Share

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
2019-9-17

The Echo Ring Light Rainbow of Colours

Season 1, Ep. 93
2019-9-10

Alexa Whisper Mode, Celebrity Alarms, and Alarm Routines, oh my!

Season 1, Ep. 92

In this episode, Teri will talk about the newest Alexa features that are now available in Canada. 

 

Enjoy!

One feature in particular, Whisper Mode, is very new and Teri will update us on a couple of the other features. Some of them are really cool, some of them to add some nice functionality to Alexa, and some of them are more gimmicky, but people really enjoy them.

Alarms

  • Alexa is often used for alarms. It can be an alarm in the morning, during the day, or any other time of the day.
  • There is a feature that enables a user to choose a customized sound for their alarm, and the new feature now includes the option to choose celebrity sounds which are mostly excerpts from movies.

Routines

  • When a user is starting a new routine, they can now choose, “when this happens” where they can choose to use their voice to start a routine, schedule it, or have a smart device action trigger the routine.
  • The new option in routines is, “alarm” which works by triggering a routine when an alarm is dismissed.

Privacy

  • Privacy with Alexa has been a concern for some people.
  • There is a new feature in the Alexa settings that will now enable a user to delete their voice recordings by voice by simply saying, “Alexa, delete everything I said today” or “Alexa, what I just said.” Users can give Alexa different time ranges to do that.

Whisper Mode

  • Whisper Mode is the ability of Alexa to understand when a user is whispering so that she can then respond to the user in a whisper. This is great when someone doesn’t want to say things loudly.
  • To enable it, you go into the app, then to the menu icon, click on settings, click on Alexa account, and then you will see Alexa voice responses. Click on that, and then you will see two options, whisper mode and brief mode. You just turn on whisper mode.

List of resources mentioned in this episode:

2019-9-3

Alexa Dev Chat with Dave Isbitski and Teri Fisher

Season 1, Ep. 91

In this episode, Teri is welcomed on the Alexa Dev Chat Podcast by the host, Dave Isbitski, to talk about flash briefings and what else he is doing in the voice first space.

 

Enjoy the Conversation!

Teri is a family physician by profession and works at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Three quarters of his practice is sports medicine and the rest is general family practice. Before medical school he had done an education degree which formed the basis for his interest in education technology.

Getting into Voice Technology

  • He had always been interested in technology from a young age.
  • The first time Teri was exposed to voice technology was through Gary Vaynerchuk.
  • Gary Vee was talking about voice technology and flash briefings, and Teri found them as an interesting way to get a message across to a population.
  • He started searching online for information on voice technology, but couldn’t find anything on the technology’s presence in Canada, so he thought he should combine his passion for technology, healthcare, and education, and create a resource for people to learn about the technology.
  • He had done podcasting in the past so it was easy for him to set up the Alexa in Canada blog and podcast. He started them before the announcement of Alexa coming to Canada was made.

Alexa in Canada

  • Teri has a lot of content on the Alexa in Canada blog and podcast website.
  • For those who are new Alexa users, he has a page on the site with hundreds of commands for the users to try out.
  • He has other pages that highlight blog posts, the podcast, and some devices that are compatible with Alexa.
  • He also has tutorials and the flash briefing page that highlights his flash briefings.
  • He gets a lot of organic traffic on the website. When people type in the search terms "Alexa and Canada" his site is the number one that comes up after Amazon’s.
  • He gets a lot of questions from Canadians about what they can do with Alexa.

Flash Briefings 101

  • Teri thinks they are an incredible opportunity for people to get out a message. They are going to become more popular in time.
  • Just like how TV went to Netflix, and there is now personalized on-demand TV, with audio too, people can now get personalized on-demand audio. Amazon has positioned flash briefings to facilitate that.

How to Start a Flash Briefing

  • Teri suggests visiting CreateaFlashBriefing.com where he goes through the main steps in creating a flash briefing.
  • He also offers his premium course in flash briefing creation for free at FlashBriefingFormula.com. He covers everything about creating a flash briefing, marketing it, and growing it.
  • In terms of the costs of creating a flash briefing, the developer APIs are free. One gets AWS credits that can cover hosting.
  • The preferred length for a flash briefing is two minutes.
  • There could be potential in producing video content for flash briefings.

Flash Briefings for Increased Customer Acquisition and Engagement

  • Teri tested this out by carrying out an experiment.
  • To do something special for his 500th flash briefing, to thank the guests that had been on his podcasts, and promote his flash briefing, he created a gamified flash briefing which included an Alexa skill called "Crack the Code"
  • In his daily flash briefings, he would give some type of puzzle that the listeners had to solve. The listeners would then have to go to the Alexa in Canada website to search for answers to the puzzles.
  • They would then go to the Alexa skill, enable it, open it, and then start talking with it to try and guess what the answer to the riddle was.
  • If they got it correct, the skill would tell them a secret piece of the final code. Every day for two weeks, they would do the same thing.
  • At the end of the two weeks, if a listener had all the 14 pieces, they could speak to the skill, say the answer to the final code, and would be told they’d cracked the code, and then get a text from the skill which would direct them to the Alexa in Canada website where they could enter to win prizes.
  • There were extra entries for sharing the contest on social media.
  • The growth and activations of the flash briefings from that were huge and the feedback Teri got was overwhelming. The number of times the flash briefing was played during those two weeks went up 20% and the number of activations went up 180%. The website traffic went up 100% and the number of times the flash briefing was played on the website went up 200%.
  • His followers on Twitter went up 20% in those two weeks and the number of times that people were clicking on his links went up 430%. His stuff was retweeted 65% more than the prior two weeks.
  • The contest also enabled him to increase his email list.

The Network of Flash Briefings

  • Teri created Briefcast.FM to be the platform where all the best quality flash briefings will be found.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-8-20

An Alexa Success Story with Sarah Andrew Wilson of Matchbox.io

Season 1, Ep. 90

In this episode, Teri welcomes Sarah Andrew Wilson, the Chief Content Officer at Matchbox.io, a company that is producing some of the most engaging Alexa skills.

 

Welcome, Sarah!

Sarah was an educator and musician for 23 years before she joined Matchbox 2 years ago to oversee all of the content for their voice applications. Matchbox develops some of the most popular and highest rated voice games on Amazon Alexa, including Question of the Day and Kids Quiz.

The Origin of Matchbox

  • It was founded in January 2017 by the CEO, Joel Wilson. As a curious developer, he bought an Alexa device and was wondering what he could create for it. He created a few skills including Question of the Day, but the content for the skill eventually became too much work for him, so he hired Sarah to help with the content.
  • By 2018 they were expanding rapidly in terms of users.

Their Skills

  • They have Question of the Day which gives users one question a day and when they get it correct they get a bonus question. They also have a subscription series as a way of monetizing this skill.
  • In response to users’ requests, they created Three Questions and Kid’s Quiz.
  • Three Questions gives users three questions at a time while Kid’s Quiz is kid-friendly and gives the young users three questions a day while they also get to choose their topic.
  • They also have the Question of the Day Flash Briefing which talks about the question of the day for every previous day and how everyone did on it.
  • They have many other experimental skills which teach them a lot about developing voice applications.

Managing the Content

  • They always aim for high quality and interesting content.
  • They have three main goals for learners of all ages (adults and kids). The goals include learn something new every day, enjoy high quality content, and come back tomorrow for more fun.
  • When creating content, Sarah uses Google Maps to come up with interesting information that forms the questions for the skills. They also create questions around all sorts of interesting topics.
  • They used to update the content on the skills every day, but now they pre-schedule it about three or four months in advance.

Matchbox’s User Base and Success

  • They recently hit 5 million unique users from 8 countries.
  • They have been hugely successful with monetization. This is mainly with Question of the Day where users wanted lots of questions so they could learn more, so they created a trivia club. Once Question of the Day gives users the original daily question, they can get three more bonus questions.
  • They also have regional and national leader boards which really motivate the users who love them. The users also get access to game packs where they can choose their own topics. The game packs are also multi-player where a user can play with up to 4 different people. Users find that meaningful and are willing to pay extra to get all of the benefits.
  • Questions range from very easy to very challenging.
  • Trivia club is available in the US and the UK, and will be expanding to other regions as soon as Amazon opens monetization opportunities in other countries.

Numerous Reviews

  • Matchbox has thousands of positive reviews on their skills in the Amazon skill store.
  • They have never asked users to review their skills and are expecting to hit 10,000 reviews in the next month or so.
  • Most of them came about from their 3 top skills and asking users to review them if they were enjoying them.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources:

2019-8-13

VOICE Summit 2019 Award Winners

Season 1, Ep. 89

In this episode, Teri talks about the award winners at the recent VOICE Summit 2019.

 

The VOICE Summit Awards were created to raise the bar for the voice first community and drive the industry forward by showcasing the next generation of voice tech pioneers. The inaugural VOICE Summit Awards went to individuals and organizations whose contributions to the emerging voice-tech community advances adoption and creates new, innovative experiences.


The finalists selected for best voice-tech innovations in twelve categories included conversational design, brand interaction, banking experience, e-Commerce, educational experience, game, healthcare experience, in-car experience, IoT voice device, media experience, multi-modal experience, shopping/e-Commerce experience, and travel, leisure or hospitality experience.


Ready? Here We Go! And the Award Winners were!

#1 Best Banking/Financial Experience

  • The winner was Bond.ai Empathy Engine by Bond.ai
  • Bond.ai is powering the world’s first empathy engine, which relates to how they are transforming banking experiences by understanding users and their scenarios, and then personalizing the banking experience.
  • Companies that want to use the technology can bring it on to Alexa, but the empathy engine is not specifically an Alexa app.
  • An example of how to use the Bond.ai bot is like telling it, “Bond, I want to grow my money by $50,000.” It might reply back something like, “Well, certainly. Do you have a short term or long term goal?” And you can say, “Short term.” And then it will say, “Excellent. I have analyzed your account and I can help you do this in 440 days. If I know a bit more about you, I can do it even faster. Let’s dive into action.” That demonstrates how it personalizes an interaction.

#2 Best Brand Interaction

  • This was won by the Alexa "Choose Your Own Adventure" Skill by Audible.
  • The skill is not available in Canada.

#3 Best Conversational Design

  • The winner was Houndify by SoundHound Inc.
  • Houndify is another voice platform similar to Alexa, Google Assistant, and the others. They are doing some very cool things. They have multiple questions that you can ask at the same time and they’re contextual.
  • SoundHound is the company behind the app that can identify a song that a user is listening to.

#4 Best Educational Experience

  • This award was won by BBC Kids by BBC Voice + AI.
  • It’s not available in Canada.

#5 Best Game

  • The winner was Mr. Robot: Daily Five/Nine by USA Network and Earplay, and it’s not available in Canada.

#6 Best Healthcare Experience

  • This award went to Suki by Suki.
  • Suki is using an AI-Powered voice enabled digital assistant for physicians to help make them be more productive in their clinics. It helps physicians create an exam note when they see a patient.

#7 Best In-Car Experience

  • The winner was Song Quiz by Volley.
  • Song Quiz is a great name-your-tune type quiz game. One can choose the decade of songs that they want to listen to, identify them, and play against other people.
  • It’s a very well done skill and it’s available in Canada.

#8 Best IoT Voice Device

  • The winner was Kanega LTE watch by UnaliWear. This is a device that is designed for the elderly population. It has a personal emergency response system built in and the user doesn’t need to have their mobile phone, because it has a connection to data.
  • Unaliwear had a very successful kickstarter campaign.

#9 Best Media Experience

  • The winners were Resemble.ai by Resemble AI and Radio Lab by AlphaVoice.
  • Resemble.ai allows users to create a digitized AI voice from their own voice recordings.
  • Radio Lab is a skill that helps users to identify podcasts and find content based on things they want to search for.

#10 Best Multi-Modal Experience

  • This award went to Bamboo Math by Bamboo Learning.
  • This Alexa skill helps users practice math questions through a wide range of skill levels.
  • It also had word problems and is fun for kids.

#11 Best Shopping/eCommerce Experience

  • This was won by Snips by Snips.ai, a platform for people to create their own voice assistants.
  • It provides private, by design, decentralized voice assistants technology and solutions.
  • It enables users to maintain privacy because everything is local on the device, meaning nothing is sent to the cloud.

#12 Best Travel, Leisure, or Hospitality Experience

  • This award went to Angie by Angie Hospitality. This is a cloud-powered interactive guest room assistant created specifically for hotels.

And the Special Recognition Award Goes to!

  • The VOICE Summit Accessibility Award went to Prudential for putting a lot of effort, time and resources towards creating accessible technologies.

List of resources mentioned in this episode:

Other Useful resources:

2019-8-6

Amazon Echo Show 5 Review

Season 1, Ep. 88

In this episode, Teri will share his impressions of using the new Echo Show 5 that Amazon recently sold tons of during Prime Day (s).

 

Let’s Begin!

There are a number of Echo devices available in Canada including the Dot, Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Spot, Echo Show, and the new Echo Show 5. The Echo Show 5 is very well priced at $99.99 which offers great value.

What is the Echo Show 5?

  • It’s the second Echo device with a rectangular screen. Its name refers to the size of its five and a half inches screen.
  • It has two microphones which helps in using the far field recognition.
  • It has a volume up and down button on top of it, a micro-USB port, and a 3.5mm audio output which can used to plug into a higher quality stereo system or speaker.
  • It has the power port at the back which plugs into the wall.
  • It’s about 5.8 inches wide, 3.4 inches in height, and 2.9 inches in depth, and comes in either sandstone or charcoal color.

Echo Show 5 Versus Echo Show

  • Compared to the Echo Show, the Show has double the screen size with a higher resolution, but the price difference is huge with the Show going for $300. The Show has better two 10-Watt speakers while the Echo Show 5 has a 1.65 inch 4-Watt speaker.
  • The camera on the Echo Show 5, which enables the user to do video calling, is a one megapixel camera while the one on the Echo Show is a five megapixel camera.
  • The Echo Show 5 lacks a built-in zigbee smart home hub which means if a user has some zigbee compatible smart home devices, and they want a hub to control them, they will need some additional hardware to control them, that is if they only have the Echo Show 5.
  • The sound on the Echo Show 5 is better than the Echo Dot and Echo Spot.
  • The one feature that it has which is not in other Echo devices, is the built-in camera shutter. This is good for people with privacy issues. The physical camera shutter that covers the camera ensures that nobody can hack the camera for whatever reason.
  • There is however a software method of shutting off the camera and the microphone on both the Echo Show and Echo Show 5. 

Teri’s First Impressions

  • When he first plugged it in, there was very little setup to do because the Echo devices that are already set up with his home network including the passwords, are already stored with Amazon.
  • He went into the settings to see what he could set up and found several options for how to customize the screen background. It can even be used as a photo frame.
  • It’s a voice-first device but it can also be used as a touch screen.
  • It has the sunrise alarms feature which simulates a sunrise in the morning between 4 am and 9 am.
  • Teri prefers the Echo Show 5 as the best buy compared to other Echo devices, especially the ones with a screen.

 List of resources mentioned in this episode:

Other useful resources:

2019-7-23

Flash Briefing Formula Live from VOICE 2019

Season 1, Ep. 87

In this episode, Teri shares the awesome talk he did at Voice Summit 2019 titled “Flash Briefings, The Prime Real Estate of Voice.”

              

Enjoy!

Teri was very privileged to be asked to give a talk on flash briefings at Voice Summit 2019, where he talked about why it’s so important to consider creating a flash briefing, went through the steps to create a flash briefing, and went over some of the results from his Crack the Code gamified flash briefing. He received some very great feedback from the talk.

What a Flash Briefing?

  • It’s like a short podcast.
  • Podcasts can vary in length from an hour to multiple hours. Flash briefings are typically one to two minutes long.
  • It is short audio content and a subscription on Alexa. People subscribe by saying, “Enable [The Flash Briefing Name]”
  • Once a person enables a flash briefing, they never have to worry about the invocation name again, because they simply say, “What’s my news?”
  • It’s an intimate way for someone to reach their audience.

Having a Voice Presence

  • This is a huge opportunity right now.
  • Flash briefings are a great intro into voice technology and they are extremely simple to develop.
  • When someone has a flash briefing, they are searchable on Amazon in their niche.
  • Statistics show that for every 65 podcasts that are out there, there’s one flash briefing. This is a huge opportunity.

Building a Flash Briefing

  • Start by figuring out what it will be about.
  • Figure out who your flash briefing is for, who you will be addressing, what their problem is, and how you can offer a solution to their problem through your flash briefing.
  • Think about how you can build your own personal brand around it.
  • Amazon will require that you provide a title, a short description, a long description, and keywords.
  • Choose the frequency in which to do your flash briefings. The best practice right now is to do it daily, but one can do it weekly, etc.
  • The hardest part of creating a flash briefing is being consistent.
  • You have to create a flash briefing icon that will grab people’s attention. You also need to have an audio logo (sonic branding)
  • One doesn’t need to spend a fortune on equipment and software.
  • Try recording a test episode, export it and submit the flash briefing to Amazon for certification. Amazon must see at least one audio in the flash briefing for them to certify it.
  • Some recording tips: stand up when you’re recording, smile when you talk, and most importantly, have fun with it.
  • Register as an Amazon Developer account. It’s a free account and it allows people to publish skills.
  • When you submit the flash briefing for certification, you have to choose the primary country.
  • You have to market your flash briefing to get listeners.

Creating a Gamified Flash Briefing

  • Teri created a gamified version of his flash briefing to thank his listeners, supporters, and also do something great with it.
  • He created a contest where every day on his flash briefing he gave a clue for people to solve based on stuff on his website or previous podcast episodes. Those who figured out the clue would go to a custom skill he developed called, “Crack the Code”, enter the code, and if they could get all the codes for the two weeks, then the skill would ask them for the final code, and if they got it correct, they would be in the running for some prizes.
  • There are incredible ways for people to use this for marketing.

List of resources mentioned in this episode

Other useful resources: