Editor’s Note: This is an installment of our new series, Alexa Pioneers, which highlights people who are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with voice. Follow the series to get inspired, then join the pioneers to create your own magical experiences for voice.
Teen developer Austin Wilson likes to dive deep and learn how things work. While searching the web last year for information on Raspberry Pi, he stumbled upon Hackster’s Internet of Voice Challenge with Raspberry Pi.
"I thought, ‘Why not learn Alexa, do something cool with Raspberry Pi, and try my hand at this competition?"’ he says.
The high school senior in Rocky River, Ohio was inspired to dive in and let his imagination run free. He built a model car using K’NEX components, a Raspberry Pi, Arduino board, and servos to control the wheels. Then he added voice control using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). The result: Wilson can use his voice to move the car in four directions and change the color of its LED lights.
“I spent an entire weekend working on it with barely any sleep,” he says. “Now I’m driving my car with my voice.”
Wilson’s Alexa-powered car won second place in the contest. But his fascination with voice didn’t stop there.
“Everywhere I look, I see things that can really use a voice interface,” says Wilson.
Wilson decided to see if he could turn Alexa into a virtual cockpit assistant for his favorite video game, Elite: Dangerous.
“I was still learning about Alexa,” says Wilson. “I thought, ‘Here’s two of my favorite things, let's put them together."’
Wilson created the Elite: Dangerous Ship Assistant, using the game’s API to access game events and data on the thousands of star systems the pilot could explore. Each time Wilson finished one function, he was inspired to do more.
“I kept having moments where I wanted to do more, to keep going,” he says.
Eventually, Wilson could control many of the ship’s functions with Alexa.
Wilson is also teaching others about Alexa—even his fellow students in high school.
When his school hosted Hour of Code, Wilson was assigned to demonstrate how to build an Alexa skill. After only an hour, most of his classroom was able to build and modify a “Hello World” skill.
“It was a really cool process learning how to develop for Alexa and then being able to tell other people how to do it,” says Austin.
Wilson now wants to see just how far he can take voice technology.
“I am definitely inspired. Going forward, I can see myself doing a lot more advanced things with Alexa,” he says. “I can't wait to see what else I can create.”
Tell us about what you’re building for voice with Alexa. Tweet us using the hashtag #AlexaPioneers.