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 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:
Aristo Skill - Science QA
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|