Building Conversations With Alexa

Having an Amazon Echo Dot in my office is quite fun, and I've accidentally started writing more skills and giving a few talks about building skills for the Alexa toolchain. Today I created a skill that uses multiple steps to make a conversation and thought I'd better write down what I did so I'd be able to remember!

The basic idea is that when creating the "intent", i.e. the action that you want Alexa to do, you also define "slots". The slots are the variables; if this were a command line tool, they'd be the arguments you typed. It's possible to include both intent and slots in your wording when you speak to Alexa, but equally you can just invoke the skill and have it prompt you for the rest of the information. Continue reading

Alexa Project Name Generator on OpenWhisk

I'm having lots of fun with my Amazon echo and echo dots, creating skills for them. Initially I used Amazon's lambda platform since that's a very easy way to get started - but I'm an advocate for IBM and was looking for an excuse to play with OpenWhisk (an open source serverless offering that Bluemix has a hosted version of) anyway so this was a great opportunity!

Configuring Skills

There are a bunch of good resources around for setting up skills, picking the name, configuring the "invocation" which is what to say to make the code happen, and so on. I'll skip this section and instead just share a couple of tutorials that I rely on a lot:

Once your skill is configured, it's time to write the code (note: UK users need to pick English (UK) and not English (US) as otherwise your skill will mysteriously fail in your home region. Guess how I learned that??) Continue reading

Alexa, When's the Bus?

I got an Amazon Echo for my birthday (from my husband, who took romantic to a new level when he liked my present so much he bought me an Amazon dot a week later so he could use the echo elsewhere in the house!), which is a new gadget for us. Of course I started asking her questions that she couldn't answer ... and you can write your own "skills" so of course I sat down to browse the documentation and ended up creating a working skill for her :) It was a fun process but there were lots of unfamiliar parts to it so I thought I'd blog what I did in case anyone else wants to try out creating skills as well, and in case I ever want to remember some of the stuff I know now!

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