Steps to Avoid Overlaps When Choosing an Invocation Name for Your Alexa Skill

Elena Barutcu Nov 05, 2021
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Most issues that arise while developing a skill can be easily resolved by testing and troubleshooting. This blog will cover issues regarding invocation name overlap with common Alexa requests.

When choosing an invocation name, proactive testing can help determine if this issue may be relevant to your skill. Remember to test several utterances including skill invocations with and without specific requests.

Skills involving radio stations, TV shows, home appliances, or common pop culture entities may cause confusion with pre-enabled Alexa features that are available by default on any device, such as Music, Weather, Shopping Lists, Smart Home management and phone calls. Users may get confused by Alexa’s response and not enable your skill if your invocation name overlaps with common Alexa commands what you can do more here is to make your invocation name more unique by adding another word and test to ensure Alexa is correctly routing to the skill when the invocation name is used.

For example, if your invocation name is too similar to the built-in "weather" request, Alexa may respond with the built-in weather feature, creating friction in the invocation experience. To ensure that Alexa is correctly routing to your skill and not a 1P feature when the invocation name is used you need to test your skill in advance. In another example, “Alexa, play Queen” could potentially go to Amazon Music, instead of a skill that has the invocation name “queen”.

Acronyms/Initialisms can be understood usually as abbreviations for company names, games, shows or brands. Because of the different ways an initialism can be recognized by Alexa in our systems (e.g.: abc, a. b. c., etc.), it is important that those should be proactively tested by Alexa skill developers when being considered for an invocation name.

By using words purposely spelled differently, like brand names, there are quite common overlaps for invocation names.

When using words borrowed from other languages, as invocation names for international skills, you have to take into consideration that they pose issues for both customers and Alexa. Speakers may have difficulty pronouncing these invocation names with the appropriate accent, dialect, tone, or linguistic flair.

Borrowed words should be tested and checked for overlaps to ensure accuracy for Alexa and to account for user errors. For example, the trilled 'r' in Spanish is not easy for all American English speakers to produce and this is particularly prevalent across languages that have different sound repertoires or ways of speaking. Customers also may not even know how to attempt to say these invocation names, so it is important to account for all possible variations. They pose issues for the ASR model because the phones (sounds) of one language may not be the same as those of another, and therefore Alexa may miss recognize these words when trying to understand them in a different locale.

Homophones/Near-Homophones/Ambiguous words: These invocation names are a bit trickier to spot. They are commonly misrecognized because they may sound like other words within a certain locale. As an example, “knight” could easily be recognized as “night”. Instances of this cases should be checked before sending your skill for “Review” to our Certification Team.

Spacing issues/Compounding Issues: The word "whatever" could easily be recognized as “what ever”, or “what ever” as “whatever”. Similarly, words containing hyphens may be recognized as two separate words, one word, or two words connected by a hyphen. In Japanese, long strings may be recognized instead of parsed characters.

Invocation names containing compound words (words with multiple words within them) or hyphened words, should be tested to ensure proper spacing when sending your skill for “Review” to our Certification Team.

Phonological issues (specific to locale): These issues are a bit more difficult to catch. If an invocation name is commonly misrecognized, it may be due to phonological issues within that specific locale's language. These issues can take the form of one sound consistently being recognized as another, a sound being 'distorted' given its position, location, and relation to other sounds in a word, or a sound seemingly being omitted from a word. Examples of this include nasal sounds ('m' and 'n') changing how vowels are recognized, vowel lengthening/shortening within a word, or the deletion of the 'g' at the end of some 'ing' words.

When checking invocation names, it is good to be aware of certain linguistic phenomena within the relevant locale and how these may affect the recognition of the invocation name.

(JP ONLY) Orthographic (text) Representation: For languages with multiple writing systems, it is especially important to do accuracy and overlap checks to ensure that the correct formatting is being recognized. For example, an invocation name written in Katakana but misrecognized in Kanji will require an appropriate fix. When working on these languages, it is important to be mindful of sound-symbol association.

Great invocation names are memorable and explicit, making it easy for customers to understand what the skill can do and recall the invocation in the future when trying to access it. Keep in mind that in the re-submission process, our certification testers will send to you a feedback that will include any recommendation in regards on how you can avoid an overlap and choose a good invocation name.

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