Kids are the future and it is the responsibility of the adults to nurture their life force and make them grow in the right environment and ensure that they are always emotionally supported and sound. Unfortunately, in the present scenario with every day increasing competitiveness, children are very much trapped in stress and anxiety. So as we have experienced in our childhood too, that many a times we were unable to channelize the feeling within and even if we figure out what we are going through, we were not able to handle the situation with a cool and calm mind since we were not mostly aware of the tools that can make us at peace and transform our attitude into a positive one. And here is where the role of meditation and inspirational teachings come into play. It is scientifically proven that meditation helps in reducing stress,increasing concentration, increasing self awareness and improving health and enhancing emotional stability. Practicing meditation has no associated right age. The earlier, the better. But in the current busy scenario, parents and teachers are not able to devote sufficient time to teach children about meditation and its importance in an effective or proper way even if they want to. So as soon as we got to know about the Alexa kids skills challenge, we knew that we are going to contribute to such a tool for the children which would certainly help them calm and relax their minds to support them on an emotional level. Developing an Alexa skill was a perfect platform to make it possible. Through a series a relaxing meditations specifically aimed for children and incredibly relevant Buddha teachings in the form of short stories as well as quotes, we hope to induce a sense of healthy self esteem by lifting up their spirits and helps them realize their full potential to face the world before them head on.
What it does
Awakening soul will help the kid in improving life state by making the kid do meditation and then further making them learn about Buddha's incredibly relevant teachings by medium of stories and inspirational quotes and make them at peace.
'Awakening soul' sets up the right environment that is required to do meditation. It offers different types of meditation techniques originating from Buddha's way of meditating when asked for 'meditation' that are scientifically proven to improve children's mood, calm their minds, relax their bodies, enhance life force and help them develop healthy self esteem.
It not only makes children meditate but also teaches them excellent values taught by Buddha when asked for 'teachings' through the medium of randomly chosen story from plenty of short and crisp stories that help them retain these morals and include in their behavioral conduct.
When asked for 'quotes', it also presents the kid with many and many quotations by Buddha that would lift up their spirits and nurture their well being. It gives them an expansive and relaxed way of thinking which help them bring clarity and to reach their full potential.
When asked for 'Buddha' ,Awakening soul also introduces the children with the life of Buddha. One can choose to know any of the phases of Buddha's life by asking it about 'Early life', 'Mid life' and 'late life'. The purpose of telling about the life story is to make a better understanding of the transformation Buddha went through his journey of life that ultimately lead him to realization and enlightenment. The kind of questions Buddha is perplexed by in the childhood is a lot relatable to the never ending curiosity the kids have in their childhood phase too which the parents are not able to clarify out in the right way sometimes or it becomes too difficult for a child to comprehend.
How we built it
We created the skill using Alexa skill kit and Lambda function. To make the the lambda function, we used python as the coding language. We also used SSML tags in the skill for speech modulation such as breaks and emphasis which was very much required given the type of skill we made.
Challenges we ran into
Making the skill kids friendly was the most challenging task. Thinking everything from children's perspective and then adding the appropriate content in the apt manner was the main challenge.
Since we didn't have any of the devices such as echo dot or amazon echo, the testing part was comparatively difficult for us.
Making the video for demo of the skill was the most difficult task given the fact that we didn't have any of the Alexa devices. We did it using amazon developer online test simulator which took at least seven to eights cuts to shot that one particular video. And the amount of mental pressure we went through was beyond words as we were all this video on the very last day.
As we were working in a team so managing and dividing the work was quite a typical task. And as we got to know about the challenge too late( just in the mid of the last month), the amount of time remaining was too less and the work to be done was exceptionally huge.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Learning the Alexa skill development from the scratch. Using python to build the lambda function was a very new thing to fixing the errors time and again and then completing it was a big achievement.
Knowing and using SSML tags in the relevant manner so as to deliver a perfectly modulated speech was a great achievement.
Making a full fledged working Alexa skill and seeing it work properly was the biggest achievement. More than that the sense of contentment we got after completing it was incomparable.
Looking at the skill and knowing that we have made something very useful for the kids .Even if it can bring a change in the life of a single child by improving their life state on a daily basis, then that in itself would be greatest of all achievements.
We can surely commit that after going through this journey of developing our very first alexa skill has filled us with the determination to make such more life impacting skills for Alexa in the future.
What we learned
We learnt about the Alexa skill making from the scratch. We learnt more about the python language as we went on building the lambda function. We learnt using the most powerful tool called Amazon Cloud watch logs for error debugging.
We learnt that effectively impactful Alexa skills can be developed to be used in any sphere of life.
Managing and working on things in a team efficiently.
What's next for Awakening Soul
We want to personalize the kid's experience by using account integration to keep track of every essential thing.
We want to make it available for all alexa devices from Echo dot to echo show.
We want to work and improve the skill further by adding more and more appropriate content using DynamoDB.