This Alexa Skill aims to de-awkwardize your holiday convos - Technical.ly Philly

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Nov. 27, 2017 12:58 pm

This Alexa Skill aims to de-awkwardize your holiday convos

Philly's Tonic Design built a nifty way to change the subject.

The skill was used 400 times over Thanksgiving Weekend.

(Photo by Flickr user Guillermo Fernandes, used under a Creative Commons license)

Over Thanksgiving weekend, some 130 users broke up the awkwardness of family convos with a Philly-made Alexa app called Change the Subject.

Built by Philly-based dev shop Tonic Design as a public-facing iteration of its voice-recognition work, the app throws out random factoids, dad jokes or questions for the table, in the hopes of killing any weird vibes or tense political discussions.

Though it was launched right before Thanksgiving, Tonic’s SVP of Operations, Leon Degtar, said the skill is really a way to showcase the company’s interest in voice services and thoughts around user experience.

“We wanted something that was fun, brainstormed it a bit and had a couple weeks to do it from start to finish,” said Degtar.

For the company, currently at 35 full-timers and a few contractors, the skill is also a sign of a shift in focus: despite its history of work in apps and websites, it has recently been dabbling in emerging technologies like voice applications. (Among Philly technologists, they’re not alone.)

“Our design methodology has been developed to include everything from brand intake to mapping out customer journeys and ensuring emotional connections are made through the use of personality and tone,” said Tonic VP of Experience Design Alfredo Silva. “We’re also working with different types of data, whether that be through APIs, cloud services, communicating with other hardware, or other methods previously unseen. We’re excited about voice and hope to keep pushing its boundaries.”

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