In the productivity space, Alexa skills should focus on doing one thing well. I like the idea of Alexa giving me life tips in a VUI that feels native to the device. So I controlled my urge to over-engineer and built a simple Skill which extends Alexa's capability into the world of life coaching. I picked this category since it allowed me to offer a variety of premium themed content on top of more generic content for non-paying customers.

What it does

Alexa will suggest an activity and if customers agree to do it then she will elaborate a little more about why the activity is helpful. She is just a coach though, so it is up to customers to actually do the activity. If customers don't agree to do it then she'll suggest something different and not bother them with the unwanted suggestion for 24hrs.

Customers can use this skill every few hours or every few days, it is really up them how much coaching they want.

The skill comes with a 'Well-Rounded' lifestyle built in (i.e. free content). At launch, it also offers three themed premium lifestyles as in-skill purchases:

  • Chilled-out : helpful activities for those looking to relax and chill
  • Productive : useful suggestions for people on the go and trying to get things done
  • Social : handy tips to assist in the complex world of friendships and social media

How I built it

It is built on AWS Lambda and S3 for data storage. The lifestyle data is stored in extendable config JSON objects. There are various dictionaries added to the speech construction to improve the conversational style of Alexa. I've added upsell prompts which only bother the user once within a configurable period of time. Also, once a user buys a product, they will no longer receive any upsell messages since it is assumed they are aware of the existence of premium content (i.e. 'What can I buy?' will suffice). The CanFulfillIntentRequest has been added to improve discoverability and enable a native feeling experience for customers.

Challenges I ran into

There were no real challenges in this project, everything went to plan and the ISP documentation covered all I needed to know. I suppose if anything was tough it would have been the content creation effort. Also, the skill description was a little difficult to get right due to the specific certification requirements for the way ISP are mentioned.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I'm proud to have a clean and simple ISP enabled Alexa Skill in the store. The benefit of ISP over traditional web based shopping cart is the swift flow from upsell to purchase to delivery which can all happen in a matter of seconds. This skill demonstrates that simplicity.

What I learned

Keeping it simple has paid off in terms of the agility of this product, it can take a variety of directions into the future, but as it stands it is a very capable and useful skill.

What's next for Life Coach

Improving the quantity of content and enriching it with sounds and speech-cons. New and innovative product offerings will also be investigated especially around subscription models for more frequently updated content streams.

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