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Skill Search for Alexa

Audio Demo of Skill Search

Search and discover 3rd party Alexa skills by voice

The Alexa voice service currently supports over 10,000 3rd party skills. Skills are voice-driven capabilities that enhance the functionality the Alexa device. 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.

Complex Dialog

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.

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.

Using Skill Search

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

To invoke Skill Search, say "Alexa, open Skill Search". You can ask Skill Search to find skills for things likes "I want to check my flight status" or "I would like to meditate".

Skill Search will return the top results that match your query based a on a keyword search.

After Skill Search returns with results, you can:

  • Navigate the search results:
    • Say "next" or "next skill" to get the next result.
    • Say "previous" or "go back" to get the previous result.
  • Skip through the search results:
    • Say "go to skill three" or "tell me about skill three" to skip to the 3rd result.
    • Say "skip" to skip the next result.
  • Get skill ratings:
    • Say "what's the rating" to get the rating of the skill.
  • Get more information:
    • Skill Search will ask if you’d like to hear more about a result. Say "yes" to hear a short description.
  • Interrupt and search for new skills:
    • You can interrupt Skill Search any time by saying "Alexa" or "Alexa, stop".
    • You can interrupt and search for a new skill as well. For example, "Alexa I'd like to book a hotel".

Skill Card

The Alexa app will also display the results of your voice search as visual card. The card will contain additional information about your search result. This includes category, rating, and a full description.