On Friday, Amazon announced the winners of its Devpost Amazon Alexa Skill contest. All three top prizes were awarded to multi-modal Alexa skills. Multi-modal means that multiple media types are used in the skill and that it is not solely a voice experience. In this instance, one winner integrated Alexa with text and two others with mobile apps.
Smart Elephant Integrates Alexa with Text-Base Reminders
Smart Elephant was named as Devpost Grand Prize winner. The skill enables users to set simple reminders such as walk the dog, buy milk or water the lawn. Alexa skills today can largely be categorized as productivity, communication, information, education and entertainment. Smart Elephant falls squarely in the productivity category and takes home the $5,000 grand prize award.
How is This Different Than Alexa Reminders
You might wonder how Smart Elephant differs from the native reminders feature already available to Amazon Alexa users. The difference is found in text integration and cards. When you set a reminder using Alexa, you will see a card to confirm you reminder as well as a spoken confirmation from Alexa. After that, the only way to access your upcoming reminders is to ask Alexa and have here speak the list to you. Smart Elephant is different. You can ask it for a list of reminders and it will deliver a card in your Alexa mobile app with all of your upcoming reminders. That is a nice feature that you would think Amazon could replicate quite simply.
However, the real difference between the native reminders feature and Smart Elephant is how you receive your reminders. The Alexa reminder feature presents your reminder only through an Alexa-enabled device such as an Amazon Echo. The light ring activates and there is an audible reminder that you cannot miss. If you are not near your Echo, then you miss the reminder.
Smart Elephant addresses that shortcoming by sending a text message for each reminder. This is a nice feature because Alexa today is really only useful for reminders while you are at home and near your device. If you want to set a reminder using Alexa that you hope to receive while at work or at a softball game, then Smart Elephant has you covered. You set the reminder by voice and are notified by text.
This leads to one downside. Smart Elephant can only send a text and cannot activate the light ring or deliver and audible reminder through an Amazon Echo. The solution is multi-modal in that it uses voice input and text output. Smart Elephant was developed by Darian Johnson.
Tiny Fox Takes Second
Tiny Fox is really clever and took the $3,000 second prize. This skill integrates Alexa with a virtual reality mobile app. You need to watch the video below to really understand it.
The fox itself is rendered on your mobile device but you can give it instructions by voice using Alexa and it will respond. I think it’s fair to say this fits into the entertainment category for Alexa skills. It likely didn’t win because it requires something beyond Alexa to operate, namely a mobile app. However, Tiny Fox offers an intriguing example of a blended, multimodal UI that is neither voice nor GUI alone, but a fusion of both. The skill was developed by Tommy Chan and Yosun Chang.
AutoPoker Wins Best Student Submission
The final skill highlighted by a recent Amazon blog post, was AutoPoker developed by Noah Katz. This is really an interesting skill that also follows the multi-modal approach. The players each have a mobile app (N.B. multi-modal again) that is used to show a Texas Hold’em style deal. Alexa acts as the dealer and guides play while each player can see their two hole cards and the five community cards. Alexa keeps track of the pot, game play and winners.
There were twenty-one finalists that won $500 gift cards and an Amazon Echo. Some of these included:
- Trip Planner – plans local trips for you
- Browser Help – enables voice control of a Chrome browser
- LifeSite – recurring reminders
- Tweetbot – Tweet just using your voice
- Ambient Noise – sound loops that help you fall asleep
You can see a full list of finalists here. It is interesting note that multi-modal solutions took all three top prizes. You can imagine a new round of contests related to using Amazon Echo Show as part of a new multi-modal experience. Contests are generally looking for something new and while many finalists offered voice-only experiences, multi-modal was what the Amazon judges deemed new and noteworthy. Congrats to all of the winners.