One of the great things perhaps for devices like smart speakers for the home is that they can potentially be upgraded with new functions or abilities on the fly by their manufacturers as long as they are connected online. One example is the Amazon Echo speaker, powered of course by their intelligent virtual assistant Alexa. With online updates Alexa can learn new “skills”, enabling her to respond to more inquiries and requests from Echo users, like general info questions via the Wolfram Alpha “answer engine”. Now, another Alexa skill is being introduced, one developed with, of all companies, the NFL.
USA Today tells us that online marketplace giant and smart tech manufacturer Amazon has just launched on Thursday, January 3, a new skill for their Echo speakers that enables Alexa to answer questions about terminology and mechanics in the sport of American football. This is touted as a novel way to help casual viewers of football games get whatever it is the announcers are describing on the field. One utilized, the Alexa assistant gives way to a male voice that answers queries about the WWWWH’s of football. To really get its info accurate, Amazon worked on this new Alexa skillset with the National Football League.
NFL VP of engineering and media services Dan Hogan explains what the American football answer skill aims to do for Echo users. “The idea was what if we created kind of a decoder that while you’re watching the game you could just ask the NFL anything you wanted to know about football,” he said. To that end, the league put its Media arm’s Digital Lab team to work in condensing the entire book on NFL-rules American football into at least 2,000 possible responses to likely questions about the game: regulations, officials, plays, formations, and more.
In a demonstration of just how flexible and potentially detailed this new Amazon-NFL skill for Alexa is, users of the Echo smart speaker can opt to get a basic, brief response to their football-related question by asking as is. But after Alexa has given an answer, if the user requests her to “Go long”, then the response to the question becomes more in-depth with examples and situations of possible circumstances. It goes even further if users have an Echo Spot (speaker with screen): now they get visual aids to the question they just asked about.
For the moment, the “NFL Rookie’s Guide” Alexa skill only handles general American football info, but the developers hope to upgrade it further to be able to answer queries on trivia, sport records and current league stats. NFL Media is also bouncing ideas on co-developing a counterpart for the Google Assistant speakers, but that will not be until much later.
Image courtesy of Amazon