When visiting my in-laws for the holidays they had an Echo and my four year old daughter fell in love with it. One thing I noticed, though, was that she kept asking Alexa to be friends and the answer was very short. I thought it would be great to actually let her have a conversation and really become friends. Plus, this was a way I could help build good friendship habits for when she heads off to kindergarten next year.
What it does
This skill has several randomized responses to some normal "get to know you" questions like, what's your favorite color, animal or number. I tried to make it seem like Alexa is actually listening and responding to you so that the kids feel special and like they've made a new friend. I made it randomized so that no two conversations should be exactly the same.
How I built it
I built this using ASK and AWS Lambda. It took a while to get it just right and to figure out what I was doing but I'm pretty proud of it and am excited to see if anyone else likes it.
Challenges I ran into
I have some programming experience but had never done anything like this before. Originally, I was going into ASK just for fun but when I saw this competition it became an exciting challenge to learn to build a skill in just over a week. I think the hardest part was learning a new syntax and trying to apply what I already knew to make something that I was sure was possible. I also had a hard time wrapping my head around slots and interfaces especially when it came to making sure any response from the user would be collected and responded to in a normal way. I leaned heavily on the certification team and documentation to make sure the skill worked as it should.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I think the coolest part of this skill is the randomization in the conversation. Every time Alexa responds I'm excited to see what she will say. I tried to make them funny but serious enough so that the skill isn't a joke because I think that it could really help kids who are shy or need practice making friends.
What I learned
I learned how to build Alexa skills and have already built another skill since I'm so excited about the possibilities it brings. I think I will also look into bot programming because I have really found something that is fun for me as well as my daughter. I think I learned that she is really interested in this as well and now every day she asks to "mess with Alexa", where we go in and have her say funny things.
What's next for Let's Be Friends
I plan to add in more questions, the ability to remember people (once I learn how to build some sort of data storage function), and let the user ask Alexa questions. I think it would be really cool if this got smart enough to actually build a friendship and I think, if this is the way technology is going, that kids need practice talking with "computers" in a safe environment.
I hope you enjoy this skill. I like it and so does my daughter. It was a great chance to get her interested in programming and to build something to help build her confidence that she can make friends with anyone while making her feel special. Thanks for your time!