Categories
Speech Assistants

Quick Hack: Random Dialog Paths in Voiceflow

In dialog trees for voice assistants, you often need to introduce some randomness. If the smart speaker doesn’t always repeat the same phrases, the dialog sounds more natural. Many other use cases exist as well, e.g., you might want to ask the user a random question in a quiz.

Random Block in Voiceflow

To enable this functionality, Voiceflow includes a “Random” block. This enables choosing a different path each time. The “no duplicates” option ensures that it’s not going the same path twice.

However, while this works fine in the Voiceflow testing environment, it currently has issues when using the skill live on Amazon Alexa. Additionally, you might sometimes want to have more control over the process – e.g., pre-set the random choices, store them in a database for advanced logging or tease the next item when the skill ends.

Categories
Speech Assistants

Alexa Development with Voiceflow for Newcomers

Speech assistants are one of the most important ways to access services in the future. They are usable without further instructions even by children and elderly. And they’re hands-free. These advantages are reflected in their growing adoption: according to voicebot.ai, already one third of American households have a smart speaker .

Amazon’s Alexa is leading the market, followed by Google Assistant. Also, Baidu, Alibaba, Xiaomi and Apple Siri are important players. Strategy Analysis runs regular reports on market share data . Obviously, usage is quite different by market. For example, Baidu, Alibaba and Xiaomi are stronger in Asian markets. But overall, Amazon Alexa together with its Echo smart speaker ecosystem is the perfect place to start if you want to reach as many people as possible, globally.

Developing for Amazon Alexa

When you decide to create a “Skill” for Amazon Alexa, you have two basic options:

  • Alexa Skills Kit: Use Amazon’s developer tools directly. This gives you all features but is also the most complex to start. You need to write at least a bit of JavaScript (through Node.js) or Python code. The Alexa-hosted option is easy to set up. You can edit the code right from the browser. No need to provision any other services anymore.
  • 3rd Party Tools: for example, Voiceflow or the Microsoft Bot Framework. While you still need to create the Alexa skill in Amazon’s frontend (so that it is also discoverable by Alexa-powered devices), the skill design & development then mostly happens in these tools. Often, their editors are easier to use and/or even offer cross-platform support.

Especially for people with little experience in JavaScript development or if your skill is simple, 3rd party tools are often the better choice. If you want deep integration into the platform, use the latest features (like Alexa Conversations or the Motion Sensor APIs), go with the Alexa Skills Kit.