The Virginia Lottery launched its new Alexa skill in December. The application was programmed by COLAB, based in Richmond, Virginia.
La Fleur’s interviewed COLAB President Eddie O’Leary on the rationale for giving the Virginia Lottery a new voice by harnessing a voice-activated smart speaker.
“Customers are choosing to get information differently,” explained O’Leary. “Many people are moving away from traditional media sources like print newspapers, TV with commercials, radio, and even desktop websites. We recognize that these are also some of the primary places that players have traditionally gotten information about the Virginia Lottery. Many people wake up and ask Alexa for the weather and the news. Then they go to work, come home, fix dinner, and watch Netflix. It is important for the Lottery to be in the places that people use to consume news and information. It only makes sense for us to take full advantage of smart devices and make sure that we give players a way to interact with the Virginia Lottery in the most convenient way possible. We already know people want this information so let’s make it as easy to obtain as possible.”
According to COLAB’s Alexa White Paper (available for download), almost one-third of Americans own a voice-activated smart speaker—such as Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant. ”It is estimated there are 43 million Americans that own a smart speaker. Research shows that Amazon Echo products are favored over other voice technology assistants by nearly 72% in households and businesses,” said O’Leary. “It’s important to note the amount of Americans buying and using smart speakers is growing at a dramatic rate.”
Currently, the Alexa skill can provide the Virginia Lottery’s latest winning numbers, the dates and times of the next big drawings, the current jackpot, and what games are available. “It also has functionality to allow a player to get more information about New Year’s Raffle,” he explained. “We see the current functionality as just the first step. In the near future, players will be able to interact with the Virginia Lottery in much more innovative and exciting ways. We can’t wait to explore where we can take this technology.”
In terms of the difficulty in programming the Alexa skill, O’Leary said “there are several things to consider. Our primary goal was making the skill easy to use. We can solve any technical problem, but we knew we needed to thoughtfully design the dialogue so that when people ask for information in different ways, the interaction feels natural. We have a very good start, but we are keeping close tabs on how the skill is being used. As we observe people interacting with Alexa, we will continue to refine the interaction.”
The technology side of this project consisted of writing and programming the Alexa Skill as well as having it interact with the Virginia Lottery’s API. “A big shout out to their IT team for making this easy for us. Once that was completed, we did extensive testing to make sure the skill provides a wonderful experience for the Virginia Lottery’s players,” said O’Leary.
The Virginia Lottery is one of the first lotteries to make information available via Alexa. COLAB’s website is www.teamcolab.com.
O’Leary provided La Fleur’s readers with some recommended articles to analyze this trend (below):
- Baer, Jay. “15 Important Statistics About Smart Speakers in 2018.” Content Marketing Research, Convince & Convert, LLC, www.convinceandconvert.com/content-marketing-research/15-important-statistics-about-smart-speakers-in-2018/.
- Enberg, Jasmine. “Hey Alexa, Who’s Using Smart Speakers?” EMarketer’s Forecast for 2018, EMarketer, 29 May 2018, www.emarketer.com/content/hey-alexa-whos-using-smart-speakers?ecid=dfda7bcd4b86471fba0d362c1f4a962e.
- Perez, Sarah. “ 47.3 Million U.S. Adults Have Access to a Smart Speaker, Report Says.” 47.3 Million U.S. Adults Have Access to a Smart Speaker, 7 Feb. 2018, tcrn.ch/2G0WsYQ.
Click to download COLAB’s White Paper: