The thought process only started when we heard about this hackathon. To be honest we spent a lot of days searching for an idea to fit into the life hacks challenge. In the end we realised that a single life hack will be limited to what a skill can do and as a voice search engine we need to cater to a wider set of requirements. When we looked around, there was plenty of material already on the web from real people and we wanted to provide a platform for them to highlight the work they have done.
What it does
It searches free form life hacks on websites like wikihow.com and eHow.com. Once a search matches the user’s query then the website is parsed dynamically at runtime and voice content is created on the fly along with any image or video source (If available to display on devices with screens). This gives us access to almost 5 million life hacks on the web and you can request Alexa to read out any of these life hacks.
How we built it
We have used bing search api to search keyword on targeted websites and created a parsing logic for each website in java. This way we are able create content dynamically. We are able to parse all text and media contents (images and videos) dynamically. We rank searches of every user (not linked to a user) within elasticsearch to provide alternative display options for each user, whilst taking into consideration most popular searches as well as last search items. We use php and mysql for all backend operations.
Challenges we ran into
The biggest challenge was getting the skill approved. For some reason our skill stayed in certification for the whole month, which is a lot longer than expected. By trying to launch the skill earlier, we were really looking for some user's feedback before we submit the form. We already had all other nuts and bolts in place from our other skills, so technically we were almost ready once we got the approval that this is what we are going to build.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
It's the first time we used elasticsearch as an AI engine. We primarily use it for our analytics. With this skill elasticsearch is no longer a passive system but it participates actively in providing content for the skills.
What we learned
The biggest learning is to not trust certification timeline and prepare as early as possible. Also our video making process has improved so hopefully we can use it to promote our skills in future using this powerful medium.
What's next for Life Hacks
We plan to add more and more websites as we go along which has content suited to this skill. Besides that we will look into user's feedback and incorporate what comes out of it.