James Governor's Monkchips

Alexa goes to the Arsenal

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I will be at Highbury tonight for the first game of the Premiership season. I am not a Gooner – that would be my host Matt Asay – but I am very much looking forward to the game.

In 2010 I wrote that sport would be the battering ram of Internet TV. Turns out I was totally wrong on that score – the box set was. And yet. Sport is one of the things that people get really excited about, that is genuinely mass market, that people don’t want to miss. BT managed to get into the triple play game by competing with Sky Sports for football coverage. I have been thinking about machine learning (ML) lately, and what the market’s going to look like from a developer perspective. Clearly from an open source framework perspective, in terms of developer interest, TensorFlow is a runaway leader. Developer consumption of AI/machine learning/deep learning (AI/ML/DL) APIs from the major platform players has so far been disappointing. There is no obvious leader at this point, just a crowded field. It’s completely unclear who is going to come away with the trophy at the end of the season.

But Amazon has done something really interesting with Alexa – it has, quite literally made its own market. While everyone is talking about APIs Amazon has created a genuine consumer marketplace. Amazon is doing a solid job of selling Echo hardware, and it’s clearly going to continue that sales focus. Alexa is kind of a sideways move. It runs on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) serverless infrastructure, but it has its own developer advocate channel, it’s own accelerator program kicked off in Seattle this summer, it’s a different, much more consumer focused approach. Everyone else is wondering about how to get developers excited about image recognition APIs. Meanwhile the Alexa Skills program is just getting people comfortable talking to the machine, to deal with fairly prosaic issues.

Where am I going with this? Today a mailer went out about the new Arsenal Skill. That’s. Good. Marketing.

Get the most out of every match day with Arsenal FC’s official skill. With full support for pre-match build-up, live commentary and post-match analysis you can keep up to date with all the action.

To get started, simply say “Alexa, open Arsenal.”

Options include:

Pre Match:
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the match preview.” – receive an overview of the upcoming match.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal who’s injured?” – find out who is injured.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the team lineup.” – available approximately one hour before kick-off.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the pre-match build up.” – listen to the official pre-match commentary, available around 30 minutes before kick-off.

During Match:
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the live commentary.” – listen to the official match commentary, available during a game.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the match summary.” – find out the score, bookings, injuries and substitutions.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the score.” – learn how we’re getting on in-play.

Post Match:
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the post match analysis.” – listen to the official post-match commentary, available for around 30 minutes after the final whistle.
“Alexa, ask Arsenal for the match report.” – hear the official Arsenal opinion of the game.

So Gooners everywhere now have a reason to want Alexa in their home, on their phone etc. That’s North London, sorted. I assume all Premiership clubs will have something similar soon enough. While everyone else is talking about natural language understanding, or “cognitive” Amazon is talking about football. It’s creating a market, rather than playing the game everyone else is. I shared the new skill with Matt after I saw him kvetching about ML this afternoon. He said simply

I didn’t know about this….I shall talk to Arsenal every day now. 🙂

Unsurprisingly, for the baseball fans MLB.com at Bat is available as a Skill. The best post ever written about how Amazon tackles markets differently is probably this one by Chris Messina about the Echos Show. I suggest your read it if you want to understand how Amazon changes games and rules. Let’s close with a beautiful quote, Jeremy Brown from Red Hat shared the other day.

“Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.” ― James P. Carse

Hopefully we’ll see some of the latter tonight.


disclosure: AWS is a client, Red Hat is a client.

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