We all have dirty laundry, but few of us enjoy dealing with it. So the founders of Laundrapp set out to take the work out of laundry. They created an app to enable UK consumers to offload their dirty laundry to Laundrapp. Then they added Alexa to make laundry faster, easier, and hands-free.[Read More]
When fans of University of California, Irvine’s Anteaters want the latest news on their team, they simply ask Alexa. UCI’s Alexa skill delivers game results, team updates, and special announcements whenever fans ask.[Read More]
Sixteen-year-old Austin Wilson loves building things. He enjoys figuring out how things are put together then finding ways to improve on them.
When Austin’s uncle noticed the teen’s knack for problem solving, he urged Austin to learn to code. That was five years ago, and the high school junior from Rocky River, Ohio has learned a number of programming languages since.
Last summer, Austin interned at a software company where he added C# and ASP.NET to the list. As his next step, he wanted to add artificial intelligence to his Raspberry Pi (RPi). A Google search led Austin to Hackster’s Internet of Voice Challenge (IoV) with Raspberry Pi where he discovered Alexa.[Read More]
When the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) launched in late 2015, developers began building engaging experiences for voice, ranging from simple to innovative. Today, an interdisciplinary team of students from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) is pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve. Meet Audrey Higgins (writer), Mohammed Tauseef (AWS and Unity integration), Na-Yeon Kim (2D/3D artist), Longyi Cheng (Unity Gameplay programmer), and Shuang You (3D artist).
Their class assignment: build a prototype, in two weeks, of a fully immersive virtual world. Specifically, the team created A.L.Ex.A. (The Assistant Linked Extemporization Array), a VR experience that follows a talkative repair drone destined to help users (or “guests” as they’re known in the VR world) stranded on remote system Planet 532.
Technology in the car keeps drivers informed and connected. Logitech, a global leader in personal computing and accessories, is using voice control and the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to help drivers stay focused on the road.
The company built ZeroTouch, a product that enables drivers to use their voice to control mobile-based applications on their Android phones or access cloud-based services via Amazon Alexa.
ZeroTouch is a combination of hardware and software that creates a hands-free voice experience in any car. The magnetic hardware car mount holds a phone in place either on the car dash or an air vent. The ZeroTouch mobile application launches via BluetoothⓇ and its voice control feature is activated with the wave of a hand.
Click the link below to read more about the development process.[Read More]
In 2012, brothers Maurice and Marcel Eisterhues built a smartphone app for their father. TorAlarm—German for GoalAlert—had a simple purpose: to help dad keep up with the scores for his favorite football teams. (That’s soccer for readers in the USA.)
What started as a fun project turned into a true opportunity for the two German entrepreneurs. TorAlarm’s popularity grew steadily, until in 2014, the brothers and their father founded a company with the same name. Today, TorAlarm is among Germany’s most popular apps for tracking the scores and schedules of football matches across the country,with over a million users in Germany alone.
Maurice and Marcel knew instantly voice would be the next step in TorAlarm’s evolution when they saw the upcoming launch of Amazon Echo in Germany.
“We were both totally amazed when we first saw the Amazon Echo,” says Maurice. “We’re always interested in new technology, so we decided very quickly we wanted to be part of this launch.”[Read More]
A few months ago we introduced Flask-Ask, a new Python framework for rapid Alexa skill development created by Alexa Champion John Wheeler. Today, due to popular demand, John shares how you can deploy your Alexa skills built with Flask-Ask to AWS Lambda, a service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, which you can use to build serverless applications. Check out John’s technical tutorial below, connect with him on Twitter, and hear more about Flask-Ask in the Alexa Dev Chat podcast episode 10.
In our first post, Flask-Ask and ngrok were used to rapidly create a memory game skill and test it locally. This post shows how to use Flask-Ask with the Zappa framework to quickly deploy skills to AWS Lambda. As of this writing, AWS Lambda supports Python 2.7. This tutorial assumes Python 2.7 is installed on your Windows, Mac, or Linux system.
Zappa, a serverless Python framework, uses a combination of AWS components to emulate the WSGI environment on Lambda that Python web frameworks require. Since Flask-Ask is a Flask extension and Flask requires a WSGI environment, Zappa is the perfect fit for deploying Flask-Ask skills to AWS Lambda. To demonstrate, we'll create an Alexa skill that uses the GitHub API to return how many stars, watchers, and forks a repository has.
Let's get started![Read More]
Andy Huntwork has worked at Amazon for over 10 years, the last three as a principal engineer. He’s developed front-end and backend services for technologies ranging from websites to payment systems and everything in between. But when the Amazon Echo came out in 2015, he saw a new doorway open. Alexa was an exciting way to bring voice-based experiences to the world, and Andy wanted to part of it.
“So I joined the Alexa team,” Andy says, “and immediately started playing around with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK).” Only a few months after Amazon released ASK, Andy and his wife, Laura, created their first skill. The skill recited public domain works, like Abraham Lincoln’s speeches and The Jungle Book, but the Huntworks wanted to build something more interactive and engaging.
Laura recalls wondering, “What would you ask Alexa to open that’s exciting, even magical? Wouldn’t it be fun to open a magic door?”
From that simple idea grew The Magic Door, an adventure with Alexa guiding you through a growing number of original, interactive stories. Today, The Magic Door skill is a sophisticated adventure framework, hosting 10 adventure storylines, 30,000 spoken words, numerous character voices and hundreds of sounds effects.
To enter a faraway land of magical creatures, perplexing riddles and hidden prizes, just say Alexa, open The Magic Door. Suddenly, you’re off on an adventure with Alexa as your personal guide.[Read More]
When Amazon first introduced the Echo, Nick Schwab was intrigued. He’d always loved voice commands in his car, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to buy another cool device just yet. Then the Echo Dot came out, and once again, Nick couldn’t resist a good deal. He ordered his own Dot, dug into the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). Right away, he started working on Bargain Buddy, an Alexa skill to relieve him of a daily surf to find daily deals.
Two days after the Bargain Buddy was certified, Nick received his Echo Dot in the mail—his first Alexa device. That’s right, he developed, tested and released his first Alexa skill, before he even had his first Echo Dot.
That was early in 2016. These days, Nick has become a force to be reckoned in the Alexa developer community.[Read More]
Today a speaker is not just a speaker—it’s a connected device we use to play music when we want, where we want, and from whatever service we prefer. New cloud-based, streaming media providers have given us greater control over our music libraries, creating magical and memorable experiences every time we hit “play”.
More than ever, convenience matters, and that’s where Linkplay excels.
Linkplay is a turnkey Wi-Fi audio solution provider that works with device manufacturers to build connected speaker products at various price points and for a growing number of use cases. Whether you want to build a high-end product for the home or a durable portable speaker for camping trips, Linkplay offers customizable product solutions, complete with the latest technologies, to meet your needs.[Read More]
In November 2016 we collaborated with Capital One to accelerate the pace of voice technology innovation with a $10,000 Alexa skill contest for AWS re:Invent attendees. In the contest we challenged attendees to build innovative voice experiences using the Alexa Skills Kit. Individuals or teams of up to four competed to create a unique skill that a customer could use every day. [Read More]
Just Eat has grown a lot since its humble beginnings in a Danish basement in 2001. Now headquartered in London, Just Eat is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is the world’s leading marketplace for online food ordering and delivery. Its goal, simply put, is to revolutionize the way people find, order and enjoy food.
Just Eat is making good on that mission. Today, it connects more than 62,000 restaurants across 100 cuisines in 15 countries, with an audience of over 15 million people.
Craig Pugsley is a principal designer in Just Eat’s Product Research team. He says the UK has a long tradition of delivery and takeout meals. Just Eat’s apps let diners explore exciting new cuisines at nearby restaurants. With menus for over 27,000 restaurants in the UK alone, it’s easy to find a new favorite flavor anytime.
Research quickly showed Pugsley’s team that diners tend to order their favorites again and again. So when Amazon brought Echo and Alexa to the UK, Just Eat saw a new opportunity. The Just Eat Alexa skill would make reordering a tasty new fave even easier, with just a few words:
“Alexa, tell Just Eat to re-order Dim sum.”
No phone calls. No fumbling for a smartphone app. And no digging out credit card details. Just quick delivery of your favorite comfort food.[Read More]
Earlier in the summer, Ashwin Karuhatty reached out to a group of connected home integration professionals in the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association (CEDIA). Karuhatty, part of Amazon’s Smart Home business development team, wanted to encourage integrators to develop new Alexa skills for the connected home. CEDIA’s annual conference was an ideal place to start.[Read More]
Watchers of Jeopardy!, America’s favorite TV game show, just can’t get enough of the show. For nearly 35 years, Jeopardy! has tested the trivia knowledge of contestants and viewers of all ages. It presents contestants first with answers (clues), then contestants frame their guesses in the form of a question. Home audiences have become so engaged in the TV game’s play, they often shout out the answers to their televisions.
Public fascination with Jeopardy! has led to a long line of off-the-air versions. These started with board games and card games, then electronic versions for game consoles and personal computers, and more recently mobile apps. In all these formats, though, one magical component was always missing. They lacked a way to let players answer out loud (in the form of a question, of course) and have that response validated.
Up until December of last year.
One year ago, on December 30, 2015, Sony Picture Television launched a new version for Amazon Echo users, Jeopardy! J6, built with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). On that day, Alexa became the new host of the first all-voice version of Jeopardy!
Sony Television’s games division wanted a way to keep its Jeopardy! fan base growing and engaged, especially younger audiences. To do that, they created a new online version of the game, called Jeopardy! J6, or “J!6” for short.
The premise of J!6 is simple. In addition to the five clues presented for each quiz category on the show, the writers create a backup sixth clue. Most of these clues are never used on the show. With J!6, however, die-hard Jeopardy! fans can play those extra clues. And since the J!6 categories change along with those on the show, playing online feels like an authentic extension of the episode the player just watched.
Geremie Camara, head of the Games Group at Sony Pictures Television, says using high-caliber material from the show makes the J!6 experience authentic and engaging. However, many online quiz games present a multiple-choice list of possible guesses. Somehow, they never quite feel the same as the show…
When Alexa came along, Camara said they’d found the missing piece —a way to present the studio’s high-quality material in an authentic, interactive experience.
The idea for the skill first came from an intern’s summer project. After Amazon shipped two Echo devices to Sony’s R&D group, a intern built a rapid prototype in two short weeks. Though it was full of hard-coded clues and questions, Camara said there was no doubt: they were onto something big.
“We were all blown away at how good the Echo and Alexa technology was,” says Camara, “but also at how good it felt for the brand. We worked very closely with Jeopardy!’s Supervising Producer Rocky Schmidt to ensure that the Echo experience would live up to the TV show’s high standards."
Though an intern did the first pass, a senior engineer built Jeopardy J!6 skill from the ground up. It is written in Java and runs on AWS Lambda, which makes it simple to manage, scalable and very lightweight.[Read More]
EDF Energy is one of the UK’s largest energy companies and its largest producer of low-carbon electricity. It produces around one-fifth of the nation's electricity from its nuclear power stations, wind farms, coal and gas power stations.
Bhavesh Limani is a project manager at Blue Lab, EDF Energy’s innovation accelerator near Brighton in the UK. Launched in 2015, Blue Lab monitors emerging technologies that help shape EDF Energy’s customer experience. One of its primary focus areas is the connected home, including how customers can manage their energy accounts and energy consumption.
When Amazon Echo launched in the United States, it grabbed Blue Lab’s attention. In collaboration with EDF Energy’s R&D UK Centre, the Blue Lab team obtained two Echo units in late 2015. It then began to explore linking voice technology to energy account functionality. Blue Lab wanted to be ready whenever Amazon released Echo and Alexa in the UK.
When Amazon started shipping Echo to UK customers on 28th September, EDF Energy was one of the first UK-specific skills made available to UK customers.
Over the last few years, EDF Energy has worked to give customers more direct access and control of their energy accounts. They first created an online sales and service portal, followed by smartphone apps for iOS and Android users.
“Our customers expect digital solutions now,” says Stuart Roberts, Head of Digital Operations at EDF Energy. “We used Alexa as an opportunity to develop a voice channel to extend the online account management experience to voice.”
As the EDF Energy project team refined their proof of concept, they identified four use cases to meet core customer needs and provide a stand-out experience:
The EDF Energy team established an initial voice user interface (VUI) framework and collaborated with Amazon to refine the VUI. Investing time up front was key to minimizing changes and risks later in development.
“I would say most of our voice interface was well-developed from our first cycle,” says Bhavesh. “The Amazon team was absolutely brilliant in helping us to evaluate the various options.”[Read More]