Looking for Better Classroom Engagement? Work With Alexa…

In just a few years, digital assistants have gone from a novelty to nearly ubiquitous. Much like the smartphone revolution a decade earlier, Amazon Alexa and Google Home are transforming the way we live, work and learn. This could not be more apparent anywhere else than in the classroom, where Alexa programming is helping drive superior educational outcomes while getting students more engaged with the learning process.

How voice technology is being implemented in classrooms

Products such as Amazon Alexa are a natural fit for today’s classroom. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase, they can be easily programmed to provide a vast amount of educational functionality and — most importantly — students love interacting with A.I.-driven voice assistants.

So, how are teachers and administrators using Alexa and other platforms in the classroom? Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular implementations:

Storytelling 

Alexa is capable of reading stories to students, including popular audiobooks. This is particularly well-suited for younger classrooms, where the novelty of having a voice assistant lead “story time” is always an attraction.

Mathematics 

In addition to reading stories, Alexa has the ability to perform calculations and teach basic math skills. This can liven up instruction and provide teachers with an easy resource to check student work after class is over.

History lessons 

Along with her ability to spin a tale, Alexa is also a current events whiz, as she can offer daily news rundowns. Alexa programming also allows teachers to use the device to administer historical trivia games and other content.

Science 

Alexa can also be programmed to deliver basic science lessons on everything from biology to the natural world or deliver popular science-focused podcasts.

Administrative functions

Teaching isn’t all about lecturing or offering hands-on instruction. Alexa’s programmed skills can help teachers with classroom time management tasks (by setting reminders) along with providing students a resource to discover information on their own, without having to interrupt the teacher.

These implementations represent just a few of the ways Alexa is being used to improve the learning experience. As the number of Alexa voice applications (or “skills”) continues to grow, teachers will have an even greater number of creative, voice-based approaches to deploy in the classroom.

Preparing for a voice-activated future

Growth in the voice assistant market has been explosive in recent years — and adoption of smart speakers is projected to rise by another 1000% by 2023. We are quickly shifting from a world mediated through a keyboard to a world that is run largely by voice command.

Whether at home, in the office or in the classroom, voice assistants are quickly becoming our default option for interfacing with the connected world. Schools that stay at the vanguard of this change will be best equipped to help their students navigate this transition.

A top Orlando marketing agency like BIGEYE can assist in this process by delivering sophisticated Alexa programming services at a competitive rate. Equipped with the right set of skills, Alexa can keep students engaged and excited while allowing teachers to work more efficiently at the same time. Talk with our voice engineers today to learn more about how we can personalize voice technology for your classroom.

How to Leverage Alexa’s Persistence Capabilities to Your Advantage

“Hey Alexa, what time is it?”, “What is in the news today?”, “What is the weather forecast for today?” The answers to these simple questions can help you jump start your day.
But, what if you need Alexa to remember a more specific piece of information from previous interactions? For example, the last time you took your medication or your current progress in an adventure game. This capability is known as persistence – a feature that is not being fully utilized by many companies or the voice engineering services firms they work with.

Alexa answering your question about the weather is helpful, but she can also remember that you inquire about the forecast first thing every morning when you wake up. This recollection allows Alexa to offer you the information as part of the conversation rather than a one time exchange, showcasing the true value of digital assistants. It is persistence that enables her to remember and recall information, providing a more anthropomorphic, or human-like, personality.

The purpose behind persistence

The goal in developing voice applications is providing interactions with Alexa that are more conversational and less transactional. An interaction along the lines of “Alexa, order me some coffee,” to which she responds, “What type of coffee would you like to order?” sounds completely transactional. Compare that to something like, “Alexa, order me some coffee,” to which she replies, “Sure, I see you ordered a dark roast last week and Colombian the week before. Would you like either of these or a new type of coffee?” Both of these conversations will result in you getting coffee, but the interactions are profoundly different.

Imagine asking your significant other their favorite restaurant every day for weeks and weeks. Odds are you would stop asking because after hearing the answer a few times your brain would commit it to memory. Then, you could capitalize on persistence and take your significant other out for a surprise dinner at that special spot. The thrill they get from knowing you remembered is how you should feel every time you interact with Alexa.

Techopedia, a technology-based encyclopedia resource, defines persistence as “an object or a process characteristic that continues to exist even after the process that created it ceases or the machine it is running on is powered off.” In the case of voice applications for Alexa, persistence means that even if your skill is not currently in use, the responses that have been given in the past are still in memory. And, can be called upon the next time that you invoke your skill.

With this feature, the programming possibilities are endless. Skills from Jeopardy to Skyrim use persistence to create unique, engaging experiences that bring users back over and over. Imagine the benefit to your business of producing that kind of appeal in a voice application!

Getting started

So, you are probably wondering, how does persistence work? Luckily, we are here to help break it down for you with a few simple steps:

1. You need to come up with a voice UX design that will help you determine what information your application needs to commit to memory and how that data will help your skill.

2. Next, you need a place to store this data and for that, you need a database such as DynamoDB. DynamoDB is a NoSQL (non-relational) database, which makes the storing of data more efficient. Non-relational databases are like the class jock from your high school. He’s great at one thing, but doesn’t do well with relationships. The diagram below shows a solution architecture using DynamoDB.

3. DynamoDB is separate from the core services, yet it is still highly performant. To develop this type of solution, you first create your environment inside of the database that will be holding your data. Next, you add methods that will save and retrieve data from your database for use by your skill.

Diagram 1

4. Finally, you need a way to give users the option to save this data (see diagram 2 for an example of how to store data programmatically).

Diagram 2

How to give users the option to save or in this case what is known as a ‘save intent’ can be seen in diagram 2 and 3. This can be something as simple as asking Alexa to “save my medications for the day.”

Diagram 3

Once this architecture is in place, the new methods you develop will be able to create, update, read, and destroy data as the skill is used.

As you start storing data, you may need to refactor the existing method that will handle your skill. This is the handler that will give your skill the functionality to call upon this stored data and produce meaningful responses. For example, imagine a skill that will help users keep track of their medications, including whether or not they have already taken medication today and the amount in which they have taken. Let’s call it Medi Buddy.

The interaction might look something like this:

User: “Alexa, open Medi Buddy.”

Alexa: “Welcome to Medi Buddy. What medications have you taken today?”

User: “Tylenol.”

Alexa: “You have now taken two doses today. Please be mindful of this.”

Or, asking Alexa the same question from a different perspective…

User: “Alexa, ask Medi Buddy how many doses of Tylenol I have taken today.”

Alexa: “You have taken two doses of Tylenol today.”

The takeaway

Medi Buddy stores data on medications taken allowing Alexa to use that information in two different contexts. In some instances, that capability simply makes interactions more positive. In others, like our Medi Buddy, its ability to grasp medical facts could be a lifesaver.

Regardless of the question asked, the power of persistence wielded by a skilled voice engineering services firm can help you develop exceptional applications. Contact our development team today and we will get Alexa set up to connect consumers with your business.  

Author: Yavi Padilla, Web and Voice UX Engineer

3 Essential Steps for Innovative and New Alexa Skills

Especially through the implementation of voice advances such as new Alexa Skills, the power of the Internet is now a single swipe away, regardless of time or location. With the introduction of digital assistants, the experience of interacting with the Internet became even less mediated. Now, instead of swiping and actively seeking information, users could simply pose questions and listen to the response.
This innovation has profound impact for businesses and marketers, who are busy developing new Alexa Skills and Google actions to better serve their clients. At BIGEYE, we’re part of that trend — we recognized the importance of smart speakers early and we’ve been at the vanguard of digital assistant development.   

With that in mind, let’s discuss three key things we’ve learned while developing for digital assistants.

Intuitive design is critically important

Standard apps have visual cues that people can use for guidance. Even if they don’t entirely understand how the app functions, they can use context clues and visual information to learn how to navigate. They can also scroll back up if any information is forgotten.

Alexa Skills don’t have visual cues or scrolling ability, which means that it’s essential for developers to create logical, intuitive interfaces that are easy to use. Predictive learning is critical; only by anticipating what users are going to say can developers ensure that users don’t become frustrated and disappointed.

Emphasize user experience

People have different expectations when they use voice apps — they expect it to be a more “human-like” experience than that seen in an interaction with a graphical interface. Voice apps should play into this expectation and deliver a warm user experience.

Simplicity should also be stressed. Too much complexity will lower engagement with any app, and that’s especially true with voice technology — still an unfamiliar experience for many people.

Solve a problem

If you want to create an Alexa Skill that finds a loyal audience, focus on solving a real world problem. Give the user a reason to use the technology frequently by having it address a recurring issue they have to deal with.

These problems don’t have to be epic in scale; perhaps it’s just an easier way to order a favorite item, or a reminder that something needs to be done. The important thing is that the Skill adds value and is used frequently in daily life.

The takeaway

Digital assistant technology is being adopted at an incredible rate. Soon, Amazon Alexa and Google Home may become as ubiquitous as the smartphone.

In order to capitalize on this shift, businesses and marketers should apply the insights outlined above during their development efforts. As a top Florida advertising agency, we’ve been integrating these development advances into our own client strategies.

Contact us today to see how we advance your brand into this new voice technology realm.

How Chatbot Observations Enhance a Full-Service Advertising Agency

Chatbots are little computer programs designed to engage in lifelike, real-time conversation with humans, typically on a company’s website or on social media platforms. If you spend any time shopping on the web, you’ve probably chatted with a bot, whether you knew you were or not.

With ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), the chatbots’ “people skills” are getting pretty impressive. That’s why more companies are starting to take advantage of them to beef up their “human” workforce without actually adding any humans. Businesses are getting a big boost in productivity by letting chatbots handle initial interactions with prospects and customers. In fact, according to a study by Oracle, 80% of marketing and sales leaders say their organizations already use chatbots or will by 2020, making a partnership with a full-service advertising agency more valuable.

As a digital marketing agency that helps companies grow sales by attracting more visitors to their website, we’re thrilled about the power of chatbots to enhance the customer experience. And, we see huge potential for human/AI interactions from our work with clients in providing voice engineering services.

In efforts to emphasize the increasing implementation of chatbots, here are a number of ways that chatbots are changing the marketing and sales landscape:

24/7/365 availability and prompt answers

Chatbots don’t sleep, don’t need breaks, and don’t take vacations. They are absolute workaholics and are available to answer questions around the clock. That’s a significant advantage in our ever-more-global economy and with people who have expectations of getting the information they need when they need it.

Proactive customer service

Even as a full-service advertising agency we recognize that interactions with human customer service agents are usually reactive; the website visitor asks a question and the staff member replies. Chatbots can be programmed to be proactive. They can offer help when they detect indicators that the visitor is confused or is interested in a particular product or service and ready to “talk” about it.

Freeing humans for other tasks

With chatbots handling initial inquiries, human workers can focus on higher-level tasks, and in the process grow their careers and contribute more to the company’s bottom line.

Zero errors

Chatbots answer questions accurately every time. Where a human worker might occasionally make a mistake in explaining a promotion, resolving a problem resolution, etc., your faithful chatbot will only share the information that you’ve carefully programmed into it!

Perfectly calm demeanor

Everyone knows that customer service can be a little… let’s say… challenging. But while humans might eventually lose their cool with a particularly grumpy prospect or customer, a chatbot never will.

Easier and more complete data collection

Nobody likes to be faced with a form of seemingly endless fields when they need to provide information. Chatbots can get the required data in a conversational manner that feels less like work for the site visitor. This includes reminders about missing information or explanations about what a particular piece of data is or why it’s needed.

Wondering how chatbots can figure into your marketing efforts, customer service plans, and help drive greater success? We’re a full-service advertising agency that loves to talk artificial intelligence! Contact our team today to learn more. (We promise you’ll reach us and not a chatbot!)

The Importance of Voice Commerce for CPG Brands Continues to Spike

Voice commerce may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your CPG brand’s end of year strategy … but it should be. Get ahead of the competition by embracing this trend before it’s too late. In case voice commerce is new to you, here are a few statistics showcasing what voice commerce can do for your brand.

Voice commerce is the fastest growing retail channel

According to OC&C, voice commerce will represent a $40 billion retail channel by 2022. Despite the prevalence of mobile and e-commerce shopping platforms, consumers cite convenience, speed, and the ability to multitask as reasons why they are beginning to prefer shopping by voice.

Although the most common form of voice commerce is creating shopping lists and checking delivery, Amazon Echo’s Alexa users are increasing point of sale conversion metrics exponentially. Amazon’s one-click shopping flow and saved payment options make purchasing by voice frictionless and have helped Echo users become comfortable with voice commerce so the trend can expand.

Smart speaker voice commerce outpaces mobile aI assistants

Amazon Echo, Google Home, and other smart speaker customers are more likely to shop by voice than those using mobile virtual assistants such as Siri and Cortana. NPR’s Smart Audio Report found that nearly 60% of smart speaker owners have already purchased items using their devices. While another study from Capgemini, indicated that 40% — perhaps the remaining market share — of consumers predict they will be more likely to use voice commerce to make purchases rather than engaging with a retailer’s mobile app or website.

 If your brand can only invest in one voice commerce platform, we recommend partnering with a digital marketing agency like ours to create baseline integrations for smart speakers. 

Smart speaker users also represent higher AOV

Due to the socioeconomic demographics of smart speaker owners who tend to be wealthier and more tech-savvy, shoppers using Amazon Echo tend more on CPG products than consumers without speakers.

A consumer report by InfoScout in collaboration with Alpine.ai saw a 29% lift in consumers’ year over year CPG product purchases who had smart speakers, and only a 19% lift in those that did not. While this metric does not show causality, the correlation between speaker owners and higher AOV’s signal digital marketers to begin investing in this trend as a way to access a more desirable customer base. 

Voice commerce is critical for standardized CPG products

Before the end of 2018, 55% of retailers plan to have voice assistance integrations on their roadmap, 60% plan to have mobile voice search, and 58% plan to have desktop voice search, according to a study by Onespace.

Staying in line or ahead of this digital trend is important for CPG brands, especially those that sell standardized products and have few opportunities to differentiate themselves beyond price and placement within the market. While it may not give you an immediate leg up, no CPG brand can afford to fall behind.

Connect with us to learn more about voice commerce and other cutting-edge technology that BIGEYE uses to transform our clients’ brands. When you reach out to our team, we’ll work with you to create a custom digital transformation strategy that puts your products everywhere your clients are shopping.

How hospitals & medical centers are incorporating voice technology

A smart, reliable voice assistant makes life easier — and in turn helps make us more productive. The truth is that we live in a world where mobile and smart devices are used for almost everything. By moving these functions from a smartphone to a voice assistant, the experience becomes simpler and less mediated. Having the power of the Internet not merely at our fingertips, but also ready to be activated at the sound of our voice, is a development with massive implications — not only at home, but also in the workplace.
One key example: Hospitals, where the stakes couldn’t be higher and the need for innovative technological solutions is ever-present, are on the verge of experiencing a patient-care transformation facilitated by voice apps in healthcare.

The growing presence of Alexa in healthcare

Within medical centers, the shift from desktops to laptops — and later from laptops to mobile — was a significant one. Today, voice technology is supplementing mobile and may largely replace it within the next decade. Recently Healthcare IT News took a close look at how voice technology is being deployed at several prominent hospitals.

At Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston, Amazon Alexa development is in full swing. A team of IT professionals and developers have created applications that allow patients to ask Alexa (or Google Home) to call for a nurse, check what’s on the evening menu, find out when a physician is arriving and other fundamental tasks.
Normally, many such activities would require the attention of a medical professional. By using voice technology to automate these processes, hospitals are providing timelier services and freeing up personnel for value-added tasks.

At Northwell Health in New York, IT teams are developing with Alexa and Google Home. Here, they use cases for voice technology that include letting patients know how long they will be waiting in emergency rooms and directing them to nearby urgent care centers.

Once mature, the technology would allow someone who slices open a finger while preparing a meal to ask Alexa which nearby medical center has the shortest wait period. Because Alexa is integrated with Northwell’s app, she can query local hospitals and urgent cares and provide an optimal solution within seconds using real-time data. This allows those who are injured to get treatment quickly, while also reducing bottlenecks at local hospitals.

Finally, Libertana Home Health is leveraging voice technology to help elderly clients live independently. Alexa is not only a useful tool to help people remember appointments and medication schedules, but it also provides a form of social interaction.

A pilot study conducted by the organization showed that voice assistants can help reduce loneliness by interacting with the elderly. Alexa can be programmed to play cognitive games that enhance memory and deliver daily personalized greetings.

The takeaway

Voice technology is helping to transform patient care. Our agency has been at the forefront of this developing trend, creating deeply useful third-party apps that allow organizations to unlock the full power of voice technology.

If you need assistance with Amazon Alexa development or Google Home programming, we’d love to help do the same for you.