What is Alexa?

Most people talk about Amazon’s Alexa because that is the persona we interact with as users. Alexa has her own unique voice and is our intermediary between the device and the content we want to access. However, there is more than just Alexa. There is an entire ecosystem being built by Amazon and third-party developers and hardware providers. Each Alexa-based system has three key components.

DEVICE // Can be any device with a microphone, speaker and connected to the internet. For example, the Amazon Echo pictured here contains seven microphones and a high fidelity speaker that captures and transmits voice communication.

ALEXA // The cloud-based voice assistant service that interprets speech, determines user intent and returns spoken results by converting text to speech in a female voice. Alexa is to Echo what Siri is to the iPhone.

SKILLS // The brains that deliver something useful to the user. Each skill gives Alexa additional intelligence so she can help users get what they want. In some ways, skills are like mobile apps and in other ways they are more similar to web pages. Skills are what you build to engage consumers and control the user experience.

Voice UX is Different Than Visual UX

One thing you will notice from the diagram above is that there is no screen. Historically, the primary Alexa use case was not just voice-first; it was voice-only. That requires a different mindset from building apps for mobile devices or web pages where you rely on visual, touch and click interfaces. However, multimodal interfaces on smart displays, smart phones and televisions is changing this. Voice user experience must accommodate voice-only interaction, but also be versatile and take advantage of screens when available.

XAPP has developed over 1,000 Alexa skills, including multimodal experiences with video and images. We have also measured performance on millions of voice app sessions with end users. We know what works and what doesn’t. We also have a detailed process for designing, prototyping, building, managing and monitoring Alexa Skills.

If you would like assistance designing or developing your Alexa Skill, click the button below to learn more.