We like getting news headlines on our Echos, but wished there were a better way to discover articles and save them for later reading. We decided to teach Alexa to do just that.
What it does
Articulate finds you news, and helps you save articles to read later. Just say, "Alexa, get me headlines on Articulate." Alexa will start reading top headlines from the New York Times and other news sources. If an article sounds interesting, tell Alexa to "save" the article for later. Alexa will then save that article to your Pocket account so you can read it offline later (on the subway, for instance).
You can also ask Articulate to find you articles on a specific topic by saying, for instance, "Alexa, ask Articulate: search for articles about Mexico."
How we built it
We used AWS Lambda to run our main application code, including fetching news headlines, saving articles to Pocket, and interacting with the Echo service. We also deployed a small Flask app on Heroku to handle Pocket authentication.
Challenges we ran into
Figuring out how to make Pocket authentication work with Amazon Echo was hard. Lots of passing around auth tokens, and debugging character encoding/decoding.
Figuring out all possible and likely speech combinations users might use to query the app turned out to involve a lot of creativity.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We were happy that we made a product we will use ourselves.
What we learned
We had fun learning how to use Alexa Skills Kit and Amazon Lambda. We found the Echo testing console and Lambda logs to be very helpful for debugging.
What's next for Articulate
We'll be submitting our Alexa skill for public launch, so that anyone can use it.