The problem with Alexa skills

Posted on September 5, 2017


I have a couple of Alexa and as everyone says they are great at streaming music, and for simple things such as the flash briefing.

However there are now thousands of skills, which on the surface seems like a good thing,  and in many ways it is.


to you use a skill you need a couple of things:

to have installed it, most likely from the app on your phone,
you have to remember the skill’s phrase structure to use it.

The first one, is a problem because you have to be ready to install the skill before you think you’ll need it,  tie that with the difficulty of discovering the skill, and knowing if it wil be any good, and this is not ideal.
For me the mental model of the smart assistant / speaker is that I just talk to it.

Secondly and I think even more problematic is that you have to remember the correct way to talk to the skill so that it can understand your query or instruction.
Now this may say more about me than anything else, but I never remember them well enough to use them easily.
For example the Hive integration, I have to remember the “Alexa, tell hive to …” or for National Rail you need to ask Alexa to launch it, then ask questions such as Alexa, ask National rail to check my commute …
Don’t get me wrong I have learned a few, however there is no way I am going to remember tens or hundreds of different skill phrases.

I get why we need to do this,  so that the command can be routed to the right bit of code running in the back end.  however it will severely limit the number of skills that people will learn.
We need to get to the point where, given the skills I have loaded, the software is able to make a more intelligent routing rather than relying on me to do it.
This all comes from understanding context and of the use of my Alexa devices so that they learn what I do.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel here, because, for example if you just ask Alexa to “play radio 1” it will work out that it should use TuneIn to stream BBC radio 1.
More of this kind of intelligence please.

Posted in: Cognative, devices