Pick Something

Alexa Skill: Categories to Chose Something

Timeline: Two weeks

Project Goals: Create a functioning Alexa Skill from a Alexa Skill Blueprint

What is an Alexa Skill?

An Alexa Skill is a voice driven task or app that helps the user achieve something. As EDF states, “You can add Alexa skills to your Echo to bring products and services to life. You can view available skills and enable or disable them using your Alexa app” (Para. 2). There are many different types of skills. There are games, personal requests, lists and reminders, information, music, and many more. I am learning everyday how many skills are available! What I love about the Echo Dot is that you can personalize everything. Though there are existing skills, you can personalize them to fit your needs.

Skill I Created

I created a skill that helps the user decide what to do through a variety of categories like movies, shows, what to eat, etc for Interactive Media III. I wanted to create this skill because I have a hard time deciding on things. I felt that this skill would help me save some time! Before making “Pick Something”, I had two different ideas. First, I wanted to make a quiz skill that focused on the show The Office (U.S.). I did not continue this idea because I thought the target audience would be too specific or small. I wanted a skill that many people could use and incorporate into their lives. Another idea I had was to create a chores skill – this would list off any chores you had for the day. I was interested in a chores skill because it created a routine and reminders for what needed to be done. Once I completed the blueprint, I decided not to continue this skill because it was very specific to me and my family. Though I’m sure it would work well for this assignment, it was too specific to my personal life. The blueprint for a chores skill was effective because it allowed you to “assign” chores to specific members on specific days. I liked that multiple users could have their chore information on the skill. Looking for a new idea, I came across the decision skill.

Link to Alexa Skill: https://a.co/ehGyIpL 

I really liked the idea of pre-creating options for future decisions! I always struggle with what I want to do or eat. I usually use flip-a-coin to help me decide things. That method is okay, but this skill would offer way more options at once and still choose for me! When customizing this skill, I loved the option to add sound effects. It was so fun! Some of the noises I chose are completely random, but they make me laugh.

How Did I Create “Pick Something”

At the beginning of this assignment, I had no idea which skill to do! There were so many options and all of them seemed fun to create.

For “Chore Time” I started with a list of chores I do at home.

  • Clean bathroom
  • Clean bedroom
  • Laundry
  • Sweep
  • Mop
  • Vacuum
  • Clean windows/mirrors
  • Wash dishes

Then I added them to the skill blueprint. I liked how this skill was set up because it allowed me to assign chores to members of the house and on specific days. I could assign a reminder as well that would contact me through my phone to do my chore. This connection allowed me to be reminded of my chore, even when I was not home.

Though this skill is helpful, I thought it would be too specific to my personal living situation. Since I would have to share my skill with classmates (for feedback), I thought it might be uncomfortable for them to have a list of all of my chores! That is when I saw the decision skill. I chose to try it out and I ended up enjoying it a lot more because of the flexibility within the skill made it easier to customize.

When deciding categories, I created another list of things I do on a daily basis. I wanted my skill to be useful to me (and others). I have a hard time deciding things! The interests listed are some topics I have difficulty making decisions on. As I continued the blueprint, I realized that not everyone would be interested in my interests. This pushed me to add more options even if I was not interested in them. Most of these new additions were popular movies or shows. Some included Squid Game, Friends, Star Wars , Harry Potter, and more.

My favorite part of customizing this skill was adding sound effects! I thought it was so funny to add a bunch of random noises. The sound effects I added were only for fun and gave the skill more personality – It made my skill different from my classmates. I did have a hard time deciding which ones to use. How ironic!

Demo of My Skill

Usability Study Analysis

What where you trying to learn

Through this assignment, I wanted to learn what went into making an Alexa skill. Though I was not creating the skill from scratch, this assignment seemed to be easy. As I edited the skill, I learned how difficult it really was! It was difficult because the skill required me to edit multiple times, work through challenges, and learn the functionality of Alexa. I can only imagine what it takes to manually code an Alexa skill. For my skill, I asked my classmates to advise me on how I could improve. I wanted to know if there were enough options within each category and if it was useful (did it actually solve the problem of indecisiveness).

Qualitative Analysis

Many classmates enjoyed my skill and had positive reactions! They liked how accessible it was to get a decision based off of 6 categories: movies, tv shows, food, indoor/outside activities, and cleaning. Within those categories, there were at least 20 different options! From the feedback (included below), my classmates appreciated the amount of possibilities! I included options I enjoyed but also what someone else might. The users were all willing to follow the decision even if it was new for them. Receiving qualitative feedback allowed me to improve the interactions that the users had. From this, I changed the specifications of the category names. If the user said “films” instead of “movies”, Alexa would get confused and stop the skill to search the web. This detour created a disconnect and often annoyed the user.

Quantitative Analysis

  • 5 out of 5 users felt it was useful
  • 3 out of 5 would use again
  • 5 out of 5 enjoyed sound effects and script
  • 4 out of 5 users suggested the edit for the skill to work without opening the app each time
  • 1 out of 5 suggested to make the skill continuous
  • 5 out of 5 suggested a variety in category names (movies/movie, tv shows/shows)
  • 1 out of 5 suggested a “repeat” feature

Through quantitative feedback, I learned the different needs of each user and how “Pick Something” could be improved. One user suggested a repeat feature that would require Alexa to repeat the decision, in the situation that the user missed it. I thought this would help make the skill more useful because the user would not have to restart the skill to hear another decision.

Improvements

I would love to improve the overall interaction between users and the skill. Watching the user experience videos was tough – many struggled with with the category names. I would like to see if I could add more variations of words to try and combat this. I am not sure how because the blueprint seems limited but I was thinking to type different words in the title to combat the limitation. Users also were struggling with the process of the skill. When I tested the skill, I was able to ask Alexa to pick a movie. Alexa would then pick something without needing to open the introduction message. For some reason, this was not working well with my classmates. I agreed with them as it is easier to just ask for a decision without having to restart the entire skill. This problem goes back to wording and how specific it was.

To improve the quality, I would to add more options in each category. Though I feel there are a lot, I know I can add more! I struggled with what exactly to add because I was trying to make the skill broad. The more generalized, the more users it could connect with. A lot of the categories are filled with things I like, and only a couple that I may not be interested in. I would add more options even if I am not interested in them myself.

User Videos

Pam

Stephanie

Joseph

Mathew

Kaetlyn

Watching my classmates use “Pick Something” was hard because many of them struggled with the interaction. For me, the skill worked well and the interactions were quick. This was because I knew what exactly to say and when. Though it was frustrating (because I thought the interactions would be better), it helped me improve my skill. I want this skill to be quick, easy, and helpful.

Most Challenging?

I found it hard to create something not only for myself, but for other users as well. I decided not to change too much (the noises, for example), because I liked how silly it was. I did add more options because I realized that people have different tastes and interests. This was difficult for me because there are so many options within each category. Some people like old western movies, some love horror, while others love animations. I had to go on Netflix and Hulu to find more options outside of what I liked. If I get the chance, I want to continue editing the options in each category. This will allow more entertainment decisions for wider audiences.

Insights

This assignment encouraged me to learn about Alexa and the skills she is able to incorporate into her functions. Before this project, I did not know anything about Alexa because I did not own an EchoDot. As I edited the blueprint I looked into how other skills work. From this, I used the guidance from other skills to create my own. “Pick Something” became more than just a submission, I now use it on a daily basis to make decisions for me.

I am most proud of my ability to work through the challenges when creating a blueprint, I have never done this before! I had a lot of fun and did not overthink my decisions. That allowed me to be more interested in my skill. I am also proud of how I incorporated feedback to the best of my abilities. I agreed that my skill needed a couple adjustments and I am glad I listened to the feedback. The feedback (quantitative and qualitative) enabled me to improve my skill and make it more useful!