Amazon Chooses Art Museum as Alexa Conversations Skill Challenge Winner

The Art Museum Alexa Skill has won the $20,000 grand prize in the Alexa Skills Challenge: Alexa Conversations contest. The Amazon and Devpost competition, part of the launch of the Conversations feature for the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), shared out $100,000 in prizes to voice apps leveraging the new feature’s ability to simplify building user-friendly voice apps.

Voicing Art

Art Museum connects users to a curated selection from the Art Institute of Chicago. The multimodal experience makes Alexa a guide to the art in the skill, explaining the story of the art and responding to the user’s questions and requests. Submitted by John Gillilan and Katy Boungard, the skill was chosen by judges from a group of 10 finalists, narrowed down from hundreds of original submissions. Just reaching the finals earned the competitors $5,000, but the idea and execution of a voice-based art tour came out on top. It’s an idea with a growing appeal. The new Planet Word museum in Washington, D.C. describes itself as a “voice-activated museum” and includes several interactive voice AI elements. The winning skill takes that to the logical end-point of incorporating the museum into a home-based device.

“The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-class museum with a world-class API, providing rich metadata and open access to each piece in their collection,” Gillilan and Boungard said in a post announcing their win. “We’ve always been excited by the intersection of short form media and voice, and Alexa Conversations made it possible to create a flexible, robust experience using natural language, audio and visuals. Users can explore the museum at their own pace, in their own way, viewing a dynamic gallery of contextual art assembled at each turn.”

Conversing Challenges

Amazon launched Alexa Conversations this summer after a year of beta testing. Conversations provide cross-skill goal completion, eliminating the need for developers to figure out everything a user might say while interacting with the skill. All they need to do is lay out the goals and potentially important details. Alexa Conversations then conjures up the model to anticipate and respond to any requests or questions by the user and leveraging them toward the designer’s goal. The designers don’t have to write as much code or spend nearly as long gaming out how their voice app should respond.

“We used Alexa Conversations for dialog management, context carryover and state management,” Gillilan explained. “Building that scaffolding by hand with intents and session attributes is possible, but it would be really hard and flimsy. Outsourcing the state management piece took a huge burden off the development process.”

Along with Art Museum, Amazon awarded $2,000 to each of several other skills set in different categories. Check out the full list of winners below.

Best Audio experience – The Conspiracy Theory Escape Room

Best Game experience – The Great Expedition

Best Education and Reference experience – Abhyas Teacher Assistant

Best Visual experience – Refugee Restrooms

Best Productivity experience – Coffee Club

Best Food and Drink experience – Wine Expert Plus

Best Travel and Transportation experience – Ease My Trip

Best Wildcard experience – Drink Enough Water


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