We all need to take a break sometimes, but we end up doing the same things. This Alexa app is designed to provide users with lots of ideas to make the most of your break times.

What it does

Most simply, it provides ideas for when you want to take a break. It also is designed to provide fast follow up if you don't like the suggestion with more ideas until you find one you like. It also keeps track of what was suggested so it doesn't say it multiple times.

How I built it

I built this skill from scratch using the Alexa NodeJS SDK (v1).

Challenges I ran into

I intended to make it possible to set a timer for a given activity, such as taking a 15 minute break to read. This would make it easy to get an alert when the defined break time is up. However, there is no way to set a timer on behalf of a user, they must do it themselves directly. The Notifications API is still not available for all projects, so that essentially prevents me from setting a timer or alert when the break is up.

The Alexa NodeJS v2 SDK was released after I started, and at first I started to work on updating. However, the documentation and my knowledge of the API was largely based on v1 so it was more effort than it was worth to try and upgrade during the course of this challenge.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

  • It works with the Echo Show and Spot, so suggestions appear on the screen for you as well as heard.
  • Track if a user is brand new or not to provide a more meaningful welcome.
  • Can navigate between previous suggestions if you want to go back and forth.

What I learned

I've learned a decent amount about the nuances of Alexa's NodeJS SDK, as well as its recently refreshed developer console.

What's next for Take a Break

I'd like to expand the set of ideas and suggestions, as well as provide a way to get a 'twist' on the current idea. For example, if it suggests to read the next chapter in your book, you might want to read something else and can ask for a similar idea to hear another reading suggestion.

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