Get all kinds of new facts with Curiosity’s Alexa app
For those moments when dinner conversation stalls, Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa can now throw out quirky facts on demand through an app by Curiosity, a Chicago-based media company.
Curiosity introduced the free app—known as a “skill” on the Alexa platform—in December. It’s one of the first Chicago companies with an Alexa app.
Other Alexa skills relevant to Chicagoans include a Chicago Food Truck Finder, which can tell users which food trucks are at Willis Tower or other locations, and Chicago Bikes, which can share information about Divvy bike stations.
To use Curiosity, an Amazon Echo user can say “Alexa, open Curiosity” to launch the app. Alexa then asks the user to select from two topics.
“Are you curious about traditions or pioneering women?” she might ask. If the user doesn’t like these options, she’ll offer a couple more.
Alexa is the artificial intelligence assistant that powers Amazon’s Echo device, which users interact with through voice commands. The Alexa marketplace grew from 1,000 to more than 7,000 voice apps in the past seven months, reports said. And Alexa integrations don’t stop with Amazon devices.
Curiosity’s app is part of a push to offer new kinds of content to knowledge-seekers and move away from a video-centric model.
CEO Gabe Vehovsky, who led the company through a spinoff from Discovery Communications in late 2014, said he wants to make leisure learning easier and more accessible.
“[We want to make] accessing continual lifelong learning as easy, as fun as to get sports updates,” he said.
The company’s content management system lets it quickly push its original and branded partner content to the Curiosity.com website and all its other channels, including social media, the Alexa app and a Google Chrome plugin that displays an interesting fact in every new tab a user opens. Vehovsky said about 5 million people visit Curiosity’s web and mobile platforms each month.
Curiosity lets users dive into topics in three to five minutes, and takes on subjects, such as vertical farming, that might be hard for a person to learn about by searching on YouTube, for example, Vehovsky said.
So far, a little more than 10,000 users have downloaded the Curiosity skill for Alexa, Vehovsky said. It has a 3.5-star rating on Amazon.
Unlike most of the places Curiosity content is available, interactions with the Alexa skill are voice-based. One new challenge is that using Alexa is a screen-free experience, which means users don’t search the same way they would on a device, head of product Andy O’Dower said.
In the early days, users could ask Alexa to give them a “Curiosity topic of the day,” but O’Dower said that was less fun than picking a topic.
“It’s a nice blend of serendipity, because you’re getting two choices you didn’t ask for but then you also have control to then go down the rabbit hole that you want to go down,” he said. Story courtesy of Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation, featuring news, analysis and events related to innovation, entrepreneurship and the next Big Idea.