Saturday, September 17, 2016

Alexa in the Enterprise

Amazon Echo has been the face of Alexa all these days and it is a hands-free speaker that you control with your voice.  It also acts as a virtual voice-controlled assistant with limited capabilities.


Amazon released Alexa API to developers for free and developers are flocking to it.  This is a great move by Amazon and this will herald a new wave of applications that make use of Alexa.  And the Alexa Champions Program was put in place to recognize creative and outstanding contributions to the ecosystem.

Alexa has been seen as a way to enter into everyone's living room and as an assistant for the home.  Even the Alexa Home Kit is geared towards helping create home based custom skills.  This is all good.  But, the next generation of skills are going to empower the enterprise.

Imagine walking into a sporting goods store and wondering where to find running shoes.  You walk up to a virtual assistant installed strategically on every pillar/corner and speak to it and ask your question.  It can then reply with the exact location of the running shoes.  A custom skill could be created to go into the store database and check the location of the product in question, verify its location on the store planogram and return the location for the virtual assistant to voice.  The database and its information should be store specific.

Taking it to the next level, imagine a virtual assistant answering questions about a product.  All the information about the product, its reviews, etc. are available and can be piped into the assistant without any human intervention.  Custom skills can be built to work with the store database.  In cases where the answer is not found or the question is not understood, the virtual assistant can page for a human assistant.

The next generation of Human Computer Interaction is already here: It is voice based.  We still have a long way to go before computers can read our minds (think, Firefox, the movie).  We do live in interesting times.

Update: With Echo Show, the enterprise use case is strengthened.  In the above sports store scenario, Echo Show can display the store planogram/plan and show the user how to reach the product of interest.  It can also display additional information (choices, etc.) on the product as well. 
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