The Alexa digital assistant from Amazon, which powers its Echo line of smart devices, is a highly capable assistant and the addition of third-party skills by Amazon to perform other tasks only serves to highlight just how flexible it is at servicing various queries.
Users previously had to go through the skills lists to decide on which third-party skills they would like to add to Alexa. Plus, if a user had not installed the requisite skills on their device, then Alexa could not perform certain tasks. This may have created an erroneous impression that Alexa was incapable of executing such commands. Now, as part of a recently launched feature, Amazon intends to avoid that scenario by allowing Alexa to make skills recommendations for requests it isn't able to carry out.
The ability to recommend third-party skills was first noticed by Voicebot.ai, which noted that Alexa's previous response to queries to which it can't answer would have been "Hmmm. I don't know that" or to check back later.
Voicebot.ai stated that they noticed this new trick when asking Alexa a question related to a stock price. Previously, obtaining a response to the question at hand required a third-party skill but now, when asked for stock price information, she responds "I don't know that. Maybe the skill Stock Prices by Opening Bell can help. Do you want to try it?"
The video below demonstrates the queries asked of and responses given by Alexa:
With respect to the new capability, an Amazon spokesperson speaking with TechCrunch said:
"Currently, in limited scenarios, Alexa will respond to certain questions by suggesting skills that may be helpful"
"We are excited for this feature to expand and roll out to more customers over time to help them discover new skills and get information through Alexa."
The implementation of this change in behaviour brings Alexa up to par with how skill discovery also works on Google Home via Google Assistant. The functionality is still rolling out in terms of supported skills and Alexa's customer base.