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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
2019-7-16

Crack the Code with Bob Stolzberg of VoiceXP - Part 2

Season 1, Ep. 86

In this episode, Teri shares part 2 of his conversation with Bob Stolzberg, the Founder and CEO of VoiceXP, the most advanced Alexa skill building tool in the world.

              

Enjoy!

Bob is a rabbid voice enthusiast and enjoys helping people turn their dreams into reality. They will talk about the process of creating the gamified version of the Voice in Canada flash briefing, the marketing aspects of it, and why it would be a valuable thing for marketers to reproduce.

The Marketing Funnel

  • Teri introduced a flash briefing to a marketing funnel, which VoiceXP had never done before. What they managed to create is a voice funnel.
  • At the top of the funnel is the Alexa in Canada community, and the Alexa in Canada brand’s social media and web presence. Then there is the next layer made up of Teri’s podcast and flash briefing.
  • The podcast and flash briefing have subscribers (listeners) and the core purpose of the voice funnel is to help convert the listeners into a list.
  • The Crack the Code skill also helped in converting listeners. When a subscriber listens to the Voice in Canada flash briefing and they’re engaged enough, they can go and play Crack the Code. Once they crack the code, they get to enter their phone number into the platform so that they can be texted the information that they need to go and enter the final contest to be eligible for the grand prizes.
  • The funnel is working wonders and is receiving very positive responses.

The Difficulties in Creating Crack the Code

  • It was not easy coming up with and creating the skill. It took Teri about a month of daily commitment.
  • The content in the different layers of Crack the Code is totally on point, and it’s difficult for people who aren’t marketers to write such content.
  • The Crack the Code skill gets people engaged and it’s really well written. It has sound effects and is easy to understand. All that took time and a lot of commitment to develop.

Speaking at the Voice of the Flash Briefing

  • This is an online conference that both Teri and Bob will be speaking at.
  • The conference is all about teaching people about flash briefings. Some of the best flash briefings’ creators in the world will be there.
  • It’s coming up in October 2019.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-7-16

Crack the Code with Bob Stolzberg of VoiceXP - Part 2

Season 1, Ep. 86

In this episode, Teri shares part 2 of his conversation with Bob Stolzberg, the Founder and CEO of VoiceXP, the most advanced Alexa skill building tool in the world.

              

Enjoy!

Bob is a rabbid voice enthusiast and enjoys helping people turn their dreams into reality. They will talk about the process of creating the gamified version of the Voice in Canada flash briefing, the marketing aspects of it, and why it would be a valuable thing for marketers to reproduce.

The Marketing Funnel

  • Teri introduced a flash briefing to a marketing funnel, which VoiceXP had never done before. What they managed to create is a voice funnel.
  • At the top of the funnel is the Alexa in Canada community, and the Alexa in Canada brand’s social media and web presence. Then there is the next layer made up of Teri’s podcast and flash briefing.
  • The podcast and flash briefing have subscribers (listeners) and the core purpose of the voice funnel is to help convert the listeners into a list.
  • The Crack the Code skill also helped in converting listeners. When a subscriber listens to the Voice in Canada flash briefing and they’re engaged enough, they can go and play Crack the Code. Once they crack the code, they get to enter their phone number into the platform so that they can be texted the information that they need to go and enter the final contest to be eligible for the grand prizes.
  • The funnel is working wonders and is receiving very positive responses.

The Difficulties in Creating Crack the Code

  • It was not easy coming up with and creating the skill. It took Teri about a month of daily commitment.
  • The content in the different layers of Crack the Code is totally on point, and it’s difficult for people who aren’t marketers to write such content.
  • The Crack the Code skill gets people engaged and it’s really well written. It has sound effects and is easy to understand. All that took time and a lot of commitment to develop.

Speaking at the Voice of the Flash Briefing

  • This is an online conference that both Teri and Bob will be speaking at.
  • The conference is all about teaching people about flash briefings. Some of the best flash briefings’ creators in the world will be there.
  • It’s coming up in October 2019.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-7-9

Crack the Code with Bob Stolzberg of VoiceXP - Part 1

Season 1, Ep. 85

In this episode, Teri has a conversation with Bob Stolzberg, the Founder and CEO of VoiceXP, the most advanced Alexa skill-building tool in the world.

              

Enjoy!

Bob and Teri will talk about how the idea for the gamified flash briefing came up, how Bob got involved in the project, the great experience they had creating it, and how amazingly well it’s done so far.

Teri’s Idea for Crack the Code

  • He has been very obsessed with flash briefings and has been doing them for more than 500 consecutive days.
  • He wanted to do something special to celebrate his 500th episode and thank his listeners for supporting the flash briefing. He also wanted to thank the guests he had on the Alexa in Canada podcast.
  • He came up with the idea of creating a gamified flash briefing and the first challenge to overcome was how to create a gamified flash briefing when a user can only interact one way with flash briefings. So he came up with the idea for an Alexa skill that he could tie into the flash briefing in a way that listeners could play some type of game by being interactive with the skill based on what they hear from the flash briefing. That’s how he came up with the skill, Crack the Code.
  • Listeners listen to the Voice in Canada flash briefing for a clue or riddle that they have to solve after which they then go to the Crack the Code skill, interact with the skill, and if they can put in the right codes, they get to win some great prizes.

Bob’s Role and Experience in Creating Crack the Code

  • Bob’s platform VoiceXP enabled the development of the skill. Their approach in designing VoiceXP was focusing on making it as simple as Craigslist.
  • Bob wanted to help Teri build an amazing experience and he had fun creating it.
  • Teri would come up with a new feature, pitch it to Bob and the VoiceXP team, and they would develop it and test it within a day.
  • The skill was deployed to 5 different English speaking countries so people could go to their native Amazon.com skill stores to find it.
  • Crack the Code had an amazing reach on social media and even went viral within the voice space.
  • The first day it launched, someone contacted Teri about the skill not working, but when Bob looked into it, he found out that the skill had overwhelmingly heavy traffic. That was because of its global deployment, awesome sound effects, and the different voice devices people were using to access it. The problem was not with the skill, it was Amazon Alexa system wide errors.

The Texting Feature Within the Skill: Teri

  • Bob and his VoiceXP team were able to implement this great feature.
  • Teri wanted to reward listeners, reward supporters, bring in more listenership, and also figure out how to integrate a flash briefing, a podcast, website assets, and the game skill in such a way that a listener who cracks the code would be able to go Crack the Code and play the game, and then go to the Alexa in Canada website and enter the contest.
  • Despite it being a multi-step game, it has had an overwhelming response. The website traffic has been through the roof.
  • To make it as seamless as possible, they came up with the idea to allow people playing the game to enter their phone number and get a text directly with the link when they need it, so that they could go directly to the website. The VoiceXP platform made that all possible.  

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-7-2

Voice Actors for Alexa Skills with David Ciccarelli of Voices.com

Season 1, Ep. 84

In this episode, Teri welcomes David Ciccarelli, the Co-Founder and CEO of Voices.com, the online marketplace that connects business people with professional voice over talent.

 

Welcome, David!

Voices.com helps developers or anyone else that wants to create Alexa skills to have the best sounding voices for their skills. Creators of Alexa skills use different voices from the typical Alexa voice in order to differentiate their skills from others. David comes on to talk all about using voices for voice technology and much more.

Voices.com

  • They started over 10 years ago and choose to focus being voice-oriented freelancer platform.
  • David’s background is in audio engineering and his co-founder, who is also his wife, is a classically trained singer with a music degree specializing in voice. They are very passionate about the voice technology space.

The Thought Process of Creating a Skill

  • One should think of it like a two-by-two matrix where on the horizontal axis is time (a shorter time period of voice prompts verses longer time periods) and on the vertical axis is the quality of voice.
  • If one has relatively static content, it’s better to have a voice talent record that out because they are trying to invoke emotion or instructions in a more educational way.
  • One should also consider the type of interactions they want in their skill. They can be transactional, informational or educational.

How a Skill Creator/Developer Chooses the Voice to Use

  • The creators/developers will usually already have a suitable voice in their head that they want for their skill, just like how someone imagines the logo for their brand before it’s created.
  • The decision tree consists of the desired language, accent, age, and gender, and the decision maker also considers the role of the voice and style of how the voice says things. Once they come up with their criteria, they go on to Voices.com and select a couple of voice actors to audition for the project.
  • They can also choose to post their project describing in detail who they are looking for, what they need read, when they need it by, and their budget range. Voices.com has a technology called "Voice Match" through which they take those inputs of what the creator/developer is looking for, match it up against the hundreds of thousands of profiles, and select/invite only the most qualified talent for that job.

Being Part of the Voice Technology Community

  • Voice applications is an emerging category of work on Voices.com. They do well over 5,000 jobs a month in the category.
  • A lot of clients looking into the category are people or brands who want to create different types of voice applications for both Alexa and Google Assistant including flash briefings.
  • They commissioned some market research through a partnership with VoiceBot.ai to find out if brands, brand managers and marketers are ready for building voice apps.

Product Improvements

  • They are shifting into working with large organizations that might have 500+ employees that are more driven around collaboration and are doing more exciting projects. Voices.com has built out a suite of collaboration tools where they can invite other users within their company onto the platform to listen, evaluate, rate and vote on the voice talent that might become their brand voice.
  • They are looking at incorporating other enterprise grade tools, for example, around procurement or having a private cloud of pre-selected brand voices. 

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-6-25

Flash Briefings with Suze Cooper of Big Tent Media

Season 1, Ep. 83

In this episode, Teri welcomes Suze Cooper, the director of Big Tent Media, a web design and social media agency in the UK.

 

Welcome, Suze!

Suze is doing incredible work in the voice first world with her flash briefing, Social Days. Social Days is a high production flash briefing that is part of the Briefcast.FM network. Suze comes on to talk about how she got started, why she has an interest in voice, and why she’s interested in flash briefings.

Background

  • Her background is in journalism and she started out in the local newspaper.
  • She later realized that she had a passion and love for audio, moved into broadcasting, and became the news editor of the local commercial radio station where she now works on freelance basis. She stopped working there full time to take care of her kids.
  • From her love of audio, she started doing audio editing and other audio related work from home, and looked into doing social media management.
  • She eventually started a web design and social media management company (Big Tent Media) with her husband.

Getting into the Voice First World

  • She spends a lot of time on social media for work and that’s how she came across voice technology related hashtags.
  • She felt like her skills and ideas in radio and audio could fit well into the voice technology space.
  • A lot of what she does is about storytelling and that’s how flash briefings appealed to her.

Social Days Flash Briefing

  • The flash briefing was the best way for Suze to try out voice technology. She applied her audio knowledge and already had a home studio set up which made recording easier.
  • The uphill task for her was in learning the process of setting up and running a flash briefing.
  • It took her some time to figure out what her flash briefing would be about. She eventually settled on talking about the hashtag days from the social calendar plus some giving people info about some of the more weird and wonderful ones, and some other facts and features thrown in.
  • The flash briefing is a daily dose of inspiration for social media marketers and content creators.
  • She has been getting positive feedback on Social Days and it has opened up new opportunities for her, for example, people approach her to learn how to start and run their own flash briefings.
  • She’s been educating people about flash briefings and how they can be used as an introduction on voice technology.

Flash Briefing Tips

  • It’s very important to first figure out the idea behind the flash briefing, and the idea has to have 365+ content ideas within it to ensure that the flash briefing can go on for the long haul.
  • One has to make sure they have the time to do it because it requires a lot of time commitment.
  • One doesn’t need to have a complicated audio recording set up to do it. There are plenty of good and inexpensive mics one can use to record into their laptop. The voice memos app in our smartphones can also do.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-6-18

A Conversation with Pete Erickson of VOICE Summit 2019

Season 1, Ep. 82

In this episode, Teri has a two-way interview between himself and Pete Erickson of Modev, the company behind Voice Summit and the Inside Voice Podcast.

              

Enjoy!

Pete Erickson is the founder and CEO of Modev, and their very successful Voice Summit has so far been the largest gathering of voice technology enthusiasts in the world. Voice Summit 2019 will be taking place in Newark, New Jersey on July 22nd to 25th 2019.


Pete has been interested in interviewing Teri for his podcast and Teri wanted to interview him for his podcast, so they decided to do a joint podcast to get each of each other’s ideas on what’s happening with voice technology today. 

New Elements in Voice Summit 2019: Pete

  • The Voice Summit 2018 was more focused on content and bringing voice technology enthusiasts together with as many voices as possible being heard. This year they want to do the same, but they are also adding in some key activations that were not there last year, like The Voice Awards (a full awards dinner where they will give awards across about 15 different categories. Amazon, Samsung and Microsoft will be giving special awards too).
  • They will also add in the Sonic Brands Society, which is a new networking community specifically around audio branding, and it will launched at the Grammy Museum on the 23rd of July, 2019.
  • They will add on a hackathon, S.T.E.A.M Day (for middle to high school kids), and more structured networking type of events.

The Direction of Alexa in Canada: Teri

  • Teri’s biggest passions are education, technology and healthcare.
  • Three years ago he was not involved in the voice first space. He started hearing about voice assistants coming to Canada and got very interested. The more he looked into it; he realized it was something that was going to revolutionize everything that we do.
  • He went into the web to look for resources that Canadians could use to learn about voice, but couldn’t find any, so he decided to create some type of resource. He first launched the Alexa in Canada Podcast.
  • He started to learn about flash briefings and up until today sees them as one of the biggest opportunities in educating audiences.
  • His flash briefing has been the number one flash briefing in Canada since its launch and is currently approaching its 500th consecutive episode.
  • Being a physician, he launched the Voice First Health Podcast with the idea of educating people about what is going on at the intersection of healthcare and voice.
  • He launched Briefcast.FM, the first network for flash briefings, where he vets flash briefings. The network solved the problem of flash briefing discoverability and gives people access to the best quality flash briefings today.
  • He then created the Flash Briefing Formula, a free premium course on how to create a flash briefing.

Teri at the Voice Summit

  • He’s going to give the overview to flash briefings and talk about the opportunities in that space while giving the current statistics on why it’s a great opportunity compared to podcasts.
  • He will then give a tutorial on how to set up a flash briefing by recording a live flash briefing from the workshop, so people can see what goes into it and how it’s put up. That way people will come away from that with basic knowledge on how to set it up on their own flash briefing.
  • Teri will also give several other talks.

Voice in the Longevity Economy: Teri

  • Different companies are jumping into the aging in place sector. Voice is going to have an incredible impact in this space.
  • A voice assistant can act as a care aid for a senior living at home. It can provide medication reminders, reminders of appointments, check on how they are doing, and generally monitor their health.
  • Teri believes we are heading towards a more decentralized healthcare system which will allow seniors to bring healthcare into their homes and consequently take pressure off of the healthcare system and overworked health workers.

Voice Summit Speakers on Voice Technology Use Among Seniors: Pete

  • There will be a lot of brilliant speakers, organizations and healthcare industry strategists at the summit.

Voice Technology Predictions: Pete

  • He predicts that in a year from now, the monetization models for developers are going to open up and bring a lot more independent developers into the voice space. It’s already happening and the ones who are doing it will be highlighted at the Voice Summit 2019.

Voice Technology Predictions: Teri

  • Teri is very excited about the developments related to healthcare and thinks that the recent HIPAA Compliance that was announced by Amazon is a game changer. That means that voice devices can be used as medical devices that can capture, provide and store personal health information.
  • The whole idea of vocal biomarkers (voice as a vital sign) is incredible and Teri predicts that we will start seeing some amazing applications in the near future.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other Useful resources:

2019-6-11

Voice Locations with Giles Rhys Jones of What3Words

Season 1, Ep. 81

In this episode, Teri welcomes Giles Rhys Jones, the CMO of What3Words, a 100+ person tech startup trying to change the world for the better by addressing it all with just three words.


Welcome, Giles!

Giles created the vision, positioning, identity and go to marketing strategy for the company. He took What3Words from a quirky idea to a globally recognized brand used by organizations, individuals and governments in over 170 countries.

What3Words’ technology helps people find locations on our entire planet using words instead of addresses. Giles comes on to talk about this technology and how voice technology is affecting the way locations can be found on planet earth.

What3Words

  • The company’s founder, Chris Sheldrick, used to organize music events around the world and was constantly frustrated with bad addressing. Band members and equipment would end up at the wrong place all the time. He used to use GPS coordinates but with GPS, if one mixed up just one number, they would get lost.
  • Chris and his friend Mohan (a What3Words cofounder), decided that words are much more memorable and easier to communicate, and so they came up with an idea to cut the world up into 57 trillion three by three meters squares (ten foot by ten foot squares), which needed a word list of 40,000 words, so they could give each one of those squares a three word address. That is what the What3Words system does.
  • They have given every three meter by three meter square on the planet a three word address identifier.

Coming up with the 40,000 Words List

  • To come up with the words, they started with a dictionary. They took out rude words, hyphenated words, and homophones. They then thought about how to make it much easier to use and so they decided to use shorter more memorable words in places where there are people.
  • For example, London has short memorable words while the middle of the ocean has much longer English words.
  • They have also done it in 36 different languages and they are working on more.
  • They put similar sounding words really far part, for example, table.chair.lamp is in America while table.chair.damp is in Australia. They did that so that when someone makes an error then it’s a very obvious error that the system can notify them of on the spot. That error detection feature is built into the system.

Use Cases

  • They have a free app that anybody can download and use.
  • Different people are using it every day to meet up with their friends, specify the start of running trails, etc.
  • Photographers, painters, campers, and anybody who is interested in going outdoors is using What3Words.
  • Businesses and organizations are also using it, for example, it’s being used by emergency services in the UK and delivery companies all over the world.
  • People are even adding a three word address to their existing street address.
  • What3Words is available through the app and their code. They generate revenue by licensing their code to other businesses.
  • To spread the word about What3Words for more widespread use, they have a B2B2C (Business to Business to Consumer) model. They are working with different brands. Travel companies use What3Words a lot.
  • Learning Planet just produced their latest guide to Mongolia and they put three word addresses next to every single listing.
  • People can use either the app or the website to get to whatever location they need to get to.
  • They are also working with car companies. Mercedes Benz, for example, is building this technology into their car and telling all their customers that they can use What3Words in their cars as a point of differentiation. They are pushing out adverts and content telling people that they can use What3Words.
  • The police services in the UK have built the What3Words software into their dispatch systems.
  • What3Words plans on becoming a global standard and being integrated into the most typical location finding apps that people use.

Embarking on Voice Technology

  • Voice recognition is improving and will keep getting better, but it won’t solve the underlying problem of very bad addresses.
  • Street addresses, post codes, and zip codes were built to enable postal delivery systems, and are not accurate. They are also not good at spotting errors.
  • Entering an address into a vehicle is problematic, but now a person can jump into their car and say the three words representing the location they are going to.
  • They are in the process of developing an Alexa skill and Google action. They have developed some beta products, for example, a product that can enable someone to order an Uber to pick them up from a three word address and take them to a three word address. Their skill will be available to people and they have built voice into their own app so people can say a three word address to the app. This is one of the services they sell through API or SDK.
  • They have worked with a number of voice suppliers like Nuance and SoundHound to build on top of their voice recognition.
  • Their system works offline so one doesn’t need a data connection for the system to work.

Having an Office in Mongolia

  • Mongolia is a very vast country with a nomadic population and they move around on a frequent basis.
  • Their government officials approved the adoption of What3Words and their postal service was the first in the world to use What3Words.
  • One can send a letter in Mongolia to a three word address and the postal service will recognize that and deliver it to that precise spot.
  • There is a whole ecosystem growing up around What3Words, for example, one can get a taxi to their three word location, Pizza Hut can deliver a pizza to a three word address, and even Airbnb is using it to get the nomadic tribes on their platform.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-6-4

How to Setup Amazon Alexa Routines in Canada

Season 1, Ep. 80

In this episode, in response to the feedback that he got on episode 78, Teri highlights all the great things that we can do with Alexa routines especially in home automation.

 

Let's Begin! 

Teri will take us through what Alexa Routines is and go through all the different settings that we can set up for a routine in Canada. Routines is one of the most powerful features that anyone can use with Alexa. It takes home automation to an entirely new level. 

What is a Routine?

  • It's something that you can set up so that when you trigger Alexa either with a single verbal utterance, or set it up to happen automatically at certain times on certain days of the week, Alexa can go through a number of different functions all sequentially without pausing between them.
  • For example, Teri has a morning routine set up so that when he says to Alexa, “Start my day”, she goes through a number of different things. She tells him the news for the day, tells him his commute time, the weather, taps into his flash briefings, and then puts on the radio.

Setting up a Routine

  • Go into your app, click on the menu button (the hamburger icon), there is an option there to click on routines.
  • Click on routines. There is a little plus (+) sign on the top right corner. You click on that and that’s where you can start creating your new routine.
  • There are two options to creating a new routine; one is when it happens (the trigger) and the second is adding the actions (what Alexa will do after the trigger)
  • To set up the trigger, click on “when this happens” and there is a little plus (+) sign there. There are three different options; Voice, Schedule, and Device.
  • If you click on voice, then you can enter the specific phrase that will trigger the routine, for example, Teri’s morning routine is triggered when he says, “Start my day.” 
  • If you click on schedule, you will click the particular time when you will want your routine to start, and there is an option to click on repeat where you can choose which days of the week you want the routine to be triggered.
  • When you click on device, you will have to choose the smart home devices you have, for example, if you have a smart lock, Alexa can be triggered when you lock or unlock the door. This part of setting up a routine depends on the kind of smart home devices you have.

Setting up an Action

  • To set up an action, you click on “Add Action”, and you have ten different options that you can select from, for actions that Alexa can take.
  • The options are Alexa Says, Calendar, Device Settings, Messaging Settings, Music Settings, News, Smart Home, Traffic, Wait, and Weather.

Alexa Says Option

  • When you click on that, it triggers Alexa to actually say something to you. You can choose a custom phrase and enter a phrase. This is a great way to set up a reminder at a certain time.
  • You can select Good Morning, so she simply says good morning, and you can ask her to sing a song, tell a joke, or tell a story.
  • You can click on the phrases option where Alexa has several sub-categories or phrases that would be appropriate for different things.
  • The real power of this feature is if you want it to remind you to do something at a certain time.

Calendar Option

  • When you click on this, Alexa will tell you what things are on your calendar.
  • You trigger it by setting up your trigger, and you have three different options. She can tell you the day’s calendar by reading it, or tell you the following day’s calendar if you want a preview of what will happen the following day, or she can read you the next event on your calendar.
  • This is how you can have your agenda told to you in the morning while you’re getting ready.

Device Settings Option

  • This option allows us to change, for example, the volume. For example, Teri has a routine set to reduce Alexa’s volume when he goes to bed, and back up in the morning.
  • There are two other features within device settings, and that is, "Do Not Disturb" and "Stop Audio".

Messaging Settings Option

  • You can set this such that you can receive a notification on your Alexa app (on your phone) at a particular time.
  • You can also set it up to send announcements. Announcements are things that Alexa will say and they get announced verbally on all the devices in your account.

Music Settings Option

  • You can set up Alexa to play a particular song or playlist.
  • You type in what you want and choose what provider (Spotify, Amazon Music, your library, etc.), and then set a time limit if you want, so that the music will play for a certain period of time and then stop.

News Option

  • This is valuable. When you click News and enable it, it asks Alexa to automatically start playing your flash briefings. You have to have your flash briefings set up.

Smart Home Option

  • This is where you can control a particular device or group.
  • Once you click on Smart Home, you will see those two options. You can click on “Control Device” and there you can click on a particular device like a light bulb or switch. Based on that smart home device, there may be particular options that you can enable.

Traffic Option

  • This is where Alexa reports your traffic to you. There aren’t any options to set up here other than enabling it.

Wait Option

  • This is for when you want Alexa to do something in your routine, and then wait a particular length of time before moving on to the next step in the routine.

Weather Option

  • Here, Alexa will report your weather based on your location.

List of resources mentioned in this episode: