Designing Voice Interface for “Wash my hands,” an Alexa skill

31 songs to wash your hands to while preventing spread of ...

With the rapid spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), washing hands has become a top priority in every household. The guidelines maintain that one has to “wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.” Source: CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

We were discussing this at home and thought of manually setting the timer for 20 seconds for each time we washed our hand. That got monotonous real quick. Then a thought occurred. We have Alexa, why not build a skill where she tracks the 20 seconds and makes it fun?

“How can we make Alexa track time of washing hands for 20 seconds and make it fun?”

I began sketching the design and while this was being built, Amazon beat us to it with their ‘Alexa, wash hands’ built-in skill! 🙂

Their voice experience goes like this:

I thought theirs was pretty cool, except wasn’t much of a fan of the rap being part of the song. It was way too upbeat, for especially if I was feeling tired by night, or if it was first thing in the morning. A few other Alexa users felt the same way, and so we came up with a revised voice design, and it went like this:

Design v1

I made few Alexa users hear this, and the feedback was:

  • Would be nice if the songs could change at random.
  • Have Alexa say something motivating at the end, to leave it on a feel positive note.
  • Can Alexa keep track of the number of times we’ve washed our hands?

They were great suggestions, especially the last one. It’s not only how long should one wash their hands, but how often in a day and how to track if we’ve met the target.

I looked up the CDC for their guidelines on an average numbers of times one should wash their hands per day. Pasting it here:

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Based on this, we capped it to at least 20 times. Note, this is just our calculation and not indicating of the official times one should, as it varies for each household, given their situation.

Design v2: When user is returning for the 12th time

Here’s the conversation flow along with the recording.

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Other conversation scenarios

Scenario 1: When you have Alexa track multiple users at home

Multiple users at home can train Alexa to recognize different voices so she knows who’s washing once the voice is heard. In this case, we have a couple Jacob and Alice and Jacob is about to wash his hands. and his record is being tracked.

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Scenario 2: When user completes washing hands for the 20th time as capped

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Advanced features for future

Another cool feature to add could be to gamify the skill to incentivize and reward users in some way, especially families who need to keep motivating smaller children. Dialogue could be, something along the lines, “You have washed your hands 15 times today. Congratulations, you have just unlocked a silver badge. Wash it 5 times more and unlock the gold badge.”

Behind the scene – conversation flow sketches

Keep washing hands and stay safe!

© 2022 Deepti Mansukhani