Skills of the Month — June 2018

Amazon Alexa Skills of the Month — June 2018.

I’m stoked to announce our new series of weekly community posts called Show Storyline. It’s a particular type of group posts, where we help Storyline users showcase Alexa skills they’ve built.

Why we do this? We want to help you get users & feedback for your skills and also give you an ability to share your knowledge with others to help them build engaging skills too.

Here’re four reasons to apply now:

  • Instantly get feedback from the community (posts are out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday);
  • Get some 5-star reviews & enablements if your skill is good enough (the group is being viewed by over 1,000 people every day);
  • Get some feedback from the Storyline team (as I’ll be the one doing these posts, I’ll drop you some tips too);
  • Get featured in our blog in the Creating Alexa Skills interview series.

Only skills built & published through Storyline qualify. Fill the Google Form below, and we’ll do the rest.

IMPORTANT: Make sure to answer questions in detail — that’s how you increase the chances we pick your skill across dozens of others.

Apply here:

Story Time, by Bill Mccarthy

Story Time Alexa skill built on Storyline.

Story Time is a skill that generates 2-minute long stories for kids. Here’s the best part: EVERY story is guaranteed to be a different one.

First, I’d note the invocation name — it’s fantastic. Bill researched before picking it, and I’d highly recommend doing the same. I cannot elaborate enough on how important this is.

Second, Bill created a unique way to break a story into many little pieces and then select a random choice for each part of the content. He used 25 API requests to grab different story components and then compose them all together in the Alexa reply.

Here’s how it looks in Storyline — take a look at the Alexa step where the story is being composed. Isn’t that awesome?

How Story Time Alexa skill looks in Storyline.

Also, the skill has a memorable last message, which motivates users to come back.

Story Time Alexa skill currently has 737 users with over a hundred people using it on daily basis. That’s the best retention we’ve ever seen.

Feel free to play with an interactive preview of Story Time Alexa skill in Storyline:

Star Commander, by Ray Szasz

Star Commander Alexa skill built on Storyline.

Star Commander is an Alexa skill that teaches decision making, consequences, and teamwork through a series of choices presented as a Commander of a Starship.

One of the reasons this skill works so well is that realistic and current mission descriptions teach facts about space — see my article below on why educational content is essential.

Ray started by creating a skill from the Storyline Story template. The skill grew organically after collecting sound effects, and the story turned more into an adventure with multiple paths and choices instead of just playing sound effects.

Ray used the default blocks, and API requests feature extensively with about 13 Google Sheets containing most of the repetition and all of the sound file mappings so he could control most of what Alexa says by just updating the Google Sheets. He stores the sound files in the Amazon S3 service.

Here’s how Star Commander Alexa skill looks in Storyline:

How Star Commander Alexa skill looks in Storyline.

You can play with an interactive preview of Star Commander Alexa skill here:

Ray had started with the Alexa ASK Console and built several of the example skills from the Github library. However, he did not publish anything until he discovered the Storyline platform.

Here’s what he thinks about building Alexa skills with Storyline:

“It was amazing to be able to concentrate on the content rather than the technology. This would not have been possible without the Storyline platform.”

Kid’s Hub, by George Collier

Kid’s Hub Alexa skill built on Storyline.

Kid’s Hub Alexa skill is a collection of games for kids and families to play together. It aims to reduce the need to download multiple skills and can be the one stop shop for kid’s games on Alexa.

The reason George picked the idea is that there’s no skill in the store with more than one game inside of it, so he took the opportunity to create Kid’s Hub. It aims to be fun and competitive, and easily accessible.

The thing I like most about this skill is the skill icon. It’s memorable & straightforward, and perfectly describes the use case.

Firstly, George decided which games he was going to include, and which would take advantage of Storyline’s features the best. In the end, he came up with games like pictionary and charades which give users suggestions of what to do (e.g draw this or act like that) from two Google Spreadsheets. Furthermore, among mini-games, it includes ‘My Morning Routine’ which helps kids get ready for school in the morning, reminding them what they need, as well as giving sleep tips if necessary. Also, the Kiddy Olympics allows users to compete across multiple games and fight for victory.

To build the skill in Storyline, George frequently used fun sound effects using the audio block rather than the audio player, which is intended for longer sounds like music. They include fanfares, cheers, and drum rolls. 8 separate API requests involving Google Sheets are used which allows him to update content frequently and easily. SSML tags were also used to provide breaks in speech.

Here’s how Kid’s Hub Alexa skill looks in Storyline (pretty big):

How Kid’s Hub Alexa skill looks in Storyline.

You can play with an interactive preview of the Kid’s Hub Alexa skill in Storyline here (go get some inspiration!):

Crabby Dance, by Brandon Nourse

Crabby Dance Alexa skill built on Storyline.

Crabby Dance is an upbeat Alexa skill that helps children snap out of being in a crabby mood. With the assistance of Shelldon (the Dancing King Crab), kids are lead through a variety of fun sea-themed dance moves, for example: cartwheel like a starfish, dance like a jellyfish, jump like a dolphin, etc.

Here’s how Brandon describes the idea:

“Growing up in Southern California, the beach has always been a big part of my life. I remember back when I was a kid, whenever anyone was crabby in my family, we would pretend to be a crab, and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I’ve wanted to design an ocean-themed skill for a while now, and after spending some time at the beach this summer (and seeing my fair share of crabby kids), I knew this was a great idea for a kids skill.”

To bring Shelldon to life he utilized Amazon Polly. Brandon used the British male voice, Brian, along with a fair amount of SSML, such as prosody and break times, to really liven up the character. Next, he downloaded the text-to-speech as an mp3 and superimposed his phrases over an upbeat summer-themed song. Once complete, Brandon had a simple mp3 file that he could put straight into Storyline.

Here’s how Crabby Dance looks in Storyline:

How Crabby Dance Alexa skill looks in Storyline.

Since Crabby Dance is exclusively an audio stream, Brandon used the Storyline Sounds template.

He set the audio block as the starting point, which allows users to jump right into Shelldon’s introduction. And for the stop block, he used a short pre-recorded audio file of Shelldon signing off.

Here’s what he learned:

“I learned that fluidity is key to voice technology. When designing skills (especially for kids), we want to think about creating immersive experiences, ones that blur the lines between technology and human interaction.”

For Crabby Dance, Brandon made the experience less robotic, and focused on temporarily transporting the user to a fun and silly beach party.

You can play with an interactive preview of Crabby Dance Alexa skill in Storyline here:

Thanks for reading! 🙌

Have questions about the product? Feel free to ask them in our community.

Best, Storyline team.