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Alexa in Canada

Amazon Alexa and Echo Skills, Tips, and Tricks for Canadians

Teri Fisher, from the Alexa in Canada Blog and VoiceFirst network, reveals all of his top Amazon Alexa skills, strategies, news, power tips and tricks for Canadians. Discover how you can get the most out of Alexa’s voice... More
Latest Episode
2019-11-12

Top 10 Skills in Canada on Alexa's Birthday

Ep. 101

In this episode, Teri dives into the state of Alexa in Canada by talking about the top ten skills in Canada in celebration of Alexa’s 5th birthday in the US.

 

Alexa was released 5 years ago this month in the US while in Canada she’s only about 2 years old. Teri will talk about the current top ten Alexa skills that are in Canada, and they will not include the large number of awesome ambient sounds that are included in the top ten skills in the Canadian skill store because they form most of the top ten skills. Teri decided to focus more on the skills that are doing numerous functions beyond just the ambient sounds.   

 

Here we go! The Top 10 Skills in Canada!

#10: Skyrim Very Special Edition by Bethesda Game Studios

  • This is an interactive game where users explore Skyrim using the power of their voice.
  • It has different quests and users can go into dungeons, and use different weapons and spells.
  • It’s given in Alexa voice, meaning that it’s text-to-speech, but it’s a very good experience.

#9: Work Smart Live Smart with Beverly Beuermann-King

  • This is a flash briefing and it’s great when it comes to living your life and finding more happiness, less stress, and basically bringing about your best life possible.
  • It is very well done and offers great tips every single day.

 #8: Would You Rather For Family

  • This is one of Teri’s favorite games on Alexa.
  • It’s a skill where Alexa asks a user to fun different scenarios and the user has to decide what they would rather do.

 #7: Doctor Who by Tardis Sound FX

  • This is for those who are into the Doctor Who world.
  • Users can ask Alexa to have the Tardis box land, take off, make an emergency landing, and so much more.
  • This is more of a sound effect type skill but it’s not the same as the ambient sound skills.

#6: Akinator

  • This is a skill where Alexa tries to guess what you’re thinking about. It could be a celebrity, political figure, family member, etc.

#5: Vote Sam Feldt

  • Teri interviewed Tahsim Ahmed about this skill which is being used by a DJ to help in generating votes for some DJ competition. That is a great use case and it’s bringing voice technology into the electronic music space.

#4: Voice in Canada Flash Briefing

  • This is Teri’s flash briefing and it’s the second flash briefing on the list.
  • It gives people daily tips on how they can get the most out of Alexa.

#3: Question of the Day by Matchbox.io

  • This is a trivia type of skill and it’s extremely well done.
  • It’s gives users a question and when they get it correct they get bonus questions.
  • Matchbox.io has been very successful in monetizing the skill.

#2: Escape the Room

  • This is an escape the room type game through voice.
  • Users are given clues and have to navigate through rooms, or other scenarios by looking at things and manipulating things.
  • The scenarios can be very challenging and fun.

And now for the top skill in Canada… Wait for it…

#1: Storyflow Interactive Stories by VoiceFlow.com

  • This one has been holding the number one spot for a year now.
  • It brings adventures to life using professional voice actors, sound effects, and custom content made just for Alexa.
  • It was created by the same team that created the Voiceflow platform, one of the leading platforms for creating your own Alexa skills.

List of resources mentioned in this episode:

Other useful resources:


2019-11-12

Top 10 Skills in Canada on Alexa's Birthday

Ep. 101

In this episode, Teri dives into the state of Alexa in Canada by talking about the top ten skills in Canada in celebration of Alexa’s 5th birthday in the US.

 

Alexa was released 5 years ago this month in the US while in Canada she’s only about 2 years old. Teri will talk about the current top ten Alexa skills that are in Canada, and they will not include the large number of awesome ambient sounds that are included in the top ten skills in the Canadian skill store because they form most of the top ten skills. Teri decided to focus more on the skills that are doing numerous functions beyond just the ambient sounds.   

 

Here we go! The Top 10 Skills in Canada!

#10: Skyrim Very Special Edition by Bethesda Game Studios

  • This is an interactive game where users explore Skyrim using the power of their voice.
  • It has different quests and users can go into dungeons, and use different weapons and spells.
  • It’s given in Alexa voice, meaning that it’s text-to-speech, but it’s a very good experience.

#9: Work Smart Live Smart with Beverly Beuermann-King

  • This is a flash briefing and it’s great when it comes to living your life and finding more happiness, less stress, and basically bringing about your best life possible.
  • It is very well done and offers great tips every single day.

 #8: Would You Rather For Family

  • This is one of Teri’s favorite games on Alexa.
  • It’s a skill where Alexa asks a user to fun different scenarios and the user has to decide what they would rather do.

 #7: Doctor Who by Tardis Sound FX

  • This is for those who are into the Doctor Who world.
  • Users can ask Alexa to have the Tardis box land, take off, make an emergency landing, and so much more.
  • This is more of a sound effect type skill but it’s not the same as the ambient sound skills.

#6: Akinator

  • This is a skill where Alexa tries to guess what you’re thinking about. It could be a celebrity, political figure, family member, etc.

#5: Vote Sam Feldt

  • Teri interviewed Tahsim Ahmed about this skill which is being used by a DJ to help in generating votes for some DJ competition. That is a great use case and it’s bringing voice technology into the electronic music space.

#4: Voice in Canada Flash Briefing

  • This is Teri’s flash briefing and it’s the second flash briefing on the list.
  • It gives people daily tips on how they can get the most out of Alexa.

#3: Question of the Day by Matchbox.io

  • This is a trivia type of skill and it’s extremely well done.
  • It’s gives users a question and when they get it correct they get bonus questions.
  • Matchbox.io has been very successful in monetizing the skill.

#2: Escape the Room

  • This is an escape the room type game through voice.
  • Users are given clues and have to navigate through rooms, or other scenarios by looking at things and manipulating things.
  • The scenarios can be very challenging and fun.

And now for the top skill in Canada… Wait for it…

#1: Storyflow Interactive Stories by VoiceFlow.com

  • This one has been holding the number one spot for a year now.
  • It brings adventures to life using professional voice actors, sound effects, and custom content made just for Alexa.
  • It was created by the same team that created the Voiceflow platform, one of the leading platforms for creating your own Alexa skills.

List of resources mentioned in this episode:

Other useful resources:


2019-11-5

200 Ways to Use Alexa with Bradley Metrock and Katherine Prescott

Ep. 100

In this episode, Teri welcomes Bradley Metrock of Score Publishing and Katherine Prescott of VoiceBrew, to talk about their incredible work in the voice space.

 

Welcome, Bradley and Katherine!

Bradley is the CEO of Score Publishing and the VoiceFirst.FM network while Katherine is the Founder/Editor of VoiceBrew.


Bradley recently wrote a book about some of the things that we can do with our Echo devices, and Katherine wrote the forward for the book. Their work in the voicefirst world is geared towards helping regular non-techie people learn how to use Alexa and voice technology.

VoiceBrew

  • It’s a daily email newsletter that helps people get the most out of Alexa. They also publish comprehensive guides on their website covering almost all of Alexa’s key features.
  • They now have over 25,000 email subscribers.

Brad’s Alexa Book

  • Brad wanted to write an Alexa instruction manual because he saw a need for it, and it eventually morphed into the book called “More Than Just Weather and Music: 200 Ways to Use Alexa”
  • The book showcases the breadth of use for Alexa covering areas like healthcare, coronary, banking, publishing, and automotive.
  • The way most people use voice technology today is similar to how most people used the internet in the 90s. They are only asking Alexa what the weather is or to play some music. This is because they don’t know what skills or commands to use.

Narrowing Down to 200 Ways to Use Alexa

  • Narrowing the list down for Bradley and his team was tough. He had skills developers asking him where their skill was in the book if he hadn’t put it among the 200.
  • They focused more on the quality of the skills and only included those that had positive reviews (based on their quality) in the skills store. They mainly looked at whether the recent reviews were good, but also checked if the recent bad reviews were based on the quality of the skill, if not, the skill would qualify for the list.
  • Brad also wanted to include skills that are good but haven’t gained visibility among users. They include Daddy Saturday which compliments a book titled “Daddy Saturday”, Where the Beef? and The Reuters flash briefing.
  • The 200 ways to use Alexa include 175 Alexa skills and 25 Alexa built in functions.
  • Katherine’s favorite kids’ skills were included in the list. They include Kids Court, Chompers, and Choose Your Own Adventure.
  • Brad asked Katherine to write the forward for the book because VoiceBrew’s brand orientation is aligned with what the book is about.

The Need for Skills Discoverability

  • When Brad got into publishing, he discovered the iBooks software by Apple which people were using to create interactive content. A lot of people were creating incredible multimedia, driven and interactive content, but they were having a huge discoverability problem.
  • Eventually the whole ecosystem died because post-Jobs Apple didn’t know what to do with it. Brad sees a lot of parallels with Alexa in that regard, and therefor believes it’s very necessary to create the Alexa skills lists for enhanced discoverability.
  • Katherine believes discoverability is challenging for voicefirst experiences because with voice, content is pulled by users as opposed to how content is pushed to them by social media platforms. She advises that Alexa skills creators should think about what distribution strategies they will use in order to ensure that their skills are highly discoverable.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-10-29

Voice First Startups with Collin Borns of VoicePunch

Ep. 99

In this episode, Teri has a conversation with Collin Borns of VoicePunch about voicefirst startups and the investment side of voice technology.

 

Welcome, Collin!

Collin Borns is a creator/host of the Voicing Startups Podcast and has a background in institutional investment consulting. He worked for VaynerMedia as a financial analyst, before finding a passion for audio, voice, and conversational technology a few years back.


He now works with an early stage venture fund, VoicePunch.VC, and is trying to invest in and bring awareness to the different startups and founders in the voice space who are shaking up industries.

Working with VaynerMedia

  • He was a financial operations analyst for VaynerMedia and had a great experience working there.
  • He thinks the VaynerSmart team (the voice team at VaynerMedia) is doing fantastic work and recommends them for anyone looking at doing a voice related project.

His Flash Briefing and Podcast

  • He was looking to do some things in the voice space and felt that a flash briefing was an interesting format to start playing around with voice and also put out valuable content consistently.
  • He wanted his flash briefing to be fresh and to consist of everything that he finds interesting in the world of audio and voice that businesses should be considering.
  • He focuses on batching up a number of episodes and recording them ahead of time so he can be able to release them consistently.
  • He started his Voicing Startups Podcast to bring more awareness and attention to the founders and companies that are trying different things in the audio and voice space.

The VoicePunch Fund

  • They look for consumer apps like games and different types of experiences that have some sort of voice aspect to them.
  • They are also interested in the picks and shovels of the voice space like design tools and content management tools.
  • They invest in early stage companies that are yet to raise their Series A funding and also look for founders who are determined and highly focused on achieving their core goal with their company.
  • They look into whether a company is in an interesting market that has the potential to come into fruition.
  • They expect to close their sixth investment by the end of 2019 and raise a closed-end fund in 2020 that will enable them to invest in more companies in the voice space.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-10-22

Voice First and Flash Briefings with Peter Stewart

Season 1, Ep. 98

In this episode, Teri has a conversation with Peter Stewart, an award-winning broadcaster, social media producer, and author, who has been doing some amazing things with voice technology and flash briefings.


Welcome, Peter!

Peter was visiting Vancouver from the UK and got together with Teri to talk about everything voice technology. He has worked in national and regional radio and TV for the BBC and commercial companies, and he really knows his stuff when it comes to audio content.


He currently works for the digital unit at the BBC, creating videos on smartphones and smart speakers. He creates short videos that go into social media, and they occasionally get on the BBC website and BBC News. He has written several books on his expertise and is currently negotiating a contract for his eighth book. He has been working with Suze Cooper on some ideas of what to do with flash briefings and voice technology.

Getting A Voice Like Peter’s

  • He doesn’t do any kind of exercises for his voice.
  • He is passionate about teaching people how to read out loud in a natural manner.
  • He was once the BBC’s only voice trainer and he taught people how to lift words from a page and read naturally.

Developing an Interest in Voice Technology

  • He spent about 30 years in radio presentation production, and so his whole life has been around audio presentation, production, doing a variety of music shows, DJing, political shows, gardening shows, and sports programs.
  • He was really interested in the power of audio and the human voice, and what can be done with that.
  • While at a conference about mobile journalism, he met someone who encouraged him to look into voice technology, and when he did, he realized that it fit in with what he was already doing.
  • He was fascinated by the opportunities that flash briefings presented.

Peter’s Flash Briefings

  • He has three flash briefings.
  • The first one is “What’s on In Guildford”, which is targeted at people in Surrey, UK, who can afford smart speakers. The flash briefing shares information of all the top events happening in the county. The flash briefing is supported by the local council, the National Trust in the UK, and the local theater company.
  • What’s on In Guildford is the second highest rated flash briefing in the UK.
  • The second flash briefing is “The Smart Speakers Daily”, which is a daily look into smart speakers and how people are using them.
  • “28-Day Flash Briefing Briefing” is his third flash briefing and it’s all about how to create a flash briefing.
  • A couple of times a month, Peter does a podcast on voice technology.
  • He makes his podcasts and flash briefings lively, engaging and authentic with different forms of music and sound effects.

Advice on Starting a Flash Briefing

  • He has seen an increase in the number of listeners to his flash briefing.
  • People are slow in taking up new technologies and a lot of them don’t know or have smart speakers.
  • He believes people should continuously create content for their flash briefings and podcasts as people continue embracing smart speakers.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-10-15

Trebble.FM Update with Armel Beaudry

Ep. 97

In this episode, Teri welcomes back Armel Beaudry Kembe, the founder of Trebble.FM, to update us about all things related to audio and flash briefings for both creators and audiences.


Welcome, Armel!

Trebble.FM is a free service that allows users with no technical experience to record byte-size “shortcast” voice messages (aka “capsules”) on Trebble.fm using your smartphone or internet browser. Then, anyone in the world with a voice-activated speaker, such as the Amazon Echo, will be able to listen to you instantly.


Trebble allows you to create a series of short audio recordings or music selections, which can then be personalized with your commentary. Imagine being the DJ of your own smart radio station (i.e. your “trebble”), or sharing your knowledge of a topic in a series of short audio recording (i.e. “capsules”). This is exactly what Trebble allows you to do, without requiring any coding or technical knowledge.

How Trebble.FM Works

  • The platform’s main benefit is that it simplified the creation of a flash briefing.
  • Once a user signs up for an account, they have to choose whether they want to create something or just listen (be a creator or listener).
  • If one chooses to create something, they enter the name of the show they want to start, the show’s description, choose a category, and then they get a personal URL they can use online.
  • The user then has something that people can listen to on Alexa and they can use the platform to record their show. They can alternatively use their own software to record their show and upload it into Trebble.
  • Once a user uploads their episode, they can publish it. People can listen to the episode on Alexa, Google Assistant, and other voice assistants.
  • For someone who is creating a flashbriefing, once they set up their Trebble.FM account, they go to their Alexa console, sign up for a developer account, and then Trebble gives them a plug-in for their Alexa account. Once that is done, they can start publishing their content on the Trebble platform.
  • Trebble also enables users to schedule their content.
  • Users can easily share their content on social media right from the platform.
  • Listeners can go into Trebble and browse the content that they like, which makes it easier for creators to reach their target audience.
  • Trebble also has an app where listeners can listen and subscribe to any show they want.
  • They are going to introduce some new set of features to improve on listener experience.

Intros and Outros

  • Users can automatically add an intro or outro to an episode right on the Trebble platform.
  • The platform also enables a user to upload a short intro of what their show is about so that new listeners can find out everything about the show even before they listen to any episode.
  • The platform automatically edits/processes audio episodes recorded on the platform for free. It applies Amazon’s standards when editing/processing an audio.

Why Teri’s Flashbriefings Were a Good Fit for Trebble.FM

  • Trebble focuses a lot on delivering value to listeners of flashbriefings, which is why they were honored have Teri’s new health-oriented flashbriefings on the platform because they're delivering unmatched value with their health content.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-10-8

DJs, Music, and Voice with Tahsim Ahmed

Season 1, Ep. 96

In this episode, Teri welcomes Tahsim Ahmed, the founder of Fanspoke, a company that alleviates the journey for the top dance-music artists in the voice-first world, by building innovative voice applications to engage their fanbase.

 

Welcome, Tahsim!

Tahsim has been in the voice space for the last two years and he comes on to talk about his new company, and how he is helping DJs get their message out there using voice technology. He will also talk about how the new announcements from Amazon, particularly about products like the Echo Studio; will benefit the audio/music industry.

Background

  • His start in the voice space was with a company called Tribal Skill where he helped build a venture studios practice, which was incubating companies that they saw as the future of innovation. One of those companies was in voice technology and Tahsim helped them build the company in that space to the point where it just took off.
  • In the music space, he helped radio stations take their content into Alexa.
  • His first experience with Alexa and voice technology was when Amazon did a promotion around building a skill and getting a hoodie for that. That led him into starting his company, Fanspoke, which merges his two passions of voice technology and electronic dance music (and music in general). To take that vertical to a new level, Fanspoke builds engaging voice experiences that help musicians, producers, and DJs, build their brand on a voice platform.
  • Fanspoke recently has worked with international DJ/Producer, Sam Feldt, to release the world's first dance music voice application.

The Idea of Creating Skills to Promote DJs

  • Tahsim was surprised that nobody in the voice space had thought of music even though over 80% of first time smart speaker users use them for music while over 40% of users use them daily for music.
  • He saw that music was an underserved vertical and saw an opportunity to create amazing voice applications and branding opportunities around that space.
  • With the recent announcement of new Alexa devices, music is a primary use case for all the opportunities, and the opportunities for branding are the logical next step.

Skills Fanspoke Has Created

  • In their work with Sam Feldt, they created a voice application that helped Sam reach out to his fans to vote for him in the DJs/Music Producers top rankings. The application was very successful and got a lot of positive feedback from Sam’s fans.
  • They also helped put up Sam’s shows into the Alexa platform so his fans don’t have to go to YouTube or any other platforms to access them. All they have to say is, “Alexa, play HeartFeldt Radio”, which is Sam’s radio show.
  • There are many other scalable opportunities like merchandising, charitable fundraising, etc.

Tahsim’s Thoughts on Echo Studio

  • He is very excited about it because it allows musicians to get a bigger presence.
  • He predicts that Amazon will continue building a more robust music ecosystem to not only compete with the big streaming players, but also to have a robust music ecosystem so that when musicians are more active on the voice platforms, their experience is seamless. 
  • He sees the Echo Studio as more of an opportunity to get more engaging musical voice experiences out there.

Future Direction with Fanspoke

  • He believes that the electronic dance music industry has great monetization opportunities that would be easier to exploit using voice technology.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-10-1

Amazon Alexa Launch Event 2019 Recap

Season 1, Ep. 95

In this episode, Teri will talk about all of the incredible announcements that Amazon made at its recent event last week.

 

Enjoy!

For the last couple of years, Amazon has had a big event where they announce all their new products, and this year was no different. They launched a number of new services for Alexa, and also launched a huge number of new products. Some of the products are available for pre-order in Canada while others are only available in the US.

The Different Features Coming Online

  • Multilingual mode: This was a much anticipated feature in Canada, and it allows Alexa to be able to speak both English and French at the same time. Canada is one of the first countries that this feature is coming to. Canadians will be able to talk to their Echo devices in English or French. 
  • The Neural Text-to-Speech Module: It uses machine learning to help Alexa to be more expressive and to learn voices from voice recordings of celebrities. For example, Amazon just announced that the voice of Samuel L. Jackson will be one of the voices that you can choose for Alexa.
  • Alexa coming to GM: 2018 and newer Cadillacs, Chevys, Buicks, and GMC vehicles will have Alexa on board.
  • Scan to Cook: This is an upgrade for the Echo Show which lets a user scan a barcode and then have their new Amazon smart oven (one of the recently announced products) prepare the item correctly.
  • Certified for Humans: This is a new program that is going to highlight smart home products that are very easy to set up.
  • Alexa Guard: This is a feature that listens for breaking glass and acts as a home security system. It’s also going to be able to listen for human activity like footsteps, coughing, talking, etc. It’s only available in the US. There is also a routine aspect to Alexa Guard that is going to be available.

The Services

  • People will now be able to say things like, “Alexa, tell me what you heard?” or “Alexa, why did you do that?”
  • If Alexa says or triggers something and you’re not sure why it happened, you will be able to go back and ask Alexa why, so you can clarify what is going on with your system.
  • Alexa will be able to answer your doorbell when you’re not home through Ring. Alexa will say things like, “Hi, this is Alexa. Is this a delivery?” or “Hi, this is Alexa. How can I help you?”
  • Photo Sharing: You’re going to be able to share photos between Echo devices and the Alexa app, and you can react to those photos with emojis.
  • Alexa Connections: These are reminders to drop in or find mutually available drop in contacts.
  • The Alexa Powered Food Network Kitchen Service: This will provide cooking classes on a user’s Echo Show so they can learn how to cook.
  • Amazon Sidewalk: It’s a wireless protocol that can allow the geographical area of a user’s smart home devices to be expanded out into a user’s mail box, the lights in their yard, and so on.

The New Products

  • The Ring Fetch: This is a little tag that goes on a dog and tells the dog’s owner when the dog leaves a geo-fenced area. It’s going to be launched in 2020.
  • The new Echo has upgraded speakers and is going for $129.99. If a person buys two of them, they will save $40 at the checkout.
  • The Echo Dot is now available as the Echo Dot with clock. It looks like the regular Echo Dot, but for $10 more, one can get it with an LCD time that shows through the fabric around the Echo Dot. The Echo Dot is priced at $69.99 while the Echo Dot with clock is $79.99. If one buys two, they can save $25. 
  • The Echo Studio: It’s a brand new product and is a high fidelity audio speaker with Alexa built in. It has five speakers, a subwoofer in the bottom, a one inch tweeter, three two inch mid-range speakers, and is about the size of a water melon. It has Alexa built in. The price is $259.99.
  • The new size Echo Show 8: This Echo Show has an 8-inch screen and is priced at $169.99, and if one buys two, they can save $65. It has better speakers than the Echo Show 5, has a bigger screen, and also has the camera shutter that is on the Echo Show 5.
  • The Echo Flex: It’s the least expensive way of adding Alexa to a location in a home. It’s a square box that has a two-prong plug on it that is plugged directly into an outlet. It has a speaker and microphone, and goes for $35. If one buys two, they can save $15. It has a USB on the bottom for adding other hardware devices such as a motion detector, night light, etc.
  • The Echo Buds: They are the competitor to Apple Airpods. They are a set of ear phones/ear buds that have very high quality sound. They use Bose’s active noise reduction technology. They can’t completely eliminate background noise, but they can reduce it. They’ve got very high quality speakers and Alexa built in.
  • The Echo Glow: It looks like a snow globe but it’s a light with all different colors. It’s being marketed as a kid’s light.
  • The Echo Frames: These are a pair of Alexa enabled glasses. They don’t have a camera, but they have speakers, and are compatible with Alexa.
  • The Echo Loop: It’s a smart ring that is worn on the finger. They have micro speakers, micro-microphone, and a little button on it that one can activate Alexa through. One can literally hold the ring up to their ear, hear what Alexa is saying, talk to the ring, and make phone calls through it. It’s priced at $129.99.
  • The new Eero Mesh WiFi Router: It’s the next generation of the Eero router, and it allows users to shut off, pause, or turn on their WiFi through voice.

List of resources mentioned in this episode:

Other useful resources: