Inspiration

We've all had those moments where we're too lazy to open our phones or too busy to log into our computers, but we'd still like the convenient source of information. Using Empty Search, users can communicate with Alexa to browse the internet.

What it does

The user uses an Amazon Echo to communicate with Alexa, who then accepts their requests to access sites and google searches and reads aloud important information. For example, you may say "Use the web to search for 'best local restaurants in Kingston'." Alexa would read to you the very first headline of the Google search in addition to a short description. Alexa can further assist you with other information regarding the Google search, should you ask for it (ie. describe to me the fourth search; open the third search).

If you wish to access a particular webpage, Alexa can read aloud to you important information on the page. Due to __, we were only able to add one other website analysis in addition to a Google search, namely Wikipedia -- Alexa can regurgitate to you information on the Wikipedia article.

How I built it

We used node.js to scrape a Google search page for searches' titles, url links and descriptions, and store them in an array as object elements (a similar approach was used for a Wikipedia page). We used Amazon's custom API to teach Amazon Alexa to traverse the array when requested to by the user (e.g. read to me the fourth search's description, and then open that link).

Challenges I ran into

Merely setting up Alexa on our computers and familiarizing ourselves with the API and custom environment was a task in and of itself. Although writing the scripts to parse and scrape Google searches and particular web pages wasn't terribly difficult, integrating it with Alexa in such a way that it could understand the information was particularly difficult.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Our team was very good at being flexible with our approach and changing various roles/tasks of individual members as needed to maintain steady progress.

What I learned

It is extremely difficult to merge numerous parts of the project, integrating entirely different API, into a single cohesive entity that meets our initial target objectives. We continually needed to re-assess our goals, often completely changing our approach at addressing a particular issue, and be both flexible and open to new ideas.

What's next for BlindSearch

We would have loved to add more websites to Empty Search, as well as more functionality.

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