Well, I thought about the current state of chemistry education in schools and started to remember how disconnected the whole topic felt while I learned it as a child. I started to think about how the education could get the kids more involved and how it could be delivered in short snippets via voice commands, thus the idea of Palchemist started to bloom. That's when I decided a great way to deliver the kind of education that would engage and entertain kids was to break complex topics such as chemical allotropes, the periodic table, and chemical compositions of everyday items down into bits of information that kids can scan through with simple commands to their Alexa device. Then to take it a step further and engage the visual learning mechanisms of the kids with the augmented reality companion app which illustrates their journey with Palchemist as they explore the chemical universe.
What it does
DefineElementIntent requests a short snippet from the wiki api about the element requested simultaneously the molecule is displayed in augmented reality through the companion cross-platform web application. Then if the child chooses to learn more they can watch a kid-friendly video on any one of the 118 periodic table of elements and soon they will be able to walk through guided lesson plans on the elements, compounds, or chemistry related topics such as energy storage, energy generation, and many more.
How I built it
The Voice User Interface was built with the Alexa Skills Kit and AWS Lamda. The Alexa skill is then augmented with a voice-activated web service call to an application hosted on Heroku that delivers the molecular models into augmented reality on request.
Challenges I ran into
Well having never worked with Alexa skills kit, Lamda, Ar.js or Heroku before the learning curve to get all of these technologies talking was quite formidable. By far loading, the 3-d models into AR had to be the hardest of the tasks because of the severe lack of documentation on the tech.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Rendering the models in AR and getting everything to talk to each other based on web services and GET/POST requests.
What I learned
How powerful Alexa can become with all of these abilities accessible through a few utterances and a few cool technologies that I've mentioned above.
What's next for Palchemist
To build out the content with compounds, alloys, and more becoming searchable and viewable in AR. Guided & illustrated lesson plans for various chemistry-related topics. Add in functionality to search google scholar for element/compound/topic related whitepapers and making them downloadable. Possibly a physics simulator down the road with some type of machine learning aspect for user-created chemical compounds Stay tuned..