Inspiration

I think that Echo devices, especially the ones with display, are great companion for the elderly. They can use it for things like music, news, short stories, reminders, etc. However, it is missing content tailored personally to them, from their close ones, their family.

What it does

The skill allows friends and family to post "directly" to one's Alexa. They can post images and text messages. That way everything is centered around the Alexa device and its owner(s). It can be our parents, our friendly neighbor, our long distance relative. As long as they have an Alexa device, they can give us access to what we call a "journal" that we can post interesting content to it. The way it is implemented, all devices with access to this journal, become members of this mini social network and can see each other's posts.

How we built it

For the first time I am building a skill using the Alexa Hosted Skill infra. Much love for it. Additionally for the web app I had to build a separate stack with Lambda, Dynamo, API Gateway and Cloud Front, the documentation was very well written on how you can access resources from Alexa Hosted account to outside.

Challenges we ran into

From the start of the project, I was assuming that skill can make use of push notifications. Only in the later stages of implementation, was I made aware that push notifications are actually only available for hospitality partners https://developer.amazon.com/en-US/docs/alexa/alexa-smart-properties/alexa-for-hospitality-notifications-api.html

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Proud of the Alexa Skill and Web App synergy, consistent layout model and the lovely addition of Alexa's VUI.

What we learned

New things that I was able to learn with this hackathon:

  • To use CDK
  • To render and support infinite scroll and paginated lists in APL
  • Alexa hosted skills - awesome to bootstrap most of the required infrastructure for an Alexa skill

What's next for Family Journal

I would love to explore how some notifications or routines can be implemented for the skill, so that consumers of it do not miss new posts. Provide further ability to share more rich content.

Image for media thanks to

Disha Sheta: https://www.pexels.com/photo/diary-and-yellow-flowers-tied-with-thread-3755770/

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Updates

posted an update

Thank you to everyone who tried, reviewed and gave feedback on the skill! I have made couple of updates, from bugfixes and small improvements, to the ability to post and open links and availability in the German store.

Hope you like the update!

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