An Echo is a small round robot that lives in your house, and that you can give commands to, converse with, get to run your devices, and learn from.
An Echo “skill” is an app, essentially, which you can turn on and have available at any time to do whatever it is that that skill does. You can safely think of the word “skill” as equivilant to “app” for most purposes.
Shanthan Kesharaju is an IT expert and computer engineer who developed the skill “1-2-3 Math.” This skill asks math questions at various levels, and parses the answers (this is all done verbally, with excellent voice recognition), keeping track of how the person is doing in a session. The various levels currently run across lower level elementary, so this is great for kids from K thorough about 3 or 4, depending on the kid. But, don’t assume that for long because I believe this app, er, skill, is to be further developed.
I interviewed Shanthan here, at Ikonokast. Go there to hear the whole interview. The interview isn’t just about this skill. We also discuss what a skill is, and how to make one. Shanthan also provides an excellent discussion of a particular approach, developed in the book The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries, to developing projects like this. If you are interested in developing apps, skills, or whatever, you’ll want to hear all about his one example.