At AWS Summit 18-19 April 2017 there was a workshop for building Alexa Skills, which was the first hands-on Alexa workshop I'd been to so I decided to give it a go.

What it does

Da Vinci Quotes is the first-ever Alexa Skill that shares the words of wisdom of Leonardo da Vinci, the greatest genius the world has known. The skill is provided in English and in German.

How I built it

This app was built with Amazon Alexa, Amazon Lambda, Amazon Cloudwatch to track and troubleshoot log files, Node.JS (the Alexa sdk) and tested with

Challenges I ran into

The app was coded for English-US, English-GB and German languages which are what Alexa currently supports.

In my code, I'd used

const languageStrings = { 'en-UK': {translation: { FACTS: [ 'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.',

and this generated an error message. It turned out that I needed to use 'en-GB'!!!

For the German part of the skill I had to make some judgement calls because Google Translate had three options for da Vinci's most famous quote, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Einfachheit ist die entscheidende Kultiviertet --- Simplicity is the ultimate cultivation.

Einfachheit ist die ultimative Raffinesse --- Simplicity is the ultimate refinement.

Einfachheit ist die höchste Stufe der Vollendung --- Simplicity is the highest level of perfection.

I opted for "Einfachheit ist die ultimative Raffinesse."

Originally, I'd also translated the quotes into Italian and both forms of Chinese (pinyin and pictograph) before discovering that Alexa doesn't currently support these languages.

In any case, I have the Italian and Chinese language codes ready and good to go when Alexa does support them.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

12,500+ Alexa Skills have been certified in the last two years and this is the first-ever Da Vinci Quotes!

Most Alexa apps seem to have been coded by male engineers and I'm happy I was there in the AWS Summit workshop to represent female engineers and to learn the technical skills I needed. Male:female ratio in the workshop seemed to be 120:3.

What I learned

Learning how all the moving parts of building an Alexa Skill works is really useful knowledge. It helped me to put Slots into context and to understand the Intent Logic of Alexa.

What's next for Twain's Alexa Skills Development

I'm planning to do a Chocolate Recommendations app whereby Alexa then enables the buyer to order chocolate from Amazon by voice. So if I win a prize in this hackathon that would tool me more to do that since I don't own any Alexa devices!

More broadly, I'm hoping to integrate Alexa, Polly, Lex and other technologies so we can leave "voice crumbs" of our emotional experiences for friends to discover on a visual map.

"Voice crumbs" [(C) Twain 2017. All rights reserved. Coined by Twain, weekend of 21- 23 April 2017.]

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