Inspiration ##

I surveyed a number of older family members and friends and discovered that they were all more engaged with technology than I anticipated and were open to learning new technologies. They were also involved with pursuing new interests and activities in retirement. I decided to look at topics elderly people are already engaging with that might not have many skills available for Alexa. I compiled a list of topics they suggested, and I utilized card sorting to arrive at the topic I selected.

I sorted the topics into four categories.

  1. Engaging topic
  2. Few Alexa skills available
  3. Appropriate for voice
  4. Provides a mental benefit to seniors

The one topic that fit into every category was fly fishing. Many retired adults take fly fishing classes or go on guided tours designed for seniors. Tying flies is a great activity for older adults to stay sharp since it is creative and exercises fine motor dexterity. Since it requires two hands, it is also a good subject for a voice skill. I was surprised to find very few skills available in the Alexa Skills Store focused on fly fishing or fly tying despite many kits and items available for purchase in the main store. Next, I designed a user persona, so that I could empathize better with the potential users of this skill.

What It Does

I considered doing a straightforward trivia or quiz skill for the Staying Sharp category, and I even created a prototype skill with blueprints. However, I decided that it felt too one-dimensional, and I wanted the skill to engage more than just information recall. The skill I created goes beyond just testing information recall, and it suggests a fly to tie or try based on a number of factors such as experience, location, and time of year. This skill also walks people through the typical decision process used when deciding which fly to use when fishing. After getting a recommendation, the user can benefit beyond just the experience while using the skill. Seniors will be inspired to use the recommendations to go fishing or tie flies.

How I Built It

I used a multi-modal personality quiz code template that I had used previously for another skill, and I adapted it to suggest flies based on five typical factors considered when fishing or tying flies. I created a word bank of fishing expressions to add personality and entertainment value to the skill. I edited the node.js code in the Amazon developer console, and tested it repeatedly as I added text and images. The images were created with Canva, and I used a scrapbook concept for the design. The scrapbook design for the images was chosen to inspire seniors to envision the memories that could be shared through fishing. I also chose relatable images that depicted seniors.

Challenges I Ran Into

I ran into a few challenges due to the fact that I am a voice interaction designer and UX writer working on my own without a developer. I was not able to code my skill completely from scratch, and I needed to use an existing template. This worked out fine, but I made a few errors with the code that I was able to catch and debug. Most of the errors were small things such as forgetting punctuation in the code, or forgetting to save information as I built the skill. I ran into issues with some of the display text covering the labels on my images. I edited the labels so that they would remain visible. I also had to test and edit the result scoring for each question to make sure it accurately provided the best response. I edited the scoring results three times before consistently getting the expected responses. My skill failed the first attempt at certification because the invocation name wasn't saved correctly, but it was an easy fix. The skill was certified the following day.

Accomplishments That I'm Proud Of

I am proud of finding a topic that has great value for seniors, but hasn't had much representation in the Amazon Skills Store. I'm also proud of the research that went into this skill since it was a completely unfamiliar topic for me. I had fun incorporating the entertaining fish puns into Alexa's responses, and was delighted to see them hitting the mark while user testing. I am hopeful that this will inspire seniors to engage with fly fishing and fly tying even more, and that more fly fishing skills will be added to the Alexa Skill Store. My happiest accomplishment was seeing my mother who has dementia, follow the questions and respond appropriately while user testing. I tried to reduce cognitive load and make this skill inclusive for seniors who may be experiencing some cognitive decline.

What I Learned

While I acquired much fly fishing knowledge, I also realized that seniors are more open to using technology to explore their interests than I anticipated. The seniors who I talked with were all excited about trying new Alexa skills. In addition, I learned how to take a code template and adapt it for another purpose.

What's Next for Which Fly Should I Try?

In future iterations, I would like to provide suggestions with the quiz results for some of the fly tying kits that are available for purchase in the Amazon store. I also plan to add more possible results to this quiz in the future. Beyond this skill, I would like to develop a skill that could be used to assist during the process of tying flies. There are many steps involved such as tying knots and using materials that it would be helpful to verbally request information while actively tying flies.

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