Personalising voice technology – taking the next steps with AI assistants

Ross Miles - 19.06.2018

If the world of AI assistants, voice technology and their ability to tap into the powers of the internet to answer your every question leaves you a little bewildered, then this latest development from Amazon will make your head spin!

Amazon has introduced the ability to personalise and customise the responses you get from your Alexa assistant, by releasing the ability to create your own ‘skills’ using their new platform, the Skills Blueprint program. The concept is that you can instruct your personal Alexa devices with specific answers and responses, from family jokes to pertinent information for your babysitter.

What’s even more appealing is that you don’t need any programming ability or technical know-how to be able to create these news skills. The Skills Blueprint portal provides templates that allow anyone to simply create new skills, by simply filling in the blanks so to speak.

While the potential for hijinks and other amusing capers is high by setting up custom responses to leading questions, there is also the capability to design some very useful features into Alexa. For example, if you’re a frequent user of AirBnB and rent out your property you could create an Alexa-powered guide to your home by pre-programming in handy info and tips such as where the extra toilet paper is, or the fuse box, how to put the TV into surround sound mode, where the closest ‘good’ pub is, or a what a number for a local taxi service is, etcetera… The list is endless, and you don’t have to be a visionary futurist to see how this functionality can make our lives easier.

Last week saw Amazon launch the ability to share any custom skills you had created through email, text, WhatsApp, and social media platforms — including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more. While you will need to allow others to access your created skill, and that user will also need to manually enable it as well, the idea that content-creators can produce bespoke functions for Alexa, and share it with the public at large, is an exciting prospect.

This development is pushing voice assistant technology to the places we’re being promised it will take us, when it is used ambitiously. We currently use Alexa to curate our playlists, tell us the weather and resolve arguments with her extensive trivia knowledge (ahem, Google’s), but how many users are using their voice assistants to manage their home’s heating and lighting, order an Uber or use another third-party skill? While this new feature might not enable users to quickly order a pizza from their favourite takeaway joint, this level of additional personalisation does offer a level of engagement we haven’t seen previously in voice technology, and bodes well for its future implications.