“Ahoy there,” says a playfully nautical Alexa when you ask her for information about the Washington State Ferries. It’s a skill that Blink UX, the Seattle-based user experience firm, developed for Amazon’s artificially intelligent assistant.
With the new skill enabled, Alexa can give details on when the next ferry (and the ferry after that) is scheduled. She also knows when the last ferry of the day leaves and how many seats are available on each vessel.
Watch a Blink UX demo of the skill in the GeekWire offices in the video above.
It’s part of an explosion in Alexa “skills,” capabilities that can be added to the virtual assistant by third-party developers. Blink spent about a month developing the skill as a proof of concept. It helped the company get experience with a technology that may become increasingly attractive to clients.
“The reason for the ferries is partly because we think it’s a really great use case for voice — being able to ask a one-off question, with just a few follow-ups — and partly because we have a number of people in the office who use the ferries,” explained Siri Mehus, Principle UX Researcher for Blink.
Mehus has PhD in Communication Studies and an MA in Linguistics. She heads up Blink’s Voice UX work and just happens to share her name with one of the world’s most popular AI voices.
“I decided to just embrace it,” she says of the coincidence.
Mehus worked with UX Developer Li Li to ship the ferry skill. It’s available now in the Alexa app and can be enabled on any Echo device.