Amazon Alexa A Comprehensive Exploration of Potentials,Skills


Amazon Alexa extracts its name from two main sources. First, the name is coined from the Library of Alexandria which tried to gather all knowledge in the world. Since Amazon is trying to do a similar thing, the service was branded this name, says David Limp, Amazon’s executive. Besides, the name is extracted from the unusual “X” sound. Due to the fact this service is voice activated, Amazon decided to give it a name that would not be easily confused with other sounds that might potentially awaken the gadget.


To consume Amazon Alexa, one needs a device incorporating the voice technology, devices such as Echo Dot, Echo or Echo Show. However, Amazon Alexa is has equally been into the Echo Auto and other third-party systems. Gadgets such as the Fire TV are now compatible with Alexa, similar with Ecobee Switch+ light switch and Sonos One speaker.

Amazon's voice assistant been one the biggest devices in voice assistant, which has provided capacities for the user to ask questions, give commands and receive responses – but yet there are more surprising capabilities it can exhibit.

This report revolves around the concept of Amazon Alexa in its basics premises such as its potentials, what I have learnt from dealing with its skills tools, as well as an in-depth critical evaluation of my learning. Further, an evaluation of how my skill improved following the development of Alexa will be examined alongside major issues encountered.

What is Amazon Alexa?

Alexa is a virtual assistant developed by Amazon, originally being used in the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers designed by Amazon Lab126. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news, Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system.

Where can I Use Alexa?

To use Alexa, one needs a gadget which integrates the voice technology. This implies that an Amazon device Echo, Echo Show and Echo Dot are capable of harnessing Alexa. Alexa has become integral in many smart-home systems including Logitech Harmony, Smart Things and Wink. A person utilizes voice-assistant to construct a smart home piecemeal, as Alexa is can pair with hubless devices including Nest thermostats and WeNo switches.

Things Alexa can do

The potentials of Alexa are growing day-by-day. Amazon refers to these potentials as “skills” and nowadays one can create his/her own skills through Amazon Blueprints. The quantities of tasks Alexa can accomplish are numerous. Some of these tasks are listed below;

Play radio stations

Stream music from Spotify, Apple Music and more

Set timers and alarms

Get tailored news reports

Ask web-based questions

Control smart home devices with your voice

Group together smart home devices to work together using single commands

Make calls to contacts' cellphones

Intercom between Echo speakers in your home

Play games

Play sleep music or ambient sounds (and toggle off automatically)

Narrate a Kindle book

Find recipes and offer audible stepwise direction with AllRecipes Skill.

Moreover, Alexa has capabilities in setting routines whereby a single command one sets executes the command as authorised. Routines are continually improving, and today one can use Alexa to switch off the lights, wait for about 10 minutes and turn on the coffee pot. Amazon is integrating more capacities to Alexa daily with more skills and device compatibility. By the start of 2010, Amazon will be rolling out frustration detection features, to enable Alexa understand and acknowledge when the user is getting frustrated.

Alexa understand

How I learnt Building Alexa Skills?

Alexa provides a set of built-in capabilities, referred to as skills. For example, Alexa's capabilities include playing music from multiple providers, answering questions, providing weather forecasts.

The Alexa Skills Kit allows me to teach Alexa any new skills. For example if I want to ask Alexa about my Module or Activity, I just can build functionality that can handle that type of request.

For example:

What room is the {Module} {Activity} in

What time is {Module} {Activity} starting

Who is teaching the {Module} {Activity}

How to Build Amazon Alexa?

In order to be able to build Alexa with the Module I had to create the following:

Amazon Web Services account and attain approval

Invocation Name

Slot Data type

Intents / Utterances / Slots

Amazon Alexa Developer account

In order to create Alexa Skills, I had to create an Amazon Developer account.

There are three options/types of developer account namely;

• Institutional Amazon Developer Account (AWS Educate)

• Student Amazon Developer Account (AWS Educate)

• Amazon Developer Account (Commercial)

I had to choose the Student Amazon Developer As I am Student

Creation of a Lambda Execution

Finally, I had to create Lambda Execution.

Log into my Aws Educate account

Log to Console /AWS Management Console

Create Role - Select type of trusted entity

Get Information From API Method

Finally I had to set permissions boundary and create the role.

Critical Evaluation

The application of voice activated apps is rapidly increasing, which excites a need to understand how best to build Alexa skills. Through engaging into the development of some of these skills, grants me a big advantage in understanding the role of smart devices and smart home in increasing efficiency through automation, and reducing costs such as those related to power bills.

In my believe, voice technology will be the new 21st century user interface which will not only seek to interpret and implement fundamental commands but also will be smart to comprehend that which you instruct it. This is the reason Google and Amazon have provided big bets, with Alexa planning to produce a lot of revenue by the end of 2020.

Before creating an Alexa skill, I have learned it is fundamental to begin by understanding voice User-Interface and be able be comfortable with Alexa Skills Kit and AWS. My main area of concern was to first of all understand the pitfalls OF Alexa skill development construct a server less application and understand the complexities embedding the development.

During testing, i realized I required simulating a new user and discarding all data quickly. Initially, it is fundamental added a separate lambda function for cleanup but since lambda is a bit impractical addition of Reset intent is permissible which drops all data that can be harnesses like any speech command.

For Alexa development skill, I required in-depth understanding on three key areas namely; intents (that which a user requires from my skill), utterances (for instance how a user would express the intent) and slots (expected parameters). When a user speaks to Alexa, it will figure out the intent and fill the slots with concrete values.

Despite the fact that it is possible to develop a skill as code, I realized Alexa development console is necessary in getting started, since it offers a good User-Interface to rapidly develop the skill model and test the utterances and intents.

When designing and testing a skill, I employed basic examples such as ‘Alexa, give five points to Jackie’. However, when a young family member tested it, I realized Alexa would take a long time to understand the young person’s utterances, which therefore required that I train the young person for better outcomes.

In the skill model, I specified the endpoint which Alexa invokes for each speech command. It is possible to excite an arbitrary HTTPS endpoint but i decided to handle commands in a Lambda function.

Luckily enough, i was aware that managing cloud formation stack would induce cumbersome experience. I learnt that a server less framework is more efficient since it enabled me to reflect in business logic and avoid caring too much about packaging and deployment.

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Lastly, it was with great pleasure I learnt Alexa hears very well. During the actual testing, one challenge emerged which I could not easily comprehend. Most of my intents anticipated a person’s surname as input. Amazon offers a predefined slot type (Amazon.FirstName) which may detect a long list of surnames. It functions well while testing through text input during the development console. In actual world, Alexa believes she can hear the subtle distinctions between minor syllables in word sounds such as (Elizabeth, Elisabeth and Elisabet). To mitigate this believe, I employed my convenient phonetics algorithm which detect whether the sounds pronounces the same.

In summary, Alexa skill was an excellent experience. My key takeaways were; there are few pitfalls with skill development, but generally it is a straightforward and painless exercise. Secondly, server less is a crucial fit for skill development and permits a developer focus on the business logic. Thirdly, is that there is a huge room for tooling in automated skill testing.

References (2019). Amazon Alexa. [Online] Available at:

Galusha, B. (2019). The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Future of Work and the Rise of Content IQ Skills - Workflow. [Online] Workflow. Available at:

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