Amazon Opens Alexa Knowledge Skills for Developers to Embed Business Info Without Skill Invocation
Amazon released the Alexa Knowledge Skills voice app option to developers in the U.S. on Wednesday, 16 months after it first appeared as a preview. Alexa Knowledge Skills are a way for businesses and other groups to integrate product catalogs, building directories and other facts into the voice assistant. Employees and customers can then simply ask Alexa for information about the organization without needing to invoke a specific skill.
Alexa Knowledge Skills are a way for an organization to make it easy to access information about the group by asking Alexa. FAQs, glossaries, employer organizational charts and anything else that can be put in a spreadsheet can be part of the skill, with no coding required. Alexa will use those spreadsheets to answer the relevant questions when the skill is incorporated into devices run by Alexa for Business or specifically chosen personal devices. The skills aren’t for the general public. Instead of asking Alexa to ask the skill for info, the user can just ask Alexa directly about a huge range of subjects depending on what the developers include in the spreadsheet they build and update for the purpose. The information gets funneled through Alexa’s AI, which turns the facts into conversational language based on the different templates set up by Amazon.
“Knowledge Skills target business use-cases, and help employees, customers, and visitors ask Alexa questions about an organization’s data—like org charts, building information, events schedules, FAQs, glossaries, products, menus, projects, and more. Users can access this data by simply asking questions like “Alexa, what floor is Conference Room A on?” and “Alexa, what’s on the lunch menu?” without needing to invoke the skill beforehand,” Alexa senior product marketing manager Ben Grossman wrote in a blog post. “Knowledge Skills use Alexa’s intelligence to support flexible understanding and automated answering. Knowledge Skills also auto-generate answers that account for nuances like plurality and verb conjugation, saving you time.”
The fact that users can use Knowledge Skills to get information without remembering how to invoke a specific Alexa skill makes them more efficient and easier to use. It’s similar to the no-name invocation feature Amazon introduced for Alexa last summer. The feature gave Alexa the ability to infer what skill a user is asking for based on keywords. Users don’t need to remember every skill name, they can make generic requests like “Alexa, play a game,” or “Alexa, get me a ride home,” and the voice assistant will pull up the most recent game played or book a car with Uber, respectively. Developers and include up to five potential phrases that would lead Alexa to access their skill. The Knowledge Skills streamline things even more both in development and access because of their device restrictions.
Keeping the whole thing as simple and speedy as possible is a crucial element for convincing busy organizations that it’s worth investing in creating and updating the spreadsheets. Hotel tech provider DigiValet, Saint Louis University, Boston Children’s Hospital, and several more groups are already using knowledge skills and point to some of the industries Amazon likely hopes will start using Alexa over other enterprise voice assistant services like Microsoft Cortana and Google Assistant for Workspace.
“Knowledge Skills help our patients and their families get informative responses to property-specific questions through Alexa, such as ‘What are the visiting hours?’ and ‘What food can I get at the food court?'” Boston Children’s Hospital Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator Director Sarah Lindenauer said in a statement. “Being able to quickly and easily customize the skill’s content and allow users to access it without needing to remember an invocation phrase were key factors in choosing Knowledge skills.”