What Kind of Voice App Do You Need

Just about anything is possible - but what should you start with?
Learn the right approach

Ask Yourself These Questions


Here’s what you should ask yourself before you begin designing your voice application for Alexa, Google Assistant or Cortana.

In just a few minutes you’ll know the questions to ask yourself when designing your voice application. Here’s what you’ll learn:

See what voice technology is available today & what’s in the pipeline for tomorrow.

 

Understand the differences between a Static & Dynamic voice application.

 

Decide the best place to start and how to take your first step into voice technology.

Decide on Voice Platforms – Alexa, Google Assistant or Cortana?

Do you require Amazon Alexa support, Google Home support, or multiple? When deciding, keep in mind some voice operations are NOT cross platform. Examples include Flash briefings and geolocation services; they have different implementations which result in extra work making these features work both on Google and Amazon supported devices.

Skill Certification is required to make your voice application available for enabling, and has different requirements between Google & Amazon. NOTE: Microsoft’s Cortana is currently underdeveloped. We can support Cortana by special request.

Static vs Dynamic Voice Application

Do you need a static or dynamic voice application? What’s the difference? Well, quite a lot actually…

Static Voice App.

A static skill has predefined answers to questions. It does not access external APIs or services (e.g., geo location). It does not use account linking.

Example:

User question: “How are you today?”
Static response: “I am fine.”

Dynamic Voice App.

A skill that uses external 3rd party APIs or services to get data from to build dynamic responses. Account linking falls into this category. Amazon defines dynamic as “This skill contains dynamic content, which is content that is updated real-time based on inputs from the developer.”

Example:
User question: “Is it going to rain today?”
Dynamic response: find user’s location, use location to query a weather service and retrieve weather data, extract weather data and build the response “yes, there is a 30% chance of rain today”

Push Notifications

Does your skill require push notifications?

Push notifications allow a custom skill *service* to send notifications to a user’s devices when an event happens. A notification is triggered either manually by the client or programmatically by a client’s running program.


“Notification indicators inform end users that new content is available from Alexa skills and domains. When a notification is delivered, depending on what the product is capable of, the user is notified by visual and audio indicators. For example, the product may flash a yellow LED and play an audio file, at which time a user can retrieve any pending notifications by asking, “Alexa, what did I miss?” or “Alexa, what are my notifications?” “

If your skill requires push notifications, then this is a “dynamic” skill, not static.

Enabling push notifications generally means account linking so notifications can be targeted to specific users, and not just sent globally.

Do You Need a Skill, a Flash Briefing, or Both? What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference? A lot actually…

Custom Skill

A skill is a voice application that interacts with the user. The skill receives questions from the user and responds according to the design. A skill is designed and coded from the ground up and is completely custom for the intended use.
Invocation: the user enables the skill and invokes it by: “Alexa, open skillName” or “Alexa, ask skillName when my order will be ready.”

Flash Briefings

A flash briefing is a “shim” that connects Alexa to existing RSS enterprise content feeds. There is no interaction between the user and the flash briefing as there is with a custom skill. The work to create the flash briefing “shim” is minimal and is mostly getting the certification. All the work is in the RSS enterprise content feed.
Invocation: the user enables the flash briefing and invokes it generically by: “Alexa, what are my flash briefings?” at which time Alexa will get ALL the flash briefings (short updates) from ALL enabled flash briefing applications/shims. A flash briefing can be text or a streaming MP3.
More Information about Flash Briefings:
An Amazon Flash Briefing is an RSS feed that is accessible from Alexa devices. RSS feeds have been around a long time and historically were best suited for breaking news like stock market status. Now RSS feeds are more frequently used by content publishers who offer new content on a regular time basis (e.g. hourly, daily, weekly and etc.).  Many companies already utilize RSS feeds on their website or to feed changing content to their social media profiles.  Consumers attach the desired feed to their RSS readers on their computer, phone, tablet and receive new content from these feeds in one place. 
Google and Amazon can now connect to these RSS feeds to their “news” feeds of which smart speaker users can then get new content updates via Amazon’s Flash Briefings. For example, I have a few “Flash Briefings” set up with my personal Alexa account and access them during breakffast by saying “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefings“.  Alexa then gives me short content snippets from each of my selected sources all with one command.
Flash Briefings are an incredibly popular option our clients select to communicate with their Alexa users. The downside to RSS feeds for the publisher is that they need to keep fresh content coming on an ongoing basis. If you have a daily RSS feed, than you need to do daily updates. 
If you answer “yes” to requiring flash briefings, do you have your own RSS feed that we connect to? If not, we can provide an RSS service that allows you to queue updates and set times to push new text or audio content.
 
For those who choose to have both a custom skill and a Flash Briefing we are able to integrate the two skills to access the same content. 

Note: Flash briefings can NOT have oauth2 accounts associated with them. Only skills can.

Hosting Your Voice Application

Voice Applications require hosting just as any other website or mobile application. We host the skills we develop because it’s the best solution. 

 

We’ve developed proprietary cross platform voice technology that allows us to bring our voice applications to market in a very competitive timeframe and cost, and be able to maintain them in a very effective and efficient manner. To achieve this, we have a Voice2Biz deployment ecosystem that is tightly coupled with all of our processes and technology.

Other Miscellaneous Items to Consider

Languages & Voice Options

There are various languages and select male & female voices that are available for various platforms. We only support English skills at this time and will work with voice options by special request.

Geography & Privacy Laws – Where Should Your Skill Be Available?

Have you put much thought into where your voice application will be available? The United States only, the entire world, or just specific countries? When deciding where your voice application is available keep in mind that the privacy laws vary by country. By default with our Static Apps, we support English with no account linking required in all countries. With Dynamic apps we support account linking in the U.S., and by special request we can support account linking in other countries.

Customer Accounts

Do you require that your skill have login/authentication so you can give customized content or access? If so, do you have your own existing user accounts database, or do you want us to build one? If you do have your own user account database, does it have an external API that we can access? Is it enterprise ready (high availability and high load)?

Customer accounts means oauth2 integration is required and is currently only available in the U.S.

What’s an Alexa-only Video Skill?

The Alexa Video Skill API is designed to enable customers to easily find and consume video content without invoking a specific skill. For example, a customer could say, “Alexa, play Manchester by the Sea” without specifying a provider or device.
This would be considered a dynamic skill since it needs to connect to 3rd party interfaces.

What’s an Alexa-only Smart Home Skill?

Smart home skills provide a simple way for you to enable Alexa voice interaction to control and check the status of cloud-connected devices.
This would be considered a dynamic skill since it needs to connect to 3rd party interfaces.

All voice applications developed by Voice2Biz include assistance in getting the Amazon skill and/or Google action to pass certification. Alternatively, for a small extra charge, we can create the skill, with invocation name, within the Voice2Biz developer account and handle all aspects of managing the skill and interactions with Google and Amazon, including certification on behalf of the client.

As the Voice2Biz created skills are hosted with us, we automatically update your skills when Google and/or Amazon change their APIs which may impact your skill. We also support new features as they come along which we can integrate with your existing skills.

Now that you know the questions, lets discuss the answers together.

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