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Meet Devy: Alexa’s Alter-Ego

Software engineers may soon be able to outsource some of the more mundane tasks of their profession, using Alexa, the ever-popular virtual assistant from Amazon.

The Alexa hack is the result of original research by Nick Bradley, a computer science graduate student at the University of British Columbia, Futurism reports. "Devy," Bradley's name for his Alexa alter-ego, is a "Conversational Developer Assistant" (CDA) designed to increase productivity and speed up workflows. He was assisted in his research by his two computer science professors, Reid Holmes and Thomas Fritz."

The idea for Devy was a direct result of Bradley's frustration over having to synthesize code from several different tools – each with their own unique syntax or set of operational rules. This isn't exactly the most effective process; if a developer doesn't know all the rule sets or how the different codes can be meshed, they have to stop and relearn.

Bradley wanted a device that knew how to do the translations for him, going off simple vocal commands that didn't spell out exactly what to do. With Devy, software engineers can use conversational language to request functions. Devy then infers high-level intent from the engineer's voice commands and translates this to a series of smaller actions to determine appropriate workflows. In effect, engineers can move quickly through the more labor-intensive parts of their day-to-day and spend time on the important stuff."

The Devy technology was shared with 21 engineers working at software companies in Vancouver to test and evaluate. The biggest challenge so far? Bradley says it "was using voice commands in an office environment – [the engineers] found it distracting to their neighbours." Otherwise, Devy has been well received. The researchers even see the technology being used in different fields, like medicine and law.

Bradley, Holmes and Fritz presented the study at the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 1.

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