December 2nd, 2015
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
When GUI interfaces were new in the 80s we were told they were better than command line interfaces because they offered “discoverability”. But it turned out they didn’t offer nearly enough discoverability, so in the 90s “Wizards” became big things, especially in the Microsoft world. A Wizard provided the context that a GUI by itself did not. A Wizard would tell a user “Do this, now do this, now do this, and then do this.” But Wizards were visually complex. Often you could see the normal screens in the background, but you could not interact with the rest of the screen, for as long as the Wizard was running. Also, Wizards were typically implemented as modal dialogue boxes, and modal dialogue boxes impose a cognitive burden on the user. I know this from watching my parents and others who I taught.
People want to be able to talk to their computer. People understand speech. A verbal interface, when done correctly, can offer enough hints that it gives most of the discoverability that people want. And people know how to talk. It feels natural.
Pebblebee, a hardware company making customized Bluetooth trackers and sensors, is using ASK to enable customers to use Alexa for tracking items and checking sensors. “We’ve learned over the past few years that it’s not always intuitive to use a visual app with so many features. Using voice commands simplifies the complexity for customers,” said Daniel Daoura, Co-Founder and CEO of Pebblebee. “We’re thrilled to use the Alexa Skills Kit to integrate Alexa with Pebblebee’s sensor information, so a customer can simply ask, ‘Alexa, ask Pebblebee to find my keys,’ or ‘Alexa, ask Pebblebee how warm is the baby’s room?”