Norbo11 avatar image
Norbo11 asked

Issues with testing Alexa skills in the Alexa Development Environment - no replies, confused replies, etc.

Hi all,

I'm working on building my first skill to familiarise myself with the Alexa ecosystem.

The premise of the skill is simple: adding custom quotes and having them play at random, when asked.


"Alexa, add a random quote"

"Go on!"

"Some funny quote"

"Quote added"

"Alexa, give me a random quote"

"Here's your quote: Some funny quote"

I've successfully linked my Alexa skill with an AWS Lambda function. My invocation name is "house quote".

I have the basic "get random quote" functionality ready (essentially the same functionality as in the basic fact skill tutorial). When I say "Alexa, open house quote", she replies with a random quote as intended.

However, NONE of my other invocation work, such as "alexa, give me a random house quote", etc. I have provided plenty of sample utterances of this. The "alexa, add a house quote" trigger also doesn't do anything - Alexa simply doesn't reply to me. I've checked my AWS Lambda docs and I'm not receiving any requests, so this isn't a problem with my back-end implementation.

By the way, prior to this, my invocation name used to be "house quotes" (with an s). The behaviour I observed was slightly different in that saying something like "add a house quote" would cause Alexa to reply with "Adding house quote to your shopping list". I don't understand why she thinks I'm trying to add an item to the shopping list when I'm clearly saying something which is directly present as a sample utterance in my interaction model.

How can I even debug this when I have no idea what Alexa is/isn't doing, which is causing her to not reply to anything?

Some help would be much appreciated.

alexa skills kitalexa simulator
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Alohakrisi avatar image
Alohakrisi answered

Alexa can be fickle with invocation names. Some of them just don't work and we have to move on. However I think here the issue could be that Random House is a major publishing company so even if your tests would work, I am not sure they would certify your skill.

Adding a quote by simply saying it is a cool idea but I am not sure if that is a supported feature, which would explain why it doesn't work. Here you see the supported features:

The only thing that comes close to what you mentioned would be lists, but I am not sure the list capability let's you retrieve the quotes at random. You may have to hardcode the quotes you want into the skill to begin with instead of trying to add it later by telling Alexa.

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Jason@Amazon avatar image
Jason@Amazon answered

That's not how the invocation name works - a user needs to first open/launch the skill using your invocation name, and then potentially say another utterance to launch the skill directly into a different intent. For example, with the invocation name "house quotes", you could do the following:

  • Alexa, open house quotes
  • Alexa, ask house quotes for a random quote
  • Alexa, start house quotes and ask for a random quote

These work because you've first launched the skill and are then asking it for something else that will match one of your other intents. Check out the link here for more details on how this works.

Understandably this may be different to how one might interpret how Alexa skills work, and that's why we're working towards name-free interactions.

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Norbo11 avatar image
Norbo11 answered

Thank you both, I will try to change my invocation name and get this to work.

@Alohakrisi, are you saying that there's no way for Alexa to capture literal speech as part of the input to some function?

I was hoping that having an invocation such as:

add a random quote {}

Would allow the user to say a whole sentence in the place of the {} slot which Alexa could then save in a file. Is this not possible?

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