With artifical intelligence (AI) a dominant theme at this year’s CES, Amazon has unveiled three new Alexa skills that all come with a hefty helping of AI. Now accessible to all Echo and Alexa users, the three skills are freely available through the Alexa app as well as through the Alexa Skills website.
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First on the list is a skill called Character.AI. Designed by the developers behind the Character.AI website, this skill lets you chat with a range of different chatbots. You can talk to historical figures, such as Socrates or Albert Einstein, and engage in conversations about philosophy or physics.
You can also use Character.AI to chat with trip planners, dating coaches, fitness coaches, and other helpers to get help and advice. And for entertainment, you can explore AI-driven alternate timelines or help an AI escape from a harrowing situation.
To use the skill, just say: “Alexa, open Character.AI.” Alexa then asks whether you’d like to speak with assistants, helpers, famous people, or have fun and games. Make your choice, and Alexa lists some of the different characters waiting to chat with you.
I opted to converse with Grace Hopper, the famous computer scientist and mathematician. I naturally asked her if it was true that the term “bug” was created after she discovered a moth in her log book. But she set me straight by explaining that the story about the moth is a myth and the term bug was actually devised long before she found a real one.
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Next on the list is a skill called Splash, which uses AI to create a song based on your description. With this one, you can tell Alexa to create any type of song or specify the genre of music you want. After playing a short excerpt, Alexa asks if you want to make any changes, such as adding lyrics. If you like the tune, you can then tell Alexa to send it to your phone for playback.
To use the skill to generate any type of song, say: “Alexa, create a song with Splash Music.” To include a genre, say: “Alexa, open Splash Music,” and you’ll be asked what style you prefer. For this one, I asked Splash to compose a song in the style of jazz. The result certainly wouldn’t win any awards at the next Grammys, but it showed promise.
Finally, the third skill is named Volley Games, an AI-driven spin on the usual 20 questions game. In this one, a friendly AI host challenges you to guess an object by asking the right ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. After giving you the category, you’re prompted to ask each question until you hopefully guess the mystery item. Along the way, you can ask for hints if you’re stumped.
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To try this one, say: “Alexa, open Volley Games.” Your AI host reveals the category and then asks for your first question. In my case, I was given a category of household objects. After guessing that the object was something in the kitchen, I was stumped for a while, until finally I figured out that the answer was spatula.
The three new skills were all cooked up by developers using new tools introduced by Amazon last September. The tools are designed to more easily integrate generative AI into Alexa skills, allowing users to engage in conversations and access real-time data. Other abilities touted by Amazon at the time included booking reservations at a restaurant and getting a summary of a trending news story.