OCR, or Obstacle Course Races, getting more and more popular. These days you can find hundreds of races but you need to know the name of the organizer or the name of the website. Otherwise you need a lot of time to search for races in user groups or magazines. An Alexa skill could be the perfect answer for this problem.
What it does
The skill is connected to a database filled with hundreds of races. All you need to know is the name of the city where you want to go, or a date, or a region, country, area or the name of the organizer. The skill will use these filters for the search. Locations will be selected by geocoding for example. If you don´t provide a location, city or country the skill will ask for it to fulfill the intent. The skill also provides an "OCR of the day" which is a randomly chosen event that happens during the next three weeks. To use the information when you are not at home you can ask the skill for details. The skill will send you an email with a calendar file attached. This means you can discover new races, select one of your choices, read the details and bring it to your mobile phone in less than 5 minutes.
How we built it
The infrastructure contains multiple functions which are currently hosted in Azure. For example a function for sending emails, a function for the Alexa skill backend, a function for the database search, etc. We used C# as our programming language.
For devices with display the screen is visualized with APL. So the content is presented much more readable and understandable for the user.
Challenges we ran into
The biggest challenge was the custom APL user interface.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
The OCR of the day was a feature that was not planned before but makes perfect sense to have something that a user can call every day. Also, the calendar attachment in the mail makes sense to convert the data in a more usable and portable environment. The APL with the calender view is such a nice thing which is not only a display of the spoken text. The visualization really helps the user.
What we learned
Dialog Management is a key factor. Avoid standard phrases and choose answers from a set of phrases for higher variety. Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech are much better than expected. Also much better than the past years.
What's next for Obstacle Rangers
New features are definitely planned. We like to add more languages like French and Spanish.