Amazon Lex Introduces an Enhanced Console Experience and New V2 APIs

Today, the Amazon Lex team has released a new console experience that makes it easier to build, deploy, and manage conversational experiences. Along with the new console, we have also introduced new V2 APIs, including continuous streaming capability. These improvements allow you to reach new audiences, have more natural conversations, and develop and iterate faster.

The new Lex console and V2 APIs make it easier to build and manage bots focusing on three main benefits. First, you can add a new language to a bot at any time and manage all the languages through the lifecycle of design, test, and deployment as a single resource. The new console experience allows you to quickly move between different languages to compare and refine your conversations. I’ll demonstrate later how easy it was to add French to my English bot.

Second, V2 APIs simplify versioning. The new Lex console and V2 APIs provide a simple information architecture where the bot intents and slot types are scoped to a specific language. Versioning is performed at the bot level so that resources such as intents and slot types do not have to be versioned individually. All resources within the bot (language, intents, and slot types) are archived as part of the bot version creation. This new way of working makes it easier to manage bots.

Lastly, you have additional builder productivity tools and capabilities to give you more flexibility and control of your bot design process. You can now save partially completed work as you develop different bot elements as you script, test and tune your configuration. This provides you with more flexibility as you iterate through the bot development. For example, you can save a slot that refers to a deleted slot type. In addition to saving partially completed work, you can quickly navigate across the configuration without getting lost. The new Conversation flow capability allows you to maintain your orientation as you move across the different intents and slot types.

In addition to the enhanced console and APIs, we are providing a new streaming conversation API. Natural conversations are punctuated with pauses and interruptions. For example, a customer may ask to pause the conversation or hold the line while looking up the necessary information before answering a question to retrieve credit card details when providing bill payments. With streaming conversation APIs, you can pause a conversation and handle interruptions directly as you configure the bot. Overall, the design and implementation of the conversation is simplified and easy to manage. The bot builder can quickly enhance the conversational capability of virtual contact center agents or smart assistants.

Let’s create a new bot and explore how some of Lex’s new console and streaming API features provide an improved bot building experience.

Building a bot
I head over to the new V2 Lex console and click on Create bot to start things off.

I select that I want to Start with an example and select the MakeAppointment example.

Over the years, I have spoken at many conferences, so I now offer to review talks that other community members are producing. Since these speakers are often in different time zones, it can be complicated to organize the various appointments for the different types of reviews that I offer. So I have decided to build a bot to streamline the process. I give my bot the name TalkReview and provide a description. I also select Create a role with basic Amazon Lex permissions and use this as my runtime role.

I must add at least one language to my bot, so I start with English (GB). I also select the text-to-speech voice that I want to use should my bot require voice interaction rather than just text.

During the creation, there is a new button that allows me to Add another language. I click on this to add French (FR) to my bot. You can add languages during creation as I am doing here, or you can add additional languages later on as your bot becomes more popular and needs to work with new audiences.

I can now start defining intents for my bot, and I can begin the iterative process of building and testing my bot. I won’t go into all of the details of how to create a bot or show you all of the intents I added, as we have better tutorials that can show you that step-by-step, but I will point out a few new features that make this new enhanced console really compelling.

The new Conversation flow provides you with a visual flow of the conversation, and you can see how the sample utterances you provide and how your conversation might work in the real world. I love this feature because you can click on the various elements, and it will take you to where you can make changes. For example, I can click on the prompt What type of review would you like to schedule and I am taken to the place where I can edit this prompt.

The new console has a very well thought-out approach to versioning a bot. At anytime, on the Bot versions screen, I can click Create version, and it will take a snapshot of the state of the bot’s current configuration. I can then associate that with an alias. For example, in my application, I have an alias called Production. This Production alias is associated with Version 1. Still, at any time, I could switch it to use a different version or even roll back to a previous version if I discover problems.

The testing experience is now very streamlined. Once I have built the bot, I can click the test button on the bottom right hand of the screen and start speaking to the bot and testing the experience. You can also expand the Inspect window, which gives you details about the conversations state, and you can also explore the raw JSON inputs and outputs.

Things to know
Here are a couple of important things to keep in mind when you use the enhanced console

  • Integration with Amazon Connect – Currently, bots built in the new console cannot be integrated with Amazon Connect contact flows. We plan to provide this integration as part of the near-term roadmap. You can use the current console and existing APIs to create and integrate bots with Amazon Connect.
  • Pricing – You only pay for what you use. The charges remain the same for existing audio and text APIs, renamed as RecognizeUtterance and RecognizeText. For the new Streaming capabilities, please refer to the pricing detail here.
  • All existing APIs and bots will continue to be supported. The newly announced features are only available in the new console and V2 APIs.

Go Build
Lex enhanced console is available now, and you can start using it today. The enhanced experience and V2 APIs are available in all existing regions and support all current languages. So, please give this console a try and let us know what you think. To learn more, check out the documentation for the console and the streaming API.

Happy Building!
— Martin

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