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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
2019-5-21

How to Setup Alexa in Canada in 2019

Season 1, Ep. 78

In this episode, Teri gives us a well detailed step by step breakdown of how to setup Alexa in your new Echo device so you can get the most and best out of her in Canada.


Let's Begin! 

First of all, of course, you’ll need to have your Amazon.ca account set up and then go into setting up your Alexa device. If you don’t already have an Alexa device, there are 9 different ones to choose from. Just go to AlexainCanada.ca, enter your email address, and you will have access to download a completely free guide to help you choose which device is best for you.

The Setup

  • You will need to have some way to set up your settings and there are two ways, using a mobile app or online on the Amazon website.
  • If you choose to use a mobile app, you will go the iTunes app store or the Google Play Store, to download the app.
  • If you choose to use the online method, just go to Alexa.Amazon.com
  • It’s better to use the mobile app because you'll have access to more features.

Echo Settings

  • This is where you set up what you can or cannot do with your Echo device.
  • The settings are divided into a number of different areas.
  • Click on the hamburger icon on the top left corner, which looks like 3 lines on top of each other, which is basically the menu button. 
  • When you click on the menu button and click on settings, that allows you to setup some global settings for your Amazon account. That means that the settings will apply to all the Alexa devices that you have.
  • Click on recognized voices which will allow Alexa to identify you based on the sound of your voice.
  • You can setup kids skills there if you want Alexa to be able to work with kids skills.
  • There is the voice purchasing setting that you can turn on so you can be able to order things through voice. You can set a 4-digit voice code so that no one else can use this feature without your permission.
  • There is the Alexa Voice Responses setting where you can enable brief mode.
  • The other setting you’ll see is "History", where you can see the different statements/utterances that you have made and have said to Alexa.
  • You can also manage your smart home device history, skills permissions and choose how your data is used by Amazon under the privacy settings.

Specific Device Settings

  • You click on the little settings icon at the top left (The hamburger icon) then you click on device settings, and then click on a specific Echo device. This is where you’ll be able to set up the settings for each individual device.

Bluetooth Settings

  • If you would like to pair your Echo device with a Bluetooth speaker or use it as a speaker phone for your phone, this is where you would pair your device.

Pairing Smart Speakers

  • If you have a pair of Echo devices or you have the sub-woofer (Echo Sub), you may want to pair them together to create stereo audio, or pair one of them with the Echo Sub so that you have a really bass sounding audio when listening to music.
  • You’ll find this under the "Stereo Pair Subwoofer" setting.

Sounds

  • Here you can set a number of different features like the default volume for the alarm, timer and notifications using the slider.
  • You can also change the sounds here.

Audio Controls

  • This is a relatively newer option that allows you to change the sound of the audio like an equalizer.
  • You can do it manually or by voice.

Flash Briefings

  • You go to the settings button, you click on flash briefing, you click on get more flash briefing content, and then you search for what you want. Make sure they are turned on.
  • If you click on the top right of your screen, you will see “Edit Order” where you can drag the flash briefings into the order that you want to hear them.

Do not Disturb

  • This setting allows or disallows Alexa from talking to you except for alarms or timers. You have the choice to turn this feature directly on or schedule it for certain times a day, if there are certain times that you don’t want her to interrupt what you’re doing.

Device Location and Time Zone

  • This has to be setup appropriately because it determines what features you have access to. You can set it to your location or another location. The same applies with Time Zone, you have to set it to your time zone.

Wake Word

  • You have the option of choosing different wake words besides Alexa.

Follow Up Mode

  • This is a feature that allows you to ask a follow up question to Alexa within a few seconds of asking her something else.

Registered To

  • This is a setting that allows you to deregister your device, if you are going to give it to somebody as a gift. If you want to remove it from your Amazon account, this is where you would do that.

Things to Try

  • If you want Alexa to notify you of different tips and tricks, you can choose to turn on your phone notifications, and you will get notifications of new things that you can try.
  • This is where you can also set up notifications for every specific skill that you have in there.

Communication

  • You click on settings and then communication
  • This is where you can connect Alexa and your Echo device to your Skype account if you want to use Alexa to talk to someone through Skype.

Music

  • This is where you choose the services that you want Alexa to have access to and you can choose the default service so that when you’re asked for a song, you don’t have to name that service.

List of resources mentioned in this episode:

2019-5-21

How to Setup Alexa in Canada in 2019

Season 1, Ep. 78

In this episode, Teri gives us a well detailed step by step breakdown of how to setup Alexa in your new Echo device so you can get the most and best out of her in Canada.


Let's Begin! 

First of all, of course, you’ll need to have your Amazon.ca account set up and then go into setting up your Alexa device. If you don’t already have an Alexa device, there are 9 different ones to choose from. Just go to AlexainCanada.ca, enter your email address, and you will have access to download a completely free guide to help you choose which device is best for you.

The Setup

  • You will need to have some way to set up your settings and there are two ways, using a mobile app or online on the Amazon website.
  • If you choose to use a mobile app, you will go the iTunes app store or the Google Play Store, to download the app.
  • If you choose to use the online method, just go to Alexa.Amazon.com
  • It’s better to use the mobile app because you'll have access to more features.

Echo Settings

  • This is where you set up what you can or cannot do with your Echo device.
  • The settings are divided into a number of different areas.
  • Click on the hamburger icon on the top left corner, which looks like 3 lines on top of each other, which is basically the menu button. 
  • When you click on the menu button and click on settings, that allows you to setup some global settings for your Amazon account. That means that the settings will apply to all the Alexa devices that you have.
  • Click on recognized voices which will allow Alexa to identify you based on the sound of your voice.
  • You can setup kids skills there if you want Alexa to be able to work with kids skills.
  • There is the voice purchasing setting that you can turn on so you can be able to order things through voice. You can set a 4-digit voice code so that no one else can use this feature without your permission.
  • There is the Alexa Voice Responses setting where you can enable brief mode.
  • The other setting you’ll see is "History", where you can see the different statements/utterances that you have made and have said to Alexa.
  • You can also manage your smart home device history, skills permissions and choose how your data is used by Amazon under the privacy settings.

Specific Device Settings

  • You click on the little settings icon at the top left (The hamburger icon) then you click on device settings, and then click on a specific Echo device. This is where you’ll be able to set up the settings for each individual device.

Bluetooth Settings

  • If you would like to pair your Echo device with a Bluetooth speaker or use it as a speaker phone for your phone, this is where you would pair your device.

Pairing Smart Speakers

  • If you have a pair of Echo devices or you have the sub-woofer (Echo Sub), you may want to pair them together to create stereo audio, or pair one of them with the Echo Sub so that you have a really bass sounding audio when listening to music.
  • You’ll find this under the "Stereo Pair Subwoofer" setting.

Sounds

  • Here you can set a number of different features like the default volume for the alarm, timer and notifications using the slider.
  • You can also change the sounds here.

Audio Controls

  • This is a relatively newer option that allows you to change the sound of the audio like an equalizer.
  • You can do it manually or by voice.

Flash Briefings

  • You go to the settings button, you click on flash briefing, you click on get more flash briefing content, and then you search for what you want. Make sure they are turned on.
  • If you click on the top right of your screen, you will see “Edit Order” where you can drag the flash briefings into the order that you want to hear them.

Do not Disturb

  • This setting allows or disallows Alexa from talking to you except for alarms or timers. You have the choice to turn this feature directly on or schedule it for certain times a day, if there are certain times that you don’t want her to interrupt what you’re doing.

Device Location and Time Zone

  • This has to be setup appropriately because it determines what features you have access to. You can set it to your location or another location. The same applies with Time Zone, you have to set it to your time zone.

Wake Word

  • You have the option of choosing different wake words besides Alexa.

Follow Up Mode

  • This is a feature that allows you to ask a follow up question to Alexa within a few seconds of asking her something else.

Registered To

  • This is a setting that allows you to deregister your device, if you are going to give it to somebody as a gift. If you want to remove it from your Amazon account, this is where you would do that.

Things to Try

  • If you want Alexa to notify you of different tips and tricks, you can choose to turn on your phone notifications, and you will get notifications of new things that you can try.
  • This is where you can also set up notifications for every specific skill that you have in there.

Communication

  • You click on settings and then communication
  • This is where you can connect Alexa and your Echo device to your Skype account if you want to use Alexa to talk to someone through Skype.

Music

  • This is where you choose the services that you want Alexa to have access to and you can choose the default service so that when you’re asked for a song, you don’t have to name that service.

List of resources mentioned in this episode:

2019-5-14

Voiceflow Grows: An Update with Braden Ream

Season 1, Ep. 77

In this episode, Teri welcomes Braden Ream back to the show. Braden is the CEO and Co-Founder of Voiceflow.


Welcome, Braden Ream!

Voiceflow is one of the best platforms when it comes to developing, designing and prototyping Alexa skills and Google actions. He comes back to talk some tremendously exciting major developments at Voiceflow.

Voiceflow

  • They started the company about a year ago.
  • They were looking for different ideas in the voice space and had one of the original Alexa Dots.
  • They started to experiment by starting with voice shopping, but it didn’t go anywhere.
  • They eventually settled on doing interactive children stories.
  • They looked into different platforms that they could use to create the stories because they had been custom coding, and felt it would take too long. They settled on StoryLine which is now Invocable, and it was very good. They used Invocable for some time, but they eventually hit a features cap so they tried other platforms, but none of them suited what they wanted to build, so they decided to build their own platform that would enable them to build interactive children’s stories faster.
  • As they started to build the Storyflow Alexa skill, it became very popular especially in Canada.
  • In 2018, they had the idea of creating "The YouTube of Voice" where authors would come on to the platform to build their own interactive stories that would be on Storyflow.
  • The authors didn’t want to use the platform, and instead wanted to have their own app which prompted Braden and his team to shift their focus on allowing the authors to do that, and they changed the company’s name from Storyflow to Voiceflow. 
  • Storyflow is still the number one Alexa skill in Canada.

Voiceflow’s Partnership with Invocable

  • Voiceflow has been focusing on friendly competition because the voice space is not really a winner takes all kind of environment.
  • They joined forces with Invocable and started with managing the Invocable platform with plans to integrate more and more with time. Invocable’s unique features will be fully integrated into Voiceflow to ensure a better and more advanced Voiceflow for the benefit of users from both platforms.

The Voiceflow Community

  • Universally followed best practices haven’t been established in the voice space yet, so building a community is very important.
  • They value their communities so much because they offer great feedback and support in making their platform better.
  • They plan on integrating and expanding both the Voiceflow and Invocable communities.
  • They have always been talking to their users and building the product which builds intimacy with the community.
  • The most important thing to them is product and community, rather than just running the company.

Investors

  • They have raised enough money to sustain their team.
  • In their recent round of funding, their pitch was based on the huge future potential of voice as an interface.
  • Investors put their money in team and market, and their market is at a very exciting time. Voiceflow connects to their market very quickly and they are taking things slow while trying to build the best product that people love.

Feature Updates

  • Voiceflow is now monetized. They do believe in allowing people to experiment with the platform and so they do have free trials to allow people to experience using Voiceflow.
  • They have been working on laying down a scalable business model that is fair to their users and allows them to remain as a company.
  • They have been developing a collaboration feature that will allow users to share projects and be able to collaborate. This feature is very valuable to professional users because they usually work in teams of 2+ people.
  • Google integration: They figured out a way to do cross-platform development for Alexa and Google simultaneously. When a user is building on Voiceflow, they are actually building for both Alexa and Google at the same time. This has led to a ton of actions being published through Voiceflow. In future, they will work towards integrating other platforms like Siri and Bixby.
  • They have done a lot of integrations like the ability to connect to third-party services without having to use APIs.
  • They just added GoogleSheets, which means that one can connect to a GoogleSheet and post data without having to use APIs. This was a great upgrade for non-technical users. It has been widely adopted.
  • They have also added a system for combined blocks which will ensure better design capabilities for users and developers.
  • They have added so many other different features since the last time Braden was on the show. 

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-5-7

Webby-Winning Alexa Skills in Canada 2019

Season 1, Ep. 76

In this episode, Teri talks about the Alexa Skills that were winners in the 2019 Webby Awards.

 

The Webby Awards are awards that are given to people, organizations and companies that are doing incredible things on the web. With the explosion of voice technology, the awards added ten new categories just for voice. Teri is going to highlight the winning Alexa skill that is available in Canada as well as those that got honorable mentions.

 

Ready? Here we go! And the Honorable Mentions were!

#1 ALIEN: Offworld Colony Simulator

  • It’s by 20th Century Fox and was one of the honorable mentions in the best user-experience category.
  • It is a turn-based exploration game that challenges you to escape from the sectors of a locked down Weyland-Yutani Space Colony. The objective of the game is to escape as many colony sectors as possible before being trapped by the colony’s quarantine protocol, or falling prey to security hazards. 

#2 Bedtime Explorers

  • This is by Kinderling Kids Radio.
  • It is a soundscape type of exploration for children to be used primarily when they are getting ready for bed. It has very soothing music and voice, and gives kids the option to explore different animals or magical places in a soothing and calming way. It keeps the kids entertained and allows them to settle down for the evening.

#3 Big Sky

  • It is by Philosophical Creations and it was an honorable mention in the productivity category.
  • It is the go-to weather skill. It has more detailed weather forecast and information than the built-in weather forecast in Alexa.
  • It uses the Dark Sky API, to give hyper-local for hour-by hour weather forecasts tied to your actual street address.

#4 Chompers

  • It is by Gimlet Media and was an honorable mention in the health, fitness and lifestyle category.
  • It’s a great skill that helps you get your kids to brush their teeth. You simply say, “Alexa, start chompers”
  • Kids hear jokes, riddles, stories, fun facts, silly songs and more, that keep them giggling and brushing for the full two minutes that dentists recommend. 
  • To help your family build good brushing habits, Chompers counts the times you brush and celebrates your streaks.

#5 Sleep Sounds

  • It is by Invoked Apps LLC and it was an honorable mention in the health, fitness and lifestyle category.
  • It plays calming sound loops to help you fall asleep faster, sleep better, relax, meditate, or drown out distracting noises.
  • There are several sleep sound skills, so one has to look out for this one by Invoked Apps, by listening right after you say, “Open Sleep Sounds”. It will say, “Welcome to Sleep Sounds by Invoked Apps”

#6 Song Quiz

  • It is by Volley Inc. and it was an honorable mention in the games and entertainment category.
  • It is a great game.
  • When you say, “Open Song Quiz”, it asks you for a decade of songs and you have to guess the name and artist of the song based on a short clip that it plays. You can also choose a number of players.

#7 Suggest a Beer

  • It is by Dabble Lab and it was an honorable mention in the food and drink category.
  • It is available in Canada but the content isn’t Canadian.
  • It can suggest a beer to you, and it has more than 5,000 different beers, but they are all American brewed craft and specialty beers. It can suggest a random beer or a beer by state.

And now for the winner skill that is available in Canada… drum roll please…

Headspace: Guided Meditation for Everybody

  • It is by Headspace and it won in two categories, Health, Fitness and Lifestyle, and People’s Voice.
  • Headspace is meditation and mindfulness made simple. It’s very soothing, has a great voice and talks you through how to meditate and how to be more mindful with lots of different exercises and meditations that you can do.
  • It’s great for relaxing, feeling calm, and winding down if you are feeling anxious.

List of resources mentioned in this episode:

Other Useful resources:

2019-4-23

Awesome Aariv Modi: A Grade 5 Alexa Skill Developer

Season 1, Ep. 75

In this episode, Teri welcomes Awesome Aariv Modi, a 5th Grade student and excellent Amazon Alexa Skill Developer.

 

Welcome, Aariv Modi!

Awesome Aariv came on to talk about his experience as a grade 5 student creating Alexa skills and also creating videos to help educate the voice technology community.

Awesome Aariv

  • One of his favorite hobbies is playing chess. Went to his first tournament when he was six.
  • He loves mystery books, plays basketball and loves video games.
  • He has been coding since he was 7. He started creating basic programs using Scratch and Khan Academy, and then moved up to taking Codecademy courses on more complex topics.
  • He has a YouTube channel, Awesome Aariv, where he creates videos about math, chess and books, and recently started creating videos on Alexa.
  • He is very passionate about Alexa and loves developing new skills.

His Interest in Coding

  • When he looked at games he would wonder how they are built. He was always fascinated by the fact that just by typing code, one could create a game or any kind of great program. He wanted to learn that himself.

His Interest in Alexa

  • He was introduced to Alexa 3 years ago when his parents first bought an Echo device. He always thought that Alexa has amazing abilities. He was most fascinated by Alexa’s smart home features.
  • He was even more impressed when he learned that one could create their own skills for the whole world to use.
  • As he was learning some more Javascript, he decided to create his own skill. He created his first skill, Kids Advice, during his winter break. Once he created one, he wanted to create more. He currently has 3 skills; Kids Advice, Meal Buddy, and Wheel of Fun.
  • He also made a skill for his dad’s birthday as a gift.

Skills

  • He created Kids Advice using a fact skill template and added some extra code to it so that it asks the user whether they want another piece of advice after everyone. He created the skill to be introduced to AWS and the Amazon Developer Portal.
  • His little brother wouldn’t eat no matter what his mother gave him, so Aariv was inspired to create his second skill, Meal Buddy, which entertains kids and also reminds them to eat. He learned more complex coding techniques from this.
  • He created Wheel of Fun to show his parents that he could build more than a fact skill by himself. It gives users a random piece of advice, fact or fortune, and then asks the user whether they wanna spin again to get more. This is his personal favorite and he didn’t think it would be his most popular skill by a long shot. He has been adding more features to it and is currently working on adding monetization to it.

How Alexa Works

  • There are 3 main technologies that empower all voice assistants and they are ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition), NLU (Natural Language Understanding), and TTS (Text-to-Speech)
  • When you say something to Alexa (Utterance), the Alexa device hears what you say and streams it to the Alexa service (which consists of ASR, NLU, and TTS). Once the utterance is in the Alexa service, ASR starts to work on it. ASR converts the audio into text for the rest of the service to use.
  • NLU then starts to work on it by figuring out what you’re trying to do. NLU then sends a request containing the intent to your back end and your back end should have a handler for that intent otherwise the code will fail.
  • All your code logic will then run and send a response back to the Alexa service which is json text, but Alexa can’t speak json, it can only speak audio, which is where text-to-speech comes in to convert the text to speech. With that, Alexa can say the audio response from the back end which you hear.
  • That happens every single time we speak to Alexa.

Creating Multimodal Skills

  • He has been thinking of making Wheel of Fun more multimodal.

Future Plans

  • His main focus is learning as much as possible.
  • He wants to keep adding new features to Wheel of Fun.
  • He wants to create more videos and update his blog posts with everything he learns.
  • He wants to keep on working on monetization for Wheel of Fun, and hopes to complete it soon.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-4-16

Kids Skills with Adva Levin of Pretzel Labs

Season 1, Ep. 74

In this episode, Teri welcomes Adva Levin, the founder and CEO of Pretzel Labs, a company that is creating some of the most engaging top-notch kids’ skills that are available today.

 

Welcome, Adva Levin!

Adva’s background is in writing, content strategy and conversation design. She started Pretzel Labs to create voice-first playful experiences for kids. She won the grand prize in the Amazon Alexa Kids Skill Competition for one of her kids’ skill and that skill was one of the top 25 skills of 2018.

Creating Alexa Skills for Kids

  • Alexa and other voice technology platforms sparked her imagination as a writer and she saw voice as a new creative medium.
  • She got an Alexa device and when people came to her house they would engage Alexa. Adults would ask more utility-based questions, but kids were more playful with Alexa and asked fun and imaginative questions. Adva saw it as a new entity or almost close to a family member for kids to interact with.

Actionable Tips for Kids Skills Developers

  • Children cannot be categorized into one group. There are different groups based on age, from 3 to 14 years. One has to decide what group they are developing their skill for.
  • One has to consider the kids’ attention span and what they will be doing while they are interacting with a skill.
  • One has to also consider whether the kids will interact with a skill while they are alone or with their parents and other family members. Adva’s skills for example, are designed not only for kids, but for the whole family to interact together.
  • Creating a persona: This is very relevant in the design of voice experiences. One has to think of what their skill is going to do, then start doing the design (what it would say, what it would listen to from users, etc.), and the last step is coming up with a way to create emotional engagement for users.

Kids Court

  • Amazon wanted to promote the kids' category soon after it launched, by making a worldwide competition for kids’ skills.
  • This was Adva’s first experience in building a skill and it won the grand prize in the competition.

Pretzel Labs’ Skills

  • They consider how families can use Alexa in their daily lives.
  • Adva thought about how Alexa can help families overcome some friction. She thought about how kids fight all the time, and wondered how Alexa could be a judge. She came up with the idea for “Judge Alexa”, a little persona that lives inside Alexa with her own courtroom. Kids and parents are invited to enter “Kids Court” and tell Judge Alexa what happened. Judge Alexa then walks them through a trial. Kids learn about the process of a trial, and roles of the defendant, prosecutor and witness. It’s all done very playfully and with a lot of humor. At the end, a verdict is given and whoever is guilty has to commit a dare-style sentence.
  • Kids Court has been featured widely all over the world and receives raving reviews.
  • Another one of Pretzel Labs' skills is Freeze Dancers. It’s a dancing game for kids. It has silly dance moves to keep kids going and having fun.
  • They also have “Out the Door” and “Bedtime Hero” which help kids get ready in the morning and ready for bed respectively. They are for slightly younger kids aged between 4 and 8. They are meant to engage them more in the mundane tasks of putting on their clothes, brushing their teeth, and going to school. Parents don’t have to yell at their kids to do those things because with Alexa, the kids get to do them in an adventurous, engaging and fun way.

Projects in Israel

  • Pretzel Labs has been working on a project with MindCET (Israel’s Tech Innovation Center) and the Israeli Ministry of Education to use Alexa in schools to encourage kids to learn conversational English skills.
  • Kids start to learn English from the 3rd Grade and they never really get the chance to speak English a lot or to practice speaking. They hear off of content from TV and music, and they get an English class about two or three times a week.
  • Alexa enables the kids to speak English and enjoy it.  

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-4-9

Voice Design with Obaid Ahmed of Botmock

Season 1, Ep. 73

In this episode, Teri welcomes Obaid Ahmed, the founder and CEO of Botmock, a Canadian company that is all about making voice design easy for all.

 

Welcome, Obaid Ahmed!

Obaid is an entrepreneur, mentor, technologist at heart, and an expert in building technology, UX/product design, and large scale software design and business models. He has been a mentor for early stage startups, providing them with advice and insights on their business models and get-to-market plans. He was the creator of UmmahHuba, project that gives Muslim communities around the world access to crowd-funding opportunities. He was awarded the Youth Business Entrepreneur in 2012 and was also involved in YoungMaker project which introduced the concept of technology to the youth via a 3D printer.


Botmock not only allows the publishing of voice skills to Alexa, but also many other platforms. Botmock lets people create conversation flows and interactive prototypes from a simple drag-and-drop editor, then share or test those prototypes and get feedback in one centralized location.

Getting into Voice

  • Voice came into the picture for him when he bought his first Echo device in 2016. The device piqued his curiosity. It also frustrated him because it wasn’t working the way they were advertising it so he started looking into how to develop better voice applications and use the device better in their daily lives.

Botmock

  • It is a wire-framing tool for anybody who is building conversational apps. They help companies, brands, individuals and designers build better experiences for consumers/users of conversational apps.
  • They design for 10 different platforms, not just Alexa. The platforms include Slack and Facebook Messenger.
  • It’s built in a way that it can be used to simple as well as complicated use cases.

The Key Principles for Botmock users

  • When a user starts a project on Botmock, they should start by writing down some of their scripts and flow charts on the experience that they want their users to have. They shouldn’t worry about delivery at this point.
  • Botmock recommends focusing on getting users to the point and the wow factor quickly. They advise enabling multi-modal capabilities.
  • They should then test out the preview of the skill in audio in order to improve on the experience.

The Platforms

  • When users want to switch from one platform to another, for example when they are designing for Facebook Messenger and want to switch to voice, they try to apply the same conversational principles, but that doesn’t usually work.
  • That is because people on Facebook Messenger will have a different sense of urgency, demographic and needs. The skill designer has to design the conversation to fit that mental model for the user.
  • With enterprise modes like Microsoft Teams or Slack, there might be users who are okay with getting a lot of information at the same time because the understand the business use case.
  • Botmock is suitable for people who have intermediate skills in chat bots and voice design in general.

Actual Use Cases

  • Botmock has a breadth of customers including healthcare, entertainment, travel and other enterprise customers.
  • One example is the Canadian Blood Services that used Botmock to build a bot on their Facebook page. They were struggling with what to build on Facebook Messenger. When they were trying to find out what the experience could look like if they were to implement a bot, they realized that people just wanted information so they built an information delivery mechanism through Facebook Messenger. People can message the bot and learn things like where they can donate blood or ask questions around when they can donate blood, how they can donate blood, how old they have to be, and much more. It also includes very interactive FAQs section.
  • Sometimes content has to be vetted before it’s put out.
  • Chatbots are becoming more and more mainstream.

Data Storage

  • Botmock stores all the customers’ data on their end. They don’t connect with the end platforms at all.
  • Everything is done through their own proprietary systems and is safe and secure on the cloud.
  • They don’t share any content with third parties.
  • They have servers in Canada, Europe and the US. They can customize servers for enterprise customers.

The Future for Botmock

  • They are doubling down on the design side of things. They are improving on visibility testing capabilities including enabling other ways of testing other than within teams.
  • They are also focusing on multi-modal support where designers can create their voice experiences for more than just Alexa, Google and voice assistant devices. They want to support voice design for all devices and platforms where voice will be play a big role.
  • They are building the next phase of their technology to help designers work in a multi-modal environment.

List of resources mentioned in this episode:

Other useful resources:

2019-4-2

The Future of Alexa in Canada - Part 2

Season 1, Ep. 72

In this episode, Teri releases the results of the Future of Alexa in Canada survey to give us a clue as to where we are going with a lot of the features within the Alexa in Canada and Voice in Canada brands.

 

And the Results are….!

Teri was overwhelmed by the 95+ responses he got from the survey. The feedback will be very valuable when coming up with a way forward for the Alexa in Canada community. 


Survey Question 1: How comfortable are you with voice technology?

  • 13.8% are beginners (new users of voice technology). This demonstrates that the podcast and flash briefing should be putting out some of the basic information on how to get started with voice devices, and so on.
  • 47.9% are somewhat comfortable with voice devices.
  • 38.3% consider themselves advanced users of voice technology.
  • The audience of the Alexa in Canada Podcast has different needs as far as where they are in their journey of using voice assistants.
  • Teri continuously tries to provide value for people at different stages of their journey in using voice technology.
  • In future, there will be some more content geared towards the different groups, but all the groups will have access to all the content.

Survey Question 2: Which voice assistants do you use?

  • 97.7% of the respondents use Amazon Alexa. There were 3 people who said they don’t use Amazon Alexa.
  • 42.6% use Apple Siri while 31.9% use Google Assistant.
  • There were less people who use Microsoft Cortana, Samsung Bizby, and other voice assistants.

Survey Question 3: Where do you use your voice assistant? Do you use your voice assistant to control smart home devices?

  • 98% said they use their voice assistants at home.
  • 40% said they use voice assistants on their iOS phones, 27% on their Android phones, and 29.5% use it in their cars.
  • 62.1% said they use their voice assistants to control smart home devices.

Survey Question 4: Which best describes your use of voice technology?

  • 88.4% of people said they use their voice assistants in their everyday lives while 31.6% said that they consider voice technology to be a hobby of theirs, meaning they are very interested in it.

Survey Question 5: Which resources do you find most useful?

  • 56.2% of people said that they the website and the blog to be the most useful resource of the Alexa in Canada community.
  • 55.1% of people said they found the flash briefing to be one of the most useful resources.

Survey Question 6: Which of the specific features do you find most useful?

  • 82.6% of people like learning about Alexa commands meaning they like being told what to say to their devices.
  • 56.5% of people said they like Alexa tutorials.
  • 48.9% of people said that they find skill reviews and hardware/smart home device recommendations useful.
  • 27% of people said that they like hearing about different sales and deals that Teri has been trying to highlight for the community.

Survey Question 7: How did you first discover our community?

  • 39.8% of the respondents found the Alexa in Canada resource through Google searches which demonstrates that the content is ranking high on Google.
  • 18% of the people found the community through Facebook.
  • 17.2% of respondents found the Alexa in Canada community through the Voice in Canada Flash Briefing.

Survey Question 8: What is your favorite part about Alexa in Canada?

  • Some people said that its current and Canadian. That seemed to be an overarching theme.
  • Some people wrote that the page is helpful and informative. They loved the information of new skills, instructions on how to use new skills, hardware reviews, the flash briefings, and the podcasts.
  • Somebody said that they have actually listened to the podcasts from number one until now since discovering the podcast.
  • The Facebook community does their best to help others.
  • Someone wrote that they like the attitude and the style of the podcast, and the rest of the brand.

Survey Question 9: Ways that it can be improved

  • There has been a misconception that Alexa in Canada is the official Amazon Alexa in Canada website, which prompted some people to make suggestions or ask questions about issues that only Amazon can handle. One person said, “Stop treating us like lesser customers than the Americans”
  • In AlexainCanada.ca/29, Dave Isbitski gave the official Amazon response explaining why it takes longer for Canadians to get some of the features compared to Americans.
  • A lot of people said they like it the way it is.
  • There was a suggestion to create a specific stream or area for voice developers with tips, sample codes, and so on.
  • Somebody said they would like a discussion on the future of devices and abilities.
  • Some people would like a “What’s New” portion where they can see when something new comes out in Canada. 
  • Somebody said they would like more industry people interviews.
  • A couple of people said that they would like to see more skills in Canada, but skill developers (third-party developers) are the ones that have control on where their skills are released. This shows the need to have Canadian skills highlighted.
  • Some people suggested having a French-Canadian portal, which is very interesting to Teri because that is a huge part of Canada.
  • Somebody suggested more troubleshooting talks and how to figure out the discoverability of flash briefings aside from Briefcast.FM.
  • Somebody said they would like to see more interviews with people using the voice technologies in more real life situations, more how-tos, product reviews for home automation, and recommendations.

Questions on The Future Direction of Alexa in Canada

Question 1: How would you feel if I were to expand the content to include information about other voice assistants specifically in Canada, including Google, Siri, Cortana and Bixby.

  • On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being No, definitely do not do it while 5 being Yes, Absolutely do it), the number one response was 5. 30% of the respondents said, “Yes expand it to include other voice assistants.”
  • Almost 50% of the community said that they wanted to see it expanded.
  • Some people, about 38% of the community, said that they didn’t want to see it expanded.

Question 2: How would you feel if I added relevant sponsors to support the podcast and the flash briefing?

  • Majority of the respondents supported the idea of having sponsors to support the podcast and flash briefing.
  • 25% of people said (5 out of 5), “Absolutely do it” while 24% said (4 out of 5), “Yes, definitely do it”

Question 3: How would you feel about contributing a small weekly or monthly donation to support Alexa in Canada?

  • Zero people said 5 out of 5 for “Yes, absolutely do it”.
  • 60% of people said, “Absolutely, do not do it” 

List of resources mentioned in this episode: