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Talking Alexa Skills and more with Adva Levin, Pretzel Labs

Adva Levin is an Alexa champion and the founder of Pretzel Labs, an award winning game design studio that creates voice-first experiences for kids and families.

Namagiri Anand interacted with Adva Levin to get insights on Alexa Skills, Voice, Conversational Design, among others.

Adva Levin

"What drew me into the voice world is realizing the emotional power of adding a voice layer to a device, and how that essentially turns the user experience from an interaction into a relationship."- Adva Levin, Pretzel Labs.​​


Namagiri Anand: Tell us about your journey, and what is that you aim to deliver?

Adva Levin: My background is in creative writing and years of content strategy for startups. What drew me into the voice world is realizing the emotional power of adding a voice layer to a device, and how that essentially turns the user experience from an interaction into a relationship.

When I started Pretzel Labs I looked specifically into how smart speakers are becoming a new presence in family life. My goal is to use them to encourage family members to interact with each other in new, engaging ways.

Namagiri Anand: Tell us about your success with Amazon Skills?

Adva Levin: Kids Court, a game where Alexa is a judge who settles kids fights, won the grand prize in Amazon's kids skill competition. It received a significant award, and has become a regular experience in many homes. My favorite part of this journey is getting emails from families who are now changing the way they settle arguments.

Freeze Dancers, a dancing game for kids of all ages, has become one of the most popular kids skill on Alexa.

Out the Door has been helping families get ready in the morning without getting angry.

Baby Lullaby has put tons of happy parents and happy babies to sleep.

Pretzel Labs' latest game is called Garbage Hero. It teaches kids about recycling and about different people, by letting the players sort their trash items. We've seen some enthusiastic users play it for two hours straight!

Namagiri Anand: How do you go about designing skills?

Adva Levin: I start from a high level concept or brief, like for Out the Door, it was "i want Alexa to help kids to get ready in the morning without their parents having to nudge them". Then I think how I can break that down into an experience that is delightful and fun. I build a prototype and feel a huge sense of accomplishment, until I take in into a room full of kids and realize half of my ideas just don't work. From here on, it's an iterative process of design-test-build.

So, I'd say like in every creative process, my work is a combination of inspiration and a lot of hard work.

Namagiri Anand: What are your plans to develop new skills?

Adva Levin: Future projects are too early to talk about, but it looks like we have a pretty interesting year ahead at Pretzel Labs!

We are working on new original projects, collaborating with child-directed entertainment brands that want to add another way to engage their users through voice, and working with the Israeli ministry of education to use Alexa to encourage kids to speak english.

Namagiri Anand: What are the use cases you are seeing for Voice UI? How do these use cases mature in the times ahead?

Adva Levin: I feel like currently voice UI is mostly in a utility phase, where we use it to get tasks done quickly. In the next few years I think it will be used a lot more in games, medicine, education, and more soft conversational use cases, even for things like practicing social skills.

Also, I look forward to how voice will be added to a bunch of new devices to give them a personality and change our interactions with them. Think about how you choose a new car now, based on design, safety, etc. In the future, your choice may be influenced by how friendly or cool a car's conversational persona is.

Namagiri Anand: From your perspective, how do you envision the future of Conversational Design?

Adva Levin: I think voice will become more contextual and multimodal. We will design differently considering what device people are communicating with (smart speakers, cell phones, cars, etc.), where they are (home, on the go, office, at school), who they're with, and more. I also think design will become more personalized, and voice apps will speak differently to different users.

Namagiri Anand: Let me ask one last question: What’s the best advice you have ever received?

Adva Levin: Invest your energy in things you are most passionate about. They will eventually find the right audience.


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