BigML for Alexa: The First Voice Controlled Predictive Assistant

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The promise of voice recognition has been around for a long time, but it has always been quite miserable. In fact, just back in 2012 my daughter and I were helping my mother purchase a new car. I paired my phone to the in-car audio and tried to dial home. After several attempts, we were nearly in tears from laughing at how impossibly bad it was at recognizing the spoken phone number.

However, in the last few years, advances in Machine Learning have improved the capability of voice recognition dramatically; see for example the section about the history of Siri here. Even more importantly, the availability of voice recognition APIs like Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service have made it possible for the rapid adoption of voice controlled applications.

But what about that moment in Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home, when Scotty not only expects to be able to speak to the computer, but to have the computer reply intelligently? To get there we need to not only rely on machine learning for voice recognition, but to bring voice recognition to machine learning applications!

As of today, we are one step further along that path with the introduction of the BigML for Alexa skill.

The BigML for Alexa skill combines the predictive power of BigML with the voice processing capabilities of the Alexa Voice Service. Using an Alexa enabled device like an Amazon Echo or Dot, this integration makes it possible to use spoken questions and answers to generate predictions using your own models trained in BigML.

For example, if you have data regarding wine sales with features like the sale month and grape variety, you could build a model which predicts the sales for a given month, variety, etc. With this model loaded into the BigML for Alexa skill, you could generate a sales prediction by answering questions vocally.


bigml_alexaIf you already have an AVS device like the Amazon Echo, you can quickly get a feel for the capabilities of the BigML Alexa skill in two steps:

First, enable the skill with:

“Alexa, enable the Big M. L. skill”

Then you can run a demo with:

“Alexa, ask Big M. L. to give me a demo”

This will load a model which ask questions about a patient’s diagnostic measurements like the 4-hour plasma glucose and BMI and uses your answers to make a prediction about the likelihood of that individual having diabetes. Of course, keep in mind that this is only a demo and is not medical advice!

If you want to try the BigML Alexa skill with your own BigML models, you just need to link the skill to your BigML account:


And then ask to load the latest model with

“Alexa, ask Big M. L. to load the latest model”.

This will load your most recently created model and launch a prediction.

As you start to play with your own models, you may run into some quirks with how field names are spoken, especially if they have punctuation or abbreviations. No worries – you can control how the fields are spoken using the labels and descriptions in your BigML dataset.

How to do this and lots of other tips and tricks can be found in the BigML for Alexa documentation

Now we just need the formula for transparent aluminum!

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