My dad turned 68 earlier this year. While 68 isn't a milestone birthday, I wanted to do something special for my dad instead of sending the same old flowers and cupcakes. After all, there are only so many flowers and cupcakes that a parent can handle!
As I was thinking about some new ways, I wondered: What if I created a birthday hotline for him? I'd set up a phone number for his family and friends to call and record their greetings and share special memories. Then, on the day of his birthday, he could call that number and listen to all the lovely messages.
But then I realized that only adds up to regular old voicemail. I wanted to make this present a bit more fun and engaging.
Then I had the aha moment. What if Alexa could play the messages for him instead? My dad has an Amazon Echo, and he loves it.
That's a pretty awesome gift, I thought. Much better than flowers and super-dad cupcakes for sure.
I first explored using the Alexa-to-Alexa calling and messaging feature to collect these special greetings. But then I realized that some of our relatives live in parts of the world where Alexa is not available. I wanted those loved ones to be able to participate, so I opted to build my own approach using Twilio, the Alexa Skills Kit, and Amazon Web Services.
The Happy Birthday Hotline
There were two pieces to this adventure:
- Recording: Capture the voice greetings using Twilio
- Playback: Play the messages through an Alexa skill
I asked everyone to call my Twilio number. When they called, they were greeted with a welcome message. Then, after the beep, they recorded their greeting.
On his birthday, my dad simply said, "Alexa, play my birthday greetings." And he was flooded with a parade of well-wishes from his loved ones.
In all, my dd received greetings from 30 people that added up to over 60 minutes of recording. The messages had an average duration of two minutes. People didn’t just say happy birthday and hang up; they shared more than that—special memories that led him down nostalgia lane and made him smile, laugh, and even cry a bit.
The result: He loved it. He called it "the best birthday gift I ever got."
For me, this project reinforced the power of voice as a natural and intuitive medium that continues to amaze and delight us. I was especially thrilled to be able to extend the experience to relatives around the world. I also enjoyed thinking and building outside the box with the Alexa Skills Kit.
If you’d like to create a special present for your dad for Father's Day, check out the complete guide and source code to get started.
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