Allen & Gerritsen built an Alexa skill for Philly's beer gardens - Technical.ly Philly

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Oct. 5, 2017 12:32 pm

Allen & Gerritsen built an Alexa skill for Philly’s beer gardens

The creative agency dabbles in voice UX.

A look at A&G's new Alexa skill.

(Courtesy image)

Year after year, beer gardens in Philly continue to sprout up. With so many locations to choose from, which one do you even choose?

To help better connect Philadelphians to local beer gardens, creative agency Allen & Gerritsen recently developed a new Alexa Beer Garden skill for Amazon echo devices.

“Philly Beer Garden Skill will help you find the nearest (or dearest) beer garden, where you can enjoy a frosty draft under the sun or a stiff cocktail under the stars,” the description reads. “With so many new gardens opening up this summer, our skill is making it simpler to find one that’s right for you and your merry band of imbibers.”

Users are able to search by neighborhood or by what’s currently open. Once they’ve found a beer garden, the device provides information including the address and hours and dates of operation. It goes a little like this:

User: Alexa, open beer garden.

Alexa: I heard you are a little thirsty. Let’s find a beer garden in Philadelphia. I can help you search by name, neighborhood, and what’s open now. What would you like to me to search by?

User: Search by name.

Alexa: Tell me about the name of the garden you’d like to hear about.

User: Independence Beer Garden.

Alexa: You said Independence Beer Garden. Is that correct?

User: Yes.

Alexa: Independence Beer Garden is located at 100 South Independence Mall West. It’s open spring through fall 2017. I put a card about this venue in your Alexa app. Next, I can tell you hours of the garden, read a description of it, or text you the address. What would you like me to do?

Additionally, the skill can text the address to the smartphone connected to your echo device. However, it doesn’t provide any specific menu information, since individual beer gardens often rotates their selections.

The inspiration for this fun idea dates back to a few years ago when A&G used Foursquare to find where Philadelphians were checking in for cheesesteaks.

While the skill is currently limited to just beer gardens within Philadelphia, the framework can be applied to the hospitality industry to include restaurants, bars, shops and other types of local businesses. A&G often plays with new technologies to showcase its talents to prospective clients.

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“Without reworking the infrastructure, we can apply this [skill] to the hospitality sector,” George Ward, A&G’s Chief Engagement & Innovation Officer, explained in a phone interview with Technical.ly Philly. “It could be interesting to push people towards the physical, brick-and-mortar storefronts.”

For instance, the “beer garden” part of the skill can easily be swapped and replaced with “museum” or “restaurant.” However, large enterprises with several locations in the metropolitan area, such as fast food chains, would likely be excluded since those listings can convolute and crowd the directory.

According to VentureBeat, there are over 20,000 skills available for download in the Alexa Skills store on Amazon.

“Voice-controlled devices are most useful in situations where you’re working hands-free in some capacity,” A&G Director of Experience & Content Planning Erin Abler added during the phone interview. “If you’re visiting some place for the first time, you don’t know where to go for recommendations. If a hotel were to have has those skills enabled, you can ask those questions and it provide a service.”

A&G created the skill specifically for Philadelphia since the company has an office in Center City. Staffers hope to expand to other cities, such as New York City, Chicago and San Francisco, in the future. They are also developing similar Alexa skills with slightly different frameworks for clients in other industries, including as real estate and personal finance.

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Danielle Corcione

Danielle Corcione is a freelance writer with bylines in Teen Vogue, Esquire, Vice, and more. They also run a blog, The Millennial Freelancer, and a newsletter called Rejected Pitches.

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