Got Skills?

By now, you’ve heard of Amazon’s line of Alexa products (Echo, Dot, Echo Show, etc). What you may not have heard is that one in every 30 Americans has an Alexa in their home (someone you know probably has more than one). 


Another thing you may not know: Amazon has an open development platform for engineers to teach Alexa new tricks. They’re called “Skills.” As Alexa’s popularity rises (along with similar platforms like Google Home and, soon, the HomePod), businesses small and large need to repurpose (and potentially rethink) their services and products for voice-activated assistants.  

Brands like Tide, Capital One, and Campbell’s are in the first wave of successful Skill deployments. Tide’s “Stain Remover,” for example, enables users to ask about common stains. Prompt Alexa by saying, “red wine,” and the Skill will return the perfect solution (probably using Tide) to remove that stain.     

We’ve spent the last few months concepting, researching, and developing Skills in order to provide this functionality to our clients (and are currently working on a few for some professional sports teams). Two were adaptations of ISL experiments and products and the other was built purely for fun. Check them out below.

Note for all you engineers: for a more technical take on how to develop skills, check out this post from Taylor Guidon, the ISL engineer who made it all happen.

Fake News: The Game

Fake News is an arcade (and iOS) game built to help players better identify and understand the fake news phenomenon. A player is presented with an actual headline from around the web, and they must decide whether it is real or fake.

We adapted the game into an Alexa Skill and – as it turns out – the audible experience is arguably more enjoyable than the visual experience. We were able to add dynamic responses using mp3 files and humorous (albeit, politically leaning) copy.

For example, Alexa reads out the headline, “Cosby does Fat Albert tagline while exiting court.” You respond with, “fake” and Alexa plays a sound bite of President Trump saying, “You are really a disgrace, you know that?” followed by Alexa’s voice saying, “incorrect. Next headline.”

And yes, Cosby did do that. #RealNews.

Enable Fake News for your Alexa device, and brace yourself – it can be both funny and frustrating.




Viable is an ISL Product dedicated to helping you name your next venture. The mobile application pulls from a number of services and APIs to check the domain availability, Twitter & Facebook handle availability, App Store competition, registered trademarks, and even definitions of your chosen business name. After calculating how your input stacks up, it spits out your business’ viability score (get it?).

The Alexa skill does the same thing. Simply tell Alexa the name of your venture and voilà; you get your score. Easy as that. Enable or read more about the Viable Skill here.

Trump Says

Wouldn’t it be fun to play Mad Libs, but with Trump quotes; to remix his words into nonsense (or, for many of us, turn nonsense into more nonsense)?

Trump Says takes The Donald’s memorable (and questionable) quotes from his presidency and campaign, injects your nouns, adjectives, and verbs, and spits it back out. For example, if you listed the word “banana” as your noun, Alexa may return, “We’re becoming a banana-infested nation. Bananas are becoming cheaper than candy bars.”

Developing this skill was slightly more challenging than the other two. Because of the breadth of potential inputs, training Alexa was difficult. We utilized a list of about 1000 nouns, 1000 verbs, and 1000 adjectives, and used a python library to adjust for alternative uses of a word (past participle, plural, etc). We think you’ll enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Enable it today!


If you have additional questions about the creation of these skills, feel free to drop me a line: