The ‘Family Journal’ Alexa skill won the Amazon Alexa Skills Challenge: Aging & Engaging. All of the winners of the $45,000 contest for Alexa skills aimed at people over 55 were revealed by Alexa senior business developer Heidi Culbertson in a presentation at the Voice22 conference in Arlington, VA, this week.
Family Journal essentially allows more direct interaction between a private group of Alexa device users. Echo Shows and the smartphone app will display images and text messages shared by a private social network of family and friends in the ‘journal,’ which is more private and easier to use than public social media services.
“I think that Echo devices, especially the ones with display, are great companion for the elderly,” “However, it is missing content tailored personally to them, from their close ones, their family,” Family Journal creator Tony Georgiev, a Bulgaria-based developer, explained in his submission.” The skill allows friends and family to post “directly” to one’s Alexa. The way it is implemented, all devices with access to this journal, become members of this mini social network and can see each other’s posts.”
The competition announced at this year’s Alexa Live event invited Alexa developers to come up with skills that might entice older people living independently or in senior living communities. The hackathon drew 794 participants, with four different sub-categories adding to the overall race. Family Journal won the grand prize of $15,000, but four runner-ups nabbed $5,000 each, and the four category winners each got $2,000.
Senior Stretch, a skill guiding older people through exercise routines, won the Keep Moving category for fitness skills for people as they age, while attention and memory practice game Your Memory Challenge earned the Stay Sharp category prize for intellectually stimulating skills, and Storyteller Cafe picked up the prize for the Let’s Connect category for fighting social isolation. Automated check-in and reminder service Fingerstring won the ‘Be Supported’ category for supporting daily tasks and was an overall runner-up too, along with voice-guided physical therapy skill Voice PT, cognitive activity collection Brain Games, and My Memories, which builds quizzes using audio, photos, and video uploaded by friends and family. There was also a bonus multi-modal skill competition, won by Cash Register, a skill that enables Alexa devices to handle selling products in-person.
Amazon has been upping its efforts to appeal to older users of late through methods like this contest.’ Last year, it released an Alexa Smart Properties program designed for senior living communities. The system enables administrators to manage the communities via Alexa, much as the voice assistant does in hotels and theme parks. There’s also the Alexa Care Hub to enable people from one home to consensually use a loved one’s Alexa-enabled smart device to keep track of their activity and serve as an emergency contact for Alexa to call. The Alexa Together tool soon followed, adding an optional Remote Assist feature to set and share reminders and shopping lists.
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