As OneSheep, we want to reach out to the 'lost' with technology. While there are many Bible skills already available for Alexa, the majority are aimed at people who are already Christians. We wanted to create something that people who don't already know a lot about the Bible could use to discover a little bit more.
What it does
Bible Chat allows users to ask natural questions about topics and subjects the Bible might contains answers to, via the Alexa Bible Chat skill. The skill answers these questions by providing descriptive response followed by scripture. A user can then ask for more or ask for where to find that passage in the Bible.
How we built it
We set up two repos on Bitbucket, one for the Alexa Skill and another for the API that we use to interact dynamically with the Alexa skillset. We have a Digital Ocean VPS which hosts the admin interface and Bible knowledge base. The Alexa skill runs on Node.JS hosted on AWS' Lambda service and the API is built with PHP and MySQL using the Laravel framework.
We had challenges getting our test app registered on our test device. Code deployment to AWS Lambda didn't allow for multiple contributors, only one person could deploy. We gave up trying to set up multiple developers.
It took a little time to manage the pace and flow of Alexa's responses and we learnt tricks about how to slow down, add pauses and get the best intonation we could.
We specifically designed the system to be expandable without having to write code. Admins can log in and simply add knowledge through tags, and scripture references that the Bible Chat API can draw from. Putting the power of the Echo into the hands of those with Biblical knowledge and a ministry to help people learn about the Bible.
What we learned
We were amazed at the incredible potential built into the platform. It's the first time working with the Alexa API and voice based services. Out of the box, the platform does all the text-to-speech and speech-to-text parsing and has a well designed session management mechanism that we could use to maintain conversational context in longer dialogues.
What's next for Bible Chat
We'd love to release this to the Skills Store, but need to expand Bible Chat's knowledge and consider the copyright implications. In the future after expanding the breadth of Bible Chat's knowledge we'd like to look at templating deeper problem trees on each topic so users can truly wander through a conversation on a wide and deep range of Bible content.