When I was first introduced to Zach Feldman, Chief Academic Officer and Co-Founder of The New York Code + Design Academy, I knew I was talking with an Alexa connoisseur. Before Amazon publicly released the Alexa Skills Kit, Zach was talking about how to add capabilities to Alexa. Couple this with publishing alexa-home, a popular project on GitHub to use Amazon Echo to control home automation software, before we even released the Smart Home Skill API. Zach has always shown a keen interest in the voice space. Fast forward a year later, it made complete sense to bring Zach’s knowledge of Alexa development to The New York Code + Design Academy.
Today, I’m excited to announce a collaboration between The New York Code + Design Academy (NYCDA) and Amazon Alexa. NYCDA has been training developers – at all levels – with hands-on, intensive workshops in web and mobile app development for the past three years.
This summer, NYCDA students will be able to attend the first in-person training on building Alexa skills with Ruby and Sinatra as the language and framework of choice. Students will begin by gaining an understanding of the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). From there, they’ll move on to building an Alexa skill together as a class with both a simple skill and one that accesses an external API. They’ll be able to test their voice user experiences with Amazon Tap speakers, Alexa-enabled devices provided by the school. The course will wrap up with an independent final project and will walk students through the process of certification and publication of their first Alexa skill. Classes will run from August 9, 2016 through September 27, 2016. To enroll, students can apply here.
Wait, there’s more. Zach will be hosting a free lecture on the Alexa skill infrastructure and what goes into building your first skill on June 21, 2016 at 6:30 p.m ET at NYCDA’s headquarters in New York City. If you’re in the area don’t miss this opportunity to meet him, learn more about Alexa skill development, and ask questions about NYCDA’s 8-week Alexa course. Save your spot.
“Amazon Alexa is one of the most compelling new software and hardware integrations I've seen in a while! I can't wait to bring the power of Alexa to our students and the Ruby development community.” - Zach Feldman, Chief Academic Officer and Co-Founder of The New York Code + Design Academy
Learn more about the Alexa course from NYCDA here.
When Daniel Rassiner contemplated what he wanted his custom Alexa skill to do, he decided to build a voice experience based on a popular internet topic – enter Daily Cutiemals. With the skill enabled, anyone can ask Alexa to send them an email every day featuring an image (cute, naturally) of their requested animal species from the Imgur library.
Bloc, an education company with mentor-led programs in software engineering and design, recently enhanced several of their curriculums by adding an Alexa Project module. In this new module, Daniel and other students like him, learn how to build compelling voice experiences with the Alexa Skills Kit and thereby create Alexa skills they can add to their portfolios.
With an understanding of Alexa and an idea for his custom skill, Daniel’s first order of business was to determine whether Alexa could interact properly with the Imgur API. To do this Daniel tested using static data. The test was successful, so he delved into interaction with the AWS DynamoDB and using ES6 fetches/promises to find the appropriate picture.
Because Alexa uses JSON files to organize its communications, creating the intent schema for the skill enabled Rassiner to beef up his Java expertise. He used the Custom Slots and Sample Utterances capabilities to give users a list of animals and adjectives to choose from.
Editor’s note: This tutorial was updated with the new skill submission flow in April 2016.
Programming for the Alexa platform is a new paradigm for everyone. Creating a solid Voice User Interface (VUI), understanding the Alexa platform, how to interact with it and certifying your skill all need to be mastered in addition to actually programing your skill in Node.js, Python, Java or whatever your favorite language may be.
This post attempts to walk the first time Alexa skills developer through the steps involved in creating a solid skill that can actually be submitted for certification. Understanding the scope of what is involved while using a cut/paste approach to the programing required should enable you to grasp the parts involved and how they all fit together. Nothing is better for learning a thing than actually doing a thing – let’s get started!
We are going to take a reference skill called ‘Reindeer Games’, a trivia game popular on the Alexa platform, and adapt it by creating a trivia game of your own to submit for certification. The framework has all of the business logic, use-cases, error handling and help functions already implemented – you just need to plug in your own question/answers and edit a couple lines of script.
Important: Follow the instructions below which step you through setting up the Framework Trivia Game, ‘Reindeer Games’ – be sure you have this working before you move on to adapting it to your set of questions.[Read More]
We are excited to announce that all of the Alexa sessions from AWS re:Invent 2015 are now freely available online. These sessions includes everything you need to get started as an Alexa developer, real world tips and advice, as well as first hand Alexa Skill creation experiences told directly from Capital One and BMW.
What follows is the full day of Alexa session recordings and links to download the slides.
(MBL301) Creating Voice Experiences Using Amazon Alexa [Watch Video][Download Slides]
David Isbitski, Principal Evangelist, Alexa and Echo
Alexa is the speech and personal assistant technology behind Amazon Echo. Today you can use Alexa to listen to music, play games, check traffic and weather, control your household devices such as Philips Hue and Belkin WeMo, and lots more. Alexa offers a full-featured set of APIs and SDKs that you can use to teach her new skills and add her into devices and applications of your own. In this talk, intended for software and hardware developers interested in voice control, home automation, and personal assistant technology, we will walk through the development of a new Alexa skill and incorporate it into a consumer-facing device.
We recently launched the Alexa Lighting API extending Alexa’s built-in lighting skill so she can securely control cloud-connected lighting and switch devices. This new API enables you to write code that translates between Alexa’s built-in lighting skill and your lighting device’s proprietary control systems. Once a customer turns on the functionality, they can control these new devices simply by saying phrases like, “Alexa, turn on the living room lights” or "Alexa, turn off the fan."
The Alexa Lighting API can be used to control any cloud-connected device that can be turned on/off or have its brightness adjusted. Discoverability is easy! Devices that you enable automatically show up in the Alexa companion app in the Connected Home settings screen. Wink and Samsung SmartThings have already built this functionality for their home automation hubs using the Alexa Lighting API, and any new devices you integrate will show up right alongside those!
In order to get things started a customer will need to connect their desired device to your skill adapter in the Alexa companion app. This process is handled via standard OAuth providers, like Login with Amazon, to make the experience as simple as possible.[Read More]