As women ourselves, we have always been aware that there are unfortunately additional measures we have to take in order to stay safe in public. Recently, we have seen videos emerge online for individuals to play in these situations, prompting users to engage in conversation with a “friend” on the other side. We saw that the idea was extremely helpful to so many people around the world, and wanted to use the features of voice assistants to add more convenience and versatility to the concept.

What it does

Safety Buddy is an Alexa Skill that simulates a conversation with the user, creating the illusion that there is somebody on the other line aware of the user’s situation. It intentionally states that the user has their location shared and continues to converse with the user until they are in a safe location and can stop the skill.

How I built it

We built the Safety Buddy on the Alexa Developer Console, while hosting the audio files on AWS S3 and used a Twilio messaging API to send a text message to the user. On the front-end, we created intents to capture what the user said and connected those to the backend where we used JavaScript to handle each intent.

Challenges I ran into

While trying to add additional features to the skill, we had Alexa send a text message to the user, which then interrupted the audio that was playing. With the help of a mentor, we were able to handle the asynchronous events.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We are proud of building an application that can help prevent dangerous situations. Our Alexa skill will keep people out of uncomfortable situations when they are alone and cannot contact anyone on their phone. We hope to see our creation being used for the greater good!

What I learned

We were exploring different ways we could improve our skill in the future, and learned about the differences between deploying on AWS Lambda versus Microsoft Azure Functions. We used AWS Lambda for our development, but tested out Azure Functions briefly. In the future, we would further consider which platform to continue with.

What's next for Safety Buddy

We wish to expand the skill by developing more intents to allow the user to engage in various conversation flows. We can monetize these additional conversation options through in-skill purchases in order to continue improving Safety Buddy and bring awareness to more individuals. Additionally, we can adapt the skill to be used for various languages users speak.

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