by choice with in-depth knowledge in AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform. He helps the organisation figure out what to build, ensure successful delivery, and incorporate user learning to improve the strategy and product further.

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