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December 21, 2017Jennifer King
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.
Sam Machin says the best technology is something you don't know you're using. And that perfectly describes voice, says the UK-based developer. Machin wants to put Alexa everywhere.
“The exciting thing for me is putting Alexa into all these different devices. It's actually fairly simple,” he says. “A phone, a car, a wall—anything that has a speaker, a microphone, and an internet connection, you can embed Alexa into.”
Machin created the AlexaPi, which turned a Raspberry Pi into an Alexa client using the Alexa Voice Service. He is also well-known for Alexa in the Browser, his creation which eventually became Echosim.io. The community-built Alexa simulator lets anyone access Alexa via webpage, and enables developers to test their own Alexa code without a device.
“It’s amazing to see people developing Alexa skills at events, firing up EchoSim.io on their laptop and testing their code with it,” says Machin. “It’s like, ‘oh yeah, that’s running my code underneath.”’
Machin shares source code for his projects on GitHub, and invites others to build on his ideas. He’s seen dozens of unique contributors and hundreds of code forks, turning Alexa Pi into a global community project.
“I'll build something as an example, and other people will take the code and run with it,” says Machin. “That's more exciting to me than anything—seeing what people can do.”
With voice, says Machin, user experience is no long just about making something look good. Instead, it’s about making technology feel so natural, it just disappears into the background.
“The thing that voice enables for people is, it's very, very accessible. The technology gets out of the way, and we're just talking. And really, the best technology is something you don't know you're using. It just makes your life easier,” he says.
Machin urges other developers in enabling new possibilities with voice.
“Now is the time to start learning about voice and getting involved in it,” he says. “It’s exciting. It motivates me to build stuff and to help others do the same.”
Tell us about what you’re building for voice with Alexa. Tweet us using the hashtag #AlexaPioneers.