With natural language understanding (NLU), computers can deduce what a speaker actually means, and not just the words they say. In short, it is what enables voice technology like Alexa to infer that you’re probably asking for a local weather forecast when you ask, “Alexa, what’s it like outside?”
Today’s voice-first technologies are built with NLU, which is artificial intelligence centered on recognizing patterns and meaning within human language. When a computer understands what you mean to say without you having to ask it in one specific way, using your voice starts to feel like having an actual conversation.
Communication is a constant exercise in deciphering meaning; sometimes we use the wrong words, and often the words we say are not actually the words we mean. NLU is all about providing computers with the necessary context behind what we say, and the flexibility to understand the many variations in how we might say identical things.
Before NLU, designing a weather app with voice as an input would require a list of a thousand ways we could ask “is it raining.” With NLU, Alexa devices like Amazon Echo can apply learnings from historical interactions, across thousands of diverse applications, to understand that “is it raining outside” and “is it going to rain” are essentially the same question. This flexibility allows voice experiences to offer a faster, easier, and more delightful way of interacting/engaging with technology.
Voice technologies that incorporate NLU allow developers to focus more on designing useful voice experiences, and less on trying to infer what a user is trying to say. Here are four tips to designing natural voice-first experiences:
There are many other layers to voice design. For example, the voice user interface should be concise and present only as much information as needed. Like a natural conversation, progressively build on a user’s response with additional information to move the user towards their goal.
Learn more in the Alexa Design Guide.
There are many elements to voice design, but you don’t need to be an expert to start designing and building voice experiences. The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a collection of self-service APIs and tools for making Alexa skills. Skills are like apps for Alexa, enabling customers to engage with your content or services naturally with voice.
Join hundreds of thousands of developers who are building Alexa skills to engage and delight customers on hundreds of millions of Alexa devices.