Inspiration

Voice-enabled applications have the potential to make disruptive changes to the way humans learn. They enable the creation of personalized “teachers” who can communicate with you over voice.

Beyond voice takes it to the next level. Now the personalized teacher can not only talk to you but can also show you content, see you, respond to your touches. The ability to interact with and train at the current level of the learner using multiple modalities opens innumerable possibilities. Confluence™ Games skill is our stake in the ground in this area.

What it does

Confluence™ Games is an education and training product in a game format. It is an Alexa skill that helps you master subjects in a fun and engaging way. It is highly effective for learners at all levels.

Using an adaptive, AI-assisted learning algorithm designed to maximize retention, the skill helps you identify gaps in your knowledge, automatically choosing the right questions for your level..The pace at which you learn controls the rate at which you are challenged.

With visuals that complement Alexa’s voice, the skill will lead you through a customized learning path to mastery. The skill’s rating system also gives you a single measure of your current competency level.

Our initial offering includes games for English Vocabulary, Countries of the World and Movie Trivia for all supported locales (English, German, French & Spanish languages), and US History for the US English locale.

Users can begin to play the games free and can get to intermediate level proficiency. Those who wish to advance to higher levels of rating can purchase a paid monthly subscription. The subscription also enables other features, e.g. multiple users sharing an account and tracking individual progress.

How we built it

The Confluence™ Games skill is architected using the backbone AWS cloud services. An important design consideration was to ensure that the backend services can be leveraged for other future front-end modalities such as voice-enabled iOS, Android apps, and Web Applications.

Since the skill is being built for universal appeal, we also wanted to deploy the back end in multiple regions, minimizing cross-region traffic. Even if it seems overengineered at first glance, we expect the extra investment in time and effort to pay rich dividends in the future.

Challenges we ran into

Our team preferred choice of development platform is .NET. We decided that relying on our core competence will help us develop the skill faster and more efficiently.

The main challenge, however, was to deal with AWS Lambda “Cold starts”. Launching the skill after long periods of inactivity would consistently result in timeouts. The issue is more significant with the .NET platform than with other environments like node and python since there is the .NET CLI involved during the Lambda container initialization process.

We were reluctant to use the provisioned concurrency feature of AWS Lambda since doing so would put us out of the AWS Free Tier. However, there was no other easy way out - we weren’t prepared to host our backend and throw away all the benefits of going serverless. So we are enabling the provisioned concurrency feature. Memo to selves: Keep an eye on costs!

Another unexpected lesson learned: Since the lambda container is expected to stay alive for a long time with provisioned concurrency, memory leaks become relevant!

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • We have gotten this far with a tight budget and timeline.
  • Beta testers are delighted.

What we learned

Confluence™ Games skill has legs. But legs alone aren’t enough. Legs are meant for walking and running. And we need customer engagement to get us in full stride.

What's next for Confluence™ Games

  • Reminders API
  • Sounds effects to enhance engagement.
  • Clarify intent that will provide curated content on the screen.
  • Mass-market and enterprise-oriented games such as Onboarding, AWS Cloud Training, Sustainability, Healthy Eating
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