With alexafsm, developers can model dialog agents with first-class concepts such as states, attributes, transition, and actions. alexafsm also provides visualization and other tools to help understand, test, debug, and maintain complex FSM conversations.
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README.md

alexafsm

  • Finite-state machine library for building complex Alexa conversations.
  • Free software: Apache Software License 2.0.

Dialog agents need to keep track of the various pieces of information to make decisions how to respond to a given user input. This is referred to as context, session, or state tracking. As the dialog complexity increases, this state-tracking logic becomes harder to write, debug, and maintain. This library takes the finite-state machine design approach to address this complexity. Developers using this library can model dialog agents with first-class concepts such as states, attributes, transition, and actions. Visualization and other tools are also provided to help understand and debug complex FSM conversations.

Also check out our blog post.

Features

  • FSM-based library for building Alexa skills with complex dialog state tracking.
  • Tools to validate, visualize, and print the FSM graph.
  • Support analytics with VoiceLabs.
  • Can be paired with any Python server library (Flask, CherryPy, etc.)
  • Written in Python 3.6 (primarily for type annotation and string interpolation).

Getting Started

Install from PyPi:

pip install alexafsm

Consult the Alexa skill search skill in the tests directory for details of how to write an alexafsm skill. An Alexa skill is composed of the following three classes: SessionAttributes, States, and Policy.

SessionAttributes

SessionAttributes is a class that holds session attributes (alexa_request['session']['attributes']) and any information we need to keep track of dialog state.

  • The core attributes are intent, slots, and state.
  • intent and slots map directly to Alexa's concepts.
  • slots should be of type Slots, which in turn is defined as a named tuple, one field for each slot type. In the skill search example, Slots = namedtuple('Slots', ['query', 'nth']). This named tuple class should be specified in the class definition as slots_cls = Slots.
  • state holds the name of the current state in the state machine.
  • Each Alexa skill can contain arbitrary number of additional attributes. If an attribute is not meant to be sent back to Alexa server (e.g. so as to reduce the payload size), it should be added to not_sent_fields. In the skill search example, searched and first_time are not sent to Alexa server.

See the implementation of skill search skill's SessionAttributes

States

States is a class that specifies most of the FSM and its behavior. It holds a reference to a SessionAttributes object, the type of which is specified by overriding the session_attributes_cls class attribute. The FSM is specified by a list of parameter-less methods. Consider the following method:

@with_transitions(
    {
        'trigger': NEW_SEARCH,
        'source': '*',
        'prepare': 'm_search',
        'conditions': 'm_has_result_and_query'
    },
    {
        'trigger': NTH_SKILL,
        'source': '*',
        'conditions': 'm_has_nth',
        'after': 'm_set_nth'
    },
    {
        'trigger': PREVIOUS_SKILL,
        'source': '*',
        'conditions': 'm_has_previous',
        'after': 'm_set_previous'
    },
    {
        'trigger': NEXT_SKILL,
        'source': '*',
        'conditions': 'm_has_next',
        'after': 'm_set_next'
    },
    {
        'trigger': amazon_intent.NO,
        'source': 'has_result',
        'conditions': 'm_has_next',
        'after': 'm_set_next'
    }
)
def has_result(self) -> response.Response:
    """Offer a preview of a skill"""
    attributes = self.attributes
    query = attributes.query
    skill = attributes.skill
    asked_for_speech = ''
    if attributes.first_time_presenting_results:
        asked_for_speech = _you_asked_for(query)
    if attributes.number_of_hits == 1:
        skill_position_speech = 'The only skill I found is'
    else:
        skill_position_speech = f'The {ENGLISH_NUMBERS[attributes.skill_cursor]} skill is'
        if attributes.first_time_presenting_results:
            if attributes.number_of_hits > 6:
                num_hits = f'Here are the top {MAX_SKILLS} results.'
            else:
                num_hits = f'I found {len(attributes.skills)} skills.'
            skill_position_speech = f'{num_hits} {skill_position_speech}'
    return response.Response(
        speech=f"{asked_for_speech} "
               f" {skill_position_speech} {_get_verbal_skill(skill)}."
               f" {HEAR_MORE}",
        card=f"Search for {query}",
        card_content=f"""
        Top result: {skill.name}

        {_get_highlights(skill)}
        """,
        reprompt=DEFAULT_PROMPT
    )

Each method encodes the following:

  • The name of the method is also the name of a state (describing) in the FSM.
  • The method may be decorated with one or several transitions, using with_transitions decorators. Transitions can be inbound (source needs to be specified) or outbound (dest needs to be specified).
  • Each method returns a Response object which is sent to Alexa.
  • Transitions can be specified with prepare and conditions attributes. See https://github.com/tyarkoni/transitions for detailed documentations. The values of these attributes are parameter-less methods of the Policy class.
  • The prepare methods are responsible for "actions" of the FSM such as querying a database. The after methods are responsible for updating the state after the transition completes. They are the only methods responsible for side-effects, e.g. modifying the attributes of the states. This design facilitates ease of debugging.

Policy

Policy is the class that holds everything together. It contains a reference to a States object, the type of which is specified by overriding the states_cls class attribute. A Policy object initializes itself by constructing a FSM based on the States type. Policy class contains the following key methods:

  • handle takes an Alexa request, parses it, and hands over all intent requests to execute method.
  • execute updates the policy's internal state with the request's details (intent, slots, session attributes), then calls trigger to make the state transition. It then looks up the corresponding response generating methods of the States class to generate a response for Alexa.
  • initialize will initialize a policy without any request.
  • validate performs validation of a policy object based on Policy class definition and a intent schema json file. It looks for intents that are not handled, invalid source/dest/prepare specifications, and unreachable states. The test in test_skillsearch.py performs such validation as a test of alexafsm.

The Alexa skill search skill in the tests directory also contains a Flask-based server that shows how to use Policy in five lines of code:

@app.route('/', methods=['POST'])
def main():
    req = flask_request.json
    policy = Policy.initialize()
    return json.dumps(policy.handle(req, settings.vi)).encode('utf-8')

Other Tools

alexafsm supports validation, graph visualization, and printing of the FSM.

Validation

Simply initialize a Policy before calling validate. This function takes as input the path to the skill's Alexa intent schema json file and performs the following checks:

  • All Alexa intents have corresponding events/triggers in the FSM.
  • All states have either inbound or outbound transitions.
  • All transitions are specified with valid source and destination states.
  • All conditions and prepare actions are handled with methods in the Policy class.

Change Detection with Record and Playback

When making code changes that are not supposed to impact a skill's dialog logic, we may want a tool to check that the skill's logic indeed stay the same. This is done by first recording (SkillSettings().record = True) one or several sessions, making the code change, then checking if the changed code still produces the same set of dialogs (SkillSettings().playback = True). During playback, calls to databases such as ElasticSearch can be fulfilled from data read from files generated during the recording. This is done by decorating the database call with recordable function. See the ElasticSearch call in Skill Search for an example usage.

Graph Visualization

alexafsm uses the transitions library's API to draw the FSM graph. For example, the skill search skill's FSM can be visualized using the graph.py. invoked from graph.sh. The resulting graph is displayed follow:

FSM Example

Graph Printout

For complex graphs, it may be easier to inspect the FSM in text format. Use the print_machine method to accomplish this. The output for the skill search skill is below:

Machine states:
	bad_navigate, describe_ratings, describing, exiting, has_result, helping, initial, is_that_all, no_query_search, no_result, search_prompt

Events and transitions:

Event: NthSkill
	Source: bad_navigate
		bad_navigate -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		bad_navigate -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		describe_ratings -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: describing
		describing -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		describing -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: exiting
		exiting -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		exiting -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		has_result -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: helping
		helping -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		helping -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: initial
		initial -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		initial -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		is_that_all -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: no_query_search
		no_query_search -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		no_query_search -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: no_result
		no_result -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		no_result -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
	Source: search_prompt
		search_prompt -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
		search_prompt -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_nth']
Event: PreviousSkill
	Source: bad_navigate
		bad_navigate -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		bad_navigate -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		describe_ratings -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: describing
		describing -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		describing -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: exiting
		exiting -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		exiting -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		has_result -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: helping
		helping -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		helping -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: initial
		initial -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		initial -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		is_that_all -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: no_query_search
		no_query_search -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		no_query_search -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: no_result
		no_result -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		no_result -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
	Source: search_prompt
		search_prompt -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
		search_prompt -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_previous']
Event: NextSkill
	Source: bad_navigate
		bad_navigate -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		bad_navigate -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		describe_ratings -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: describing
		describing -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		describing -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: exiting
		exiting -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		exiting -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		has_result -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: helping
		helping -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		helping -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: initial
		initial -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		initial -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		is_that_all -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: no_query_search
		no_query_search -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		no_query_search -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: no_result
		no_result -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		no_result -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: search_prompt
		search_prompt -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		search_prompt -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
Event: AMAZON.NoIntent
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> bad_navigate, conditions: ['m_has_next']
		has_result -> has_result, conditions: ['m_has_next']
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> is_that_all
	Source: describing
		describing -> search_prompt
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> search_prompt
Event: DescribeRatings
	Source: bad_navigate
		bad_navigate -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: describing
		describing -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: exiting
		exiting -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: helping
		helping -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: initial
		initial -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: no_query_search
		no_query_search -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: no_result
		no_result -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
	Source: search_prompt
		search_prompt -> describe_ratings, conditions: ['m_has_result']
Event: AMAZON.YesIntent
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> describing
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> describing
	Source: describing
		describing -> exiting
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> exiting
Event: AMAZON.CancelIntent
	Source: no_result
		no_result -> exiting
	Source: search_prompt
		search_prompt -> exiting
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> exiting
	Source: bad_navigate
		bad_navigate -> exiting
	Source: no_query_search
		no_query_search -> exiting
	Source: describing
		describing -> is_that_all
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> is_that_all
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> is_that_all
	Source: initial
		initial -> search_prompt
	Source: helping
		helping -> search_prompt
Event: AMAZON.StopIntent
	Source: no_result
		no_result -> exiting
	Source: search_prompt
		search_prompt -> exiting
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> exiting
	Source: bad_navigate
		bad_navigate -> exiting
	Source: no_query_search
		no_query_search -> exiting
	Source: describing
		describing -> is_that_all
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> is_that_all
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> is_that_all
	Source: initial
		initial -> search_prompt
	Source: helping
		helping -> search_prompt
Event: NewSearch
	Source: bad_navigate
		bad_navigate -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		bad_navigate -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		bad_navigate -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		bad_navigate -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		describe_ratings -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		describe_ratings -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		describe_ratings -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: describing
		describing -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		describing -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		describing -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		describing -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: exiting
		exiting -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		exiting -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		exiting -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		exiting -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		has_result -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		has_result -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		has_result -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: helping
		helping -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		helping -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		helping -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		helping -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: initial
		initial -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		initial -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		initial -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		initial -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		is_that_all -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		is_that_all -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		is_that_all -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: no_query_search
		no_query_search -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		no_query_search -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		no_query_search -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		no_query_search -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: no_result
		no_result -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		no_result -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		no_result -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		no_result -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
	Source: search_prompt
		search_prompt -> exiting, conditions: ['m_searching_for_exit']
		search_prompt -> has_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_has_result_and_query']
		search_prompt -> no_query_search, conditions: ['m_no_query_search']
		search_prompt -> no_result, prepare: ['m_search'], conditions: ['m_no_result']
Event: AMAZON.HelpIntent
	Source: bad_navigate
		bad_navigate -> helping
	Source: describe_ratings
		describe_ratings -> helping
	Source: describing
		describing -> helping
	Source: exiting
		exiting -> helping
	Source: has_result
		has_result -> helping
	Source: helping
		helping -> helping
	Source: initial
		initial -> helping
	Source: is_that_all
		is_that_all -> helping
	Source: no_query_search
		no_query_search -> helping
	Source: no_result
		no_result -> helping
	Source: search_prompt
		search_prompt -> helping