My family members tend to get confused about calling each other across US time zones and keeping track of the other’s working hours. This can be especially troublesome if your mom is on the East Coast and decides to call you on the West Coast at 6 AM her time!

What it does:

A family member can store their time zone and available hours in the My Calls Skill running under their parent’s Alexa Account. When the parent asks the My Calls Skill if it’s a good time to call, if it’s not a good time, they will have a reminder put on their Alexa account for the next best time to call or be told that it’s a good time to call now.

How we built it:

• Used the Alexa Skills Kit development console and programmed in JavaScript with APL • Used Amazon DynamoDB to store family member settings in the cloud under the parent’s account • Used to perform time zone lookup and time calculations

Challenges we ran into:

• Handling time calculations across time zones is difficult. • Adding reminders that may be for the next day was tricky • Storing user settings when the Skill exits took a bit of work. • Immediately exiting the Skill to prevent confusion when settings were updated or it was a “good time to call” took some research. • Using AMAZON.TIME to collect a slot from a user who may only say “5” can be ambiguous, e.g. 05:00 or 17:00 (12hr vs. 24hr)

Accomplishments that we're proud of:

• At first, the task seemed impossible as an Alexa Skill can’t actually make an Alexa Call! It has to rely on the parent speaking the actual “call command”. This was accomplished by finding a way to immediately exit the Skill after speaking the prompt to the parent, verses waiting for the normal Skill timeout which would be confusing.

What we learned:

• It can be too difficult to ask users what time zone (or GMT offset) they are in as there are 8 in the US verses the 4 most people recognize. Asking users to enter a US zip code and calculating the time zone from “ zipcode-to-timezone” was much easier

What's next for My Calls:

• Add additional available time slots for the family member, e.g. AM & PM • Add support for additional family members • Add ARK (Alexa Routines Kit) to allow easy creation of an Alexa Routine to simplify the parent’s spoken command

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