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<span style=On Friday, 8 April, Mobile UX London in collaboration Amazon Alexa hosted a hackathon designed for the greater good, specifically targeting technology associated with voice experience, such as the Amazon Alexa device. The hackathon, which was held at Amazon’s new European HQ in London,  had over 60 participants eager to learn about voice technology.

As just a one day event, the hackathon was short but intense. Teams were formed, ideas were generated and presentations were delivered. Some of the top winners included “AlEch”, a solution to help remind people to take prescription medicines and “My Rubbish”, an idea to help households find out what can and can’t be recycled as well as the ability to order additional recycling products. The winning teams won an Amazon Alexa.

“The HackUX Alexa hackathon was a fantastic experience!  It was fascinating to work with a completely new team to see their different and unique ways of tackling the challenges we were set, and I learnt a whole load of new skills that I can’t wait to try out for myself!” –

We spoke to Andrea Muttoni at Amazon Alexa who works with developers to inspire and build Alexa skills, to get his insight into voice interfaces and his thoughts on the hackathon.

What got you excited about this hackathon and what do you think the outcome will be?

It’s exciting because our room is full of non Alexa developers who have no idea how on to implement these skills. The beauty in hackathons is the people who have the ideas don’t necessarily know how to build them. All they have to focus on is creating the perfect experience!

Mobile UX London is running a UX course “Designing Voice Interactions with Alexa” – why is it different from a typical development course?

We find that development courses are very focused on “how do I do something”, “how do I code?”, “how do I implement…?”. The MUXL designing voice course is original in the way it allows a different point of view on voice experiences, specifically answering questions like:  “What is a good UI experience?” and “How can I make things intuitive?”. Alexa Skill doesn’t even require code, it only requires creative crafting minds and just what feels natural to the developer designing the skill.

What’s the biggest challenge when designing for Alexa?

During the course, I mention that the designer is a benevolent dictator and that is meant in the most humble and positive way. I say this because they decide how the experience works, the design of the menus and the buttons whereas with voice experiences, the designer has to think like the user so users can express themselves naturally.

What’s your favorite Alexa skill?

There are a couple; the first is the “Jeodgy” skill as it’s been crafted really well. They really leveraged the medium in such an efficient way. It feels like you have a talk show host in your home! The second is simple skills like “would you rather”, because it’s simple yet effective. They offer so many different experiences and they have completely nailed the concept and context you can leverage from Alexa to spur a conversation with anyone in the room.

How important do you think multimodal will be in the future of voice?

It’s a stepping stone towards ambients with Alexa. We aren’t preaching that you should only use your voice or that you should only use screen devices. People took that as a contradiction because we added screens to our devices but we aren’t trying to remove it or replace it. We are trying to make voice the new foundational layer in which people interact but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your other senses. Why shouldn’t you be able to touch a screen if it feels natural? In so many cases it feels completely natural to just express yourself through voice, right? So the vision is that multimodel isn’t just voice and screens. Multimodal is everything you need to express yourself and use the method of interaction that feels the most natural.

*Answers edited for length and/or clarity