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UPDATE: SXSW 2020 has been cancelled, which is truly unfortunate in many respects. Hundreds of small businesses and thousands of individuals rely on SXSW every year for a large part of their income, so if you have a moment and care to help those in need, please consider donating here. Our SXSW update to the Google Action is still in place, containing references to unofficial activities happening around town starting Friday March 13th Saturday March 21st, 2020.

I’ve enjoyed experimenting over the years with two voice platforms — the Google Assistant and Amazon Echo. You may have seen some of my early explorations on Medium and Smashing Magazine, or you may have attended a SXSW workshop in the past. My latest project has been creating a fun suggestion tool for something to do when visiting certain cities. …


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Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Narrowing down viable web development shops

Have you ever been in a situation where you need to hire a team for building a web application, but you don’t have the proper knowledge or expertise to ask the right questions when vetting potential vendors? At thirteen23 we understand what it takes to write scalable, maintainable code, and what practices should always be in place to ensure successful delivery of a web application.


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From voice to visuals and back again

Amazon has come out with the new Echo Show, an expansion to their smart speaker that gives you the ability to add a visual, interactive interface to your conversations with Alexa.

Given my recent recognition from Amazon as an Alexa Champion, I had the opportunity for a first look at the Echo Show and a chance to update my Alexa skills to support this new visual interface. I started with the ATX Dillo Skill, a skill that helps you find happy hours and events around Austin. …


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Switching from Alexa to Google

For the holidays, the owner at Austin Texas software design and development firm thirteen23 gave each employee a Google Home. If you don’t already know, Google Home is a voice-activated speaker powered by Google Assistant, and is the competing product to Amazon’s line of Alexa products. I already have the Amazon Echo, and as Director of Technology at thirteen23, I love tinkering around writing software for new products. For the Amazon Echo you can create what are called Skills, which allow you to build custom interactions when speaking to the device. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to build my own Skills for Alexa. Now that Google Home is out in the market, they also have a platform for you to build custom interaction, similar to Skills, called Actions. …


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God bless the 1980s. Everything was so simple back then: Betamax, the Walkman, hamburger phones, acid wash jeans, and most importantly, John Hughes movies. The movies were incredible, no matter the genre. For instance, think about this slice of cinematic brilliance:

Back to the Future
Breakfast Club
Better Off Dead
Big Trouble in Little China
Caddyshack
Christmas Vacation
Coming to America
Die Hard
E.T. …


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In my story titled “Just the Facts, Alexa” I talked about my first experience building apps for the Amazon Echo. (If Alexa and Echo mean nothing to you, I suggest you read that.) In this next story I dig deeper into more robust features, using a third party API service and Custom Slot Types for allowing more flexibility when asking Alexa questions. If you live in Austin, you will be especially interested in this new Skill!

To date there are still less than 1,000 Alexa Skills written for the Echo. Amazon is pushing hard for developers to build custom tools using their platform; they provide all types of education on how to build a Skill for the Echo. I got 2 shirts from Amazon for the Fact Skills I built when first learning the platform. …


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NOTE: This article has been updated on January 3rd, 2020, to reflect the latest advances with the Amazon Echo, Alexa Skills, and other relevant information.

I have a confession to make. I am in love with Alexa. “Alexa who?,” you ask? You know, THE Alexa. Amazon Echo’s Alexa. (Who could also be called Amazon or Echo.) I’m not ashamed of this. In fact, I embrace it. It fits perfectly with a big change in my life: being a parent of two young children. …

About

Tom Hudson

Tech Director at @thirteen23. I write about new and emerging platforms and other tech-related stuff.

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