Someday in the not-too-distant future, we'll all be living the Iron Man life, and we'll be giving Ilarna Nche of Adassa Innovations at least partial credit. In every Marvel movie, Tony Stark interacts seamlessly and entirely conversationally with his various AI assistants. "I always say I want to get to that point," Ilarna remarks, "where Tony talks to JARVIS the same way he'd speak to anyone." As the maker of no less than a dozen Bixby Capsules and counting, Ilarna's doing her part to get us there.
Meet Ilarna Nche, Bixby Developer of the Year recipient and prolific Bixby developer.
"I've enjoyed the process of building capsules," Ilarna says. "It's that excitement of learning something that makes you want to keep going. That's what drives me to make so many." She started with Music Bop Adventures, an interactive audio adventure whose Alexa version was already a hit. Ilarna's been working on Music Bop Adventures since she was eleven. Voice, she says, is the perfect platform for something like [Music Bop Adventures] because it encourages listeners to use their imagination for the game instead of forcing them to look at a screen. Since then, she's added a breadth of new capsules to match the various store sections now available, while incorporating clever ideas of her own like multiplication tables, music, conversion tables, and riddles.
She also drew from a seemingly inexhaustible well of ideas. "I always write down a list of ideas and I never limit them, because I know that there might be a day where eventually I'll be able to do it. As more and more features come into play, I can see the ideas I'll soon be able to turn into reality."
Ilarna's track record as a maker of capsules is all the more impressive when she points out she's not as technically-minded as, say, a professional software developer. She credits Bixby Developer Studio's built-in templates with helping her learn to make her own capsules, along with the Bixby team's video tutorials on YouTube and sample code on GitHub. Plus, she says, there's now a variety of tools available like Voicify and Jovo that can help people without a technical background make their own voice applications. According to Ilarna, getting creative people in the room is crucial: "They're the ones who'll make the best use case for voice applications; they have more experience in user interface and user interactions." For instance, one way that Ilarna finds new ideas for capsules is to simply ask Bixby things and see what it can't do yet. That's how she came up with the Currency Exchanger.
"I say this to people who are about to start with Bixby: take a fresh approach, because they're very different platforms. Bixby is more model-heavy and there's not as much coding needed!"
"I'm always looking for good use cases," Ilarna says, but her favorite one thus far has been Cocktail Maker because "it gave me a chance to learn more about the Bixby process: how to take advantage of Bixby Views and how best to use Bixby Studio." As a voice developer already used to Alexa, Ilarna discovered that working with Bixby was surprisingly dissimilar. "I say this to people who are about to start with Bixby: take a fresh approach, because they're very different platforms. Bixby is more model-heavy and there's not as much coding needed!"
Ilarna's praise for the Bixby team and the Bixby Premier Developer Program (BPDP) is effusive. "They've been very supportive and quick to help," she says; requests and comments are addressed swiftly and efficiently. As a member of the BPDP, she's been able to get custom automatic speech recognition training for the term "Music Bop Adventures" (a phrase not normally found in everyday English) that's proven invaluable. "One thing I've realized, especially in the last year, is that names can be a very big factor in how easy it is for people to find your capsules. If you have the right name, those users will be able to discover what you have more quickly. The training has been a big help there."
Thank Ilarna's parents for her introduction to Bixby. They've been enthusiastic Samsung customers ever since the Galaxy S3. When Bixby was introduced with the Galaxy S8, she was intrigued immediately, in part because their home was already filling up with smart devices. Ilarna estimates she probably hasn't touched a light switch in two years and wouldn't be surprised if they add more gadgets. This has already gotten her thinking about the other Samsung devices that will eventually have Bixby on them, and she can't wait to make capsules for them—she even has a secret plan for washing machines! "What you have to think about is: in your life, what is it that you already do without thinking that can be integrated subtly? We want to get to that point where people can interact with these voice assistants without having to think about it."
Ilarna shows off her well desevered Developer of the Year Award in a tweet. Well done Ilarna!
The voice industry is changing. Ilarna was awarded Samsung Bixby Developer of the Year at Project Voice 2020, and from where she sits, she sees an upward trend in brands taking interest in voice applications: anyone who wants to jump onboard and start developing for voice should do it this year—hint hint, any aspiring voice developers out there with ideas for capsules! As for herself, Ilarna's never been busier, having just joined her dream team at matchbox.io as a designer. However, she says she'll keep making capsules on her own and incorporating new features as the Bixby platform matures: "I want to make sure that I have things out there that people like to use and find useful. I like to provide good experiences on Bixby that weren't there before."
Check out Ilarna's many great capsules in the Marketplace:
Music Bop Adventures
Daily Bible Verse
Guess The Word
Guess That Year
Spanish Travel Phrases
If you're curious about developing for Bixby check out the Bixby Premier Developer Program for more information.
Want to hear more?
Check out Roger Kibbe's latest podcast interview:
Voice Development and the Creative process with Ilarna Nche - Bixby Developers Chat