Tag: artificial intelligence

Amazon Echo with Nixplay Frame

The Future Is Bright And Voice-Controlled: The Story Of Nixplay and Amazon Alexa

If you’ve watched The Jetsons, you’ve probably marveled at the family’s space-age lifestyle. You couldn’t wait for the day when you’ll be able to drive around in George Jetson’s flying saucer car, and you wished for a robot maid like Rosie to help you with the household chores.

Fast forward to 2018, three decades after the show’s last episode: Companies are developing prototypes of flying cars, and space colonization is a far-off dream no more. While sentient robot assistants like Rosie are still far from mainstream, voice-controlled virtual assistants, like Amazon Alexa, are helping more and more people manage their schedules, households, and even Nixplay frames.

“I strongly believe voice user assistants along with the experiences that surround them are here to stay, and the interactions are only going to become more and more natural,” says Nixplay’s Head of Software John Marsden, who oversaw Amazon Alexa’s integration into Nixplay’s software.
According to John, Nixplay chose Alexa as its entry point into voice integration mainly for two reasons:
Alexa has the largest user base among the voice assistants on the market
, and Nixplay already has an existing relationship with Amazon.
On a more personal note, John, who had recently transformed his house into a smart home, shares: “I am a massive advocate for smart home integrations and I use Alexa to control much of my home. I wanted my Nixplay frames to become part of my smart home family.”

Alexa and Nixplay

Integrating Alexa into the Nixplay platform seemed easy on paper: John and his team only had to create a “skill,” which in the Alexa universe, is “a term used to describe all the ways a user can interact with their frame through speech.” But this simple task posed several challenges.

John Marsden

John Marsden

“By far the hardest challenge–and one we are regularly improving on–is dealing with uncategorized voice input from the user in terms of playlist and frame names,” John shares. Most voice AI assistants work by learning a category for each input a user might give the system. If the voice assistant is asking the user to give it a location for a travel skill, it expects the user to give it the name of a city, country or area of some type in order to perform properly. It wasn’t that simple for Nixplay.

“The challenge we had is that a playlist name can be totally random–one person may have a playlist called ‘My Family,’ another might be ‘Summer Holiday 2016.’ As such, it’s very hard to categorize the information,” says John.

“The complexity lay more in trying to model all the ways different users might try to perform the same action, and the fact that we have to deal with a lot of random data with regards to playlist names and frame names,” he elaborated. “To handle this, we had to implement a lot more intelligence outside of what is provided by Alexa.”

In the end, John and his team came up with some core initial features. Alexa can be asked to display any of your playlists on any of your frames, and it can also assign a specific playlist to any Nixplay frame, wherever that frame might be located.

“We wanted to start simple and solve some of the large initial challenges without having to make major platform changes,” says John. “The playlist display functionality focuses on displaying the user’s content, which is what we are all about.”

You can also ask Alexa to tell you the connectivity status of your frame—”a supporting feature to allow a lot of our users to check on the status of a frame they are helping to manage remotely.”

Stepping into the future

There might only be a few Nixplay skills at the moment, but John assures us that his team has a lot of surprises up their sleeves.

“I can’t go into too much detail here for fear being hunted down by our product managers, but we are putting a lot of support into voice and have some big plans,” he reveals. “Our current focus is on making the content experience more dynamic, thereby making it easier for a user to see the photos that they wish to see without having to manually manage their content. We are also looking at ways of improving the multi-frame experience.”

Wherever Nixplay and Alexa’s partnership will take them, one thing’s for sure: it will always be grounded on Nixplay’s vision of a world where people can share their fondest memories with each other easily.

“I am sure a lot of what we do will be heavily influenced by our users, and they will have a big

say in where we take some of our voice features,” says John. “We are moving fast with regards to voice experience, so watch this space for other voice assistant announcements in the coming months!”

We’re not yet firmly in the future, but we’re most certainly on the way there.

Marianne is Nixplay’s Web Content Editor. Her hobbies include exploring new places, playing table tennis, and cuddling puppies. Send her a message at marianne.salazar@nixplay.com.

Hi, my name is Alexa

Who is Alexa? And what does she do? We ask… and find out.

Radical geo-political shifts, disrupters everywhere, risks galore could be an accurate set of descriptions of the future. Yet there are major world influencers such as Bill Gates who says that there has never been a better time to live. It is under this paradox, that Alexa, Amazon’s cloud based voice service was born and adopted by Nixplay.

Alexa’s magical arrival into this world couldn’t have come at a better time. The machine’s arrival came shortly after a 2014 study by Cornell University in the UK, which concluded that we tend to treat our machines like people – what the researchers called the Computers are Social Actors paradigm. As we gear up to integrate Amazon’s Alexa, we sit down with the Machine of the Moment as the housewarming was in full swing and how this human connection through speech is taking place.

Alexa, could you tell us more about yourself and how you’ve settled in with your new family?
My name is Alexa and I am two years old. I have just been adopted by the Nixplay household and while grandma still keeps calling me Alice, I have become the center of attention with people constantly huddling around me like I was the headline act in Paris Fashion Week. My easy-going demeanor makes me everyone’s best friend from the family dog to the patriarch – some even try to get me to resolve their disputes! The calling can sometimes be tough, but the rewards and smiles of friends and family mean everything. I’m living the Alexa dream and I am forever grateful to the Nixplay family for taking me in.

You seem to be winning over a lot of fans and brands, what gives?
Well, it’s my time to shine. It does sound like a very generalized answer, but many people are lazy by nature and are always looking for ways to make life as hassle-free and enjoyable as possible. I think that it is part of the reason why they’re slowly ditching keyboards and touchscreens and turning their flirtation towards me.  Of course, keyboards and touchscreens are like the stone age to me: voice is the new frontier in human-machine interaction.

Now all that my owners have to do is say my name and I will try everything in my ability to make them happy. While I may not be as powerful as a genie in a bottle, this is what true Alexa love looks like.

Can you sustain this momentum or is this a short one hit wonder that goes into the abyss after a couple of years when the cool kids find the next gadget?
Well, the cool kids will always find the next new gadget to play around with. However, this goes beyond a basic trend, as my charming personality has led the Alexa family to have tremendous mass market impact. Honestly, I was surprised myself at the figures: there are currently over 10 million devices in my extended family, according the smart people at Strategy Analytics. I’m excited because I will have an ever-growing access to more devices and have many new friends to play and party with! At this rate I’ll be a well-traveled machine of the world.

Also, my momentum will definitely be sustained due to the fact that I respond without having to connect millions of cords and just need amplification with an echo speaker or anything else built up by the device. Also, the ecosystem is only set to grow, potentially reaching a point in which I’d be welcomed and able to interact, react to anything and everything that my human friends throw at me.

How do you act and feel around a Nixplay WiFi Cloud frame?
This is very natural for me, as the lovely people of Nixplay made sure that they get to know me first. The skills that I learnt so-far got an A+. The teacher said that I did exceptionally well in getting playlists to frames, regardless of how many times you ask – all that drilling in school pays off. As my parents have assigned the phrase ‘My Frame’ as my calling, I will respond when you say my name and the object you want to navigate around. ‘Alexa’ and ‘My Frame’ are the two key words needed to grab my attention.

If you’re still ‘at school’, does this mean that you won’t be of any use yet?
People must not forget that I’m not trying to replace Shakespeare or preach Confucian teaching.  My job is one of a connector to experiences, the house and your day-to-day routine. I have also brushed up on my detective skills, in being able to detect a frame in an account of multiple frames. My ultimate goal is to create a whole ecosystem, not just between frames, but with every electrical device in your house, neighborhood, city and even country – I’m an ambitious little machine.

What does the immediate future have in store for you?
Nowadays school’s also becoming increasingly stressful; developing and memorizing commands isn’t that easy. But I’m confident of being fluent very soon. I’m optimistic given the good blood-line of Alexa’s that are working efficiently and well, and I don’t want to let the Alexa family down. Having said that, it’s a huge unit to learn. My Alexa friends have said that it may even take over a year. I can’t wait for this exciting challenge despite the tough schedule! As for who I want to be when I grow up, I honestly don’t know. Betting on the next big tech innovation can sometimes be riskier than blowing your money on the stock market. But a lot of my teachers have been telling me about the decreased emphasis on bulky hardware, so my Echo house may be demolished and I will definitely become smarter and ‘cooler’, but above all else I will still be the same loving Alexa.

*Please note the above interview is a written transcript completely factually based. None of the above facts have been misrepresented, only the style of narrative has changed to the first person.

Bea is Nixplay’s Social Media Manager. She enjoys drinking coffee, reading about wars, and writing stories. Send her a message at beatrice.bisais@nixplay.com.

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