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Alexa Skills

Skill Search for Alexa

Audio Demo of Skill Search

Check us out on TechCrunch: Amazon rejects AI2’s Alexa skill voice-search engine. Will it build one?

Source code for Skill Search: Github

Search and discover 3rd party Alexa skills by voice

Note: Skill Search is not available in the Alexa Skill Store. Amazon currently does not permit skills that recommend other skills.

The Alexa voice service currently supports over 10,000 3rd party skills. Skills are voice-driven capabilities that enhance the functionality of Alexa devices. For example, there are skills that will provide guided meditations or allow you to check airport wait times. All available skills are listed on the Alexa Skill Store website. However, it can be challenging to navigate the website to find and discover skills. More importantly, Alexa does not have functionality that allows a user to find skills by voice. You need to use the website to find skills and enable skills before being able to access them by voice on the Alexa device.

Skill Search was developed to allow users to find skills by voice directly on the Alexa device. Skill Search provides a conversational interface that allows the user to search for skills and learn more about them. Users can navigate over a list of results, ask for the skill’s rating and hear short descriptions.

Dialog Research

Dialog agents need to keep track of the various pieces of information to make decisions how to respond to a given user input. This is referred to state tracking. As the dialog complexity increases, state-tracking logic becomes harder to write, debug, and maintain. As a result many Alexa skills are simplistic and the dialog can feel unnatural and inquisitorial. Users can’t ask follow-up questions (e.g. what’s the rating) or change conversation paths (e.g. actually can I find a yoga skill instead).

Skill Search was built using Allen AI’s open source alexafsm library. The alexafsm library takes the finite-state machine design approach to address this complexity. Developers using this library can model dialog agents with first-class concepts such as states, attributes, transition, and actions. Using alexafsm, Skill Search provides a more conversational experience for the user.

Source code for alexafsm: Github

Natural Language Support

Skill Search is flexible and supports a wide variety of user queries. For example, to find a meditation skill, a user can say:

  • Can I find a meditation skill?
  • I’d like to meditate
  • I want to mediate
  • I’m looking for a meditation skill.

Aristo Skill - Science QA

Available in the Alexa Skill Store

Aristo is a basic science question answering skill. You can ask Aristo questions about biology, chemistry and other science subjects. Aristo supports knowledge lookup (what are clouds made of) and basic reasoning (who studies fossils and dinosaurs) questions.

  • To ask Aristo a question, you can say things like:
    • Alexa ask Aristo what are clouds made of?
    • Alexa ask Aristo what is the temperature of absolute zero in Kelvin?
  • For longer questions invoke Aristo and ask your question after being prompted. For example:
    • Alexa, open Aristo.
    • (After Aristo prompts you for a question) A person who studies fossils and prehistoric life such as dinosaurs is known as a what?

Here’s a few questions to get you started:

Note: Alexa sometimes struggles with scientific terms. You may need to repeat a question a few times before Alexa interprets it correctly. The articulation ease column describes how easy it is for Alexa to parse the provided question.

Question Can base Alexa answer it? Can Aristo skill answer it? Articulation ease Aristo skill answer
What is a negative effect of cutting down trees? No Yes Easy 1 negative effect(s): loss of foods for animals
What are the three measures of temperature? No Yes Easy Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin
Why do animals hibernate? No Yes Easy Hibernation helps cope with food scarcity during winters by slowing down metabolism, reducing body temperatures and conserving the animal's energy
What are the inputs to photosynthesis? No Yes Medium Sunlight, water, CO2
Who studies prehistoric life? No Yes Medium Paleontologist
What materials are conductors made of? No Yes Medium Metal, such as copper (inside of wire)
What is the first stage of mitosis? No Yes Difficult Prophase - chromosomes condense
Which cells contain a nucleus? No Yes Difficult Eukaryotic
A change of the DNA in an organism that results in a new trait is known as what? No Yes Difficult Mutation