November 9, 2018
When Amazon’s Alexa asks for the name of an actor, athlete, author or another noun in response to a question, there’s a method to the madness: it’s trying to fill a “slot type,” which defines how data is recognized. A skill or third party app with a slot type for actors would likely query filmographies listing names of actors. These slots are intended to save time, says Amazon, as well as provide a more consistent experience. Amazon is adding four new slot types: Creative Work, Food, Sport and Video Game.
VentureBeat reports that, “when building an Alexa skill with Amazon’s Custom Skill API, developers define a voice interaction model that describes how users will interact with their skill.” That model includes both intents (which translates users’ spoken words to “actions they’d like to take”) and slots, which are “variables within the intent.” The four newly debuted slot types “work in all Alexa locales and can be used in skills published to the Alexa Skills Store.”
According to Amazon, these slots “encompass a representative list of values” that it constantly updates and uses to train Alexa’s voice recognition machine learning models. AMAZON.CreativeWorkType captures “soundtrack,” “book” and “album” among other creative types. AMAZON.Food captures specific food items such as “bacon” or “lemon juice.” AMAZON.Sport captures the names of sports, and AMAZON.VideoGame captures video game titles.
These new slots “join built-in slots for capturing date, time, numbers, and more in the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), as well as seven slot types Amazon launched in beta in early October,” for color, country, day of the week, genre, language, month and room. Alexa’s Reminders API lets skills developers “alert users of upcoming events and chores,” and Calendar Availability lets Alexa “tap into a connected calendar and surface free times.”
Also recently added, Alexa Smart Scheduling Assistant books one-on-one meetings based on the availability of meeting participants. The Room Booking API “lets third-party meeting schedulers … reserve conference rooms and check room availability.”
Amazon’s voice assistant, which has been adding new capabilities more quickly since the company introduced 11 “new and refreshed Alexa-enabled devices” in September, also just made the Music Skill API publicly available, which lets developers “stream songs from online services to Alexa devices and Amazon Echo speakers in the U.S.” Debuted in the fall was the Alexa Presentation Language (APL), tools for developers to more easily create “visually rich” skills for Alexa devices, and APIs to connect smart cameras and doorbells to Echo devices.