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PLDI 2021
Sun 20 - Sat 26 June 2021 Virtual Conference

While Alexa can perform over 100,000 skills, its capability covers only a fraction of what is possible on the web. Individuals need and want to automate a long tail of web-based tasks which often involve visiting different websites and require programming concepts such as function composition, conditional, and iterative evaluation. This paper presents DIYA (Do-It-Yourself Assistant), a new system that empowers users to create personalized web-based virtual assistant skills that require the full generality of composable control constructs, without having to learn a formal programming language.

With DIYA, the user demonstrates their task of interest in the browser and issues a few simple voice commands, such as naming the skills and adding conditions on the action. DIYA turns these multi-modal specifications into voice-invocable skills written in the ThingTalk 2.0 programming language we designed for this purpose. DIYA is a prototype that works in the Chrome browser.
Our user studies show that 81% of the proposed routines can be expressed using DIYA. DIYA is easy to learn, and 80% of users surveyed find DIYA useful.