Alexa, I am going on a picnic
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We have been playing the picnic game with our kids growing up. Alexa is the perfect interface to play this game as it is a voice only memorization game!
What it does
You start by bringing something to the picnic and progressively add more items as long as you don't get 3 incorrect responses!
You: I am bringing apples Alexa: I am bringing burritos. We now have burritos and apples. You: I am bringing cats, burritos and apples Alexa: I am bringing doritos. We now have doritos, cats, burritos and apples. and so on...
How we built it
We built it using the Alexa SDK and Java as the programming language. We used the AWS Lambda approach to publish and run the code.
Challenges we ran into
We had lots of challenges. First, Alexa doesn't understand kids very well. We added a "sounds like" feature when comparing words to get around some of those issues, more can be done here to make this part even better. We needed to account for common errors in real use like "dogs no doritos" so that it doesn't count against the user if they end up with the right word. We also needed to edit the list of words Alexa would add to remove some words that were understood most frequently by Alexa (example: frisbee was frequently interpreted as bee) so we removed that word.
The biggest challenges however are not fully solved and I have submitted a feature request to Alexa. Because it is a memory game it is very common for someone to start answering and then pause to think or catch a breath. Alexa only waits about a second after a user has started speaking to stop listening and ends up "cutting off" the user. We added an error handler to try to catch this and not count against the number of errors when this occurs for a user to minimize frustration.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
What we learned
There are a lot of little nuances you need to build code for as you get real experience of end users
What's next for Picnic Game
Here are some potential future features that can make the game more fun. We will work on some of these after the competition is complete: Work with Amazon to fix issue where stop between words for too long to make it easier for kids Account for age differences with more difficult words Add different variations of the game (e.g. all items have to be yellow or same number of syllables or if math related all numbers are divisible by 3) Have word themes - e.g. based on holidays, superheroes, etc Enable “joke”/ funny words in some cases to keep it fun (easy to add but we thought may be confusing for new players/ first version) Compare and rate with previous games and/ or other players (e.g. this is your best game ever) Add speechcons and other fancier and responses (e.g. music, etc) Have a multiplayer version (more than one non-Alexa player)