Crowning the New Amazon Alexa Champ at AWS re:Invent

This year at AWS re:Invent, Capital One and Amazon teamed up to sponsor the Alexa Skill Challenge. Focused on fostering the development of voice technologies, the Alexa Skills Challenge tasked participants with building a compelling, innovative voice experience using the Alexa Skills Kit. Some participants built new skills, some linked popular APIs to Alexa, some created interactive Alexa games, and some added voice control to Iot projects.

As an Alexa Champion and engineer at Capital One, I was honored to lend my expertise as a judge for this event. The entries were amazing to see, and showed how versatile this evolving voice platform has become

First Place — Baby Checkr

The first place entry combined not only the power of the Alexa voice platform, but also image analysis. The full write-up is on Hackster.io, but here’s a great demo of the skill in action.

Technology View including Voice Interaction for Baby Checkr

While you may think it’s difficult to create a new Alexa skill, this entry was created in just a matter days using the Alexa Platform along with a serverless architecture. An Alexa Skill for determining if your baby is sleeping, Baby Checkr utilizes a Foscam Security Camera, Lamba, DynamoDB, EC2, and S3 to “Check the little stink before having your next drink”.

The Finalists

Of the 233 participants in the contest, ten projects were chosen as “runners-up” to Baby Checkr. Many of the entries used third party API’s, and there was great use of several AWS services including Lambda, S3, and DynamoDB in the entries. Competition was fierce as you can see from a quick walk through of the functionality each skill provides.

A Cloud Guru created a voice activated Chaos Monkey able to test out the resilience of an AWS environment, shutting down instances on command. Fans of technology operations will appreciate Alexa helping out on Pager Duty, allowing tickets to be updated hands-free. Use WordPress? If so, use the Alexa plug-in that enables any WordPress site to create Alexa skills, allowing users to consume site content through voice.

Not all the projects were focused on the office. The DineTime skill not only helps users find the nearest restaurants, it also lets them know what the wait times are at restaurants using the APIs. Need tickets for a movie? The GetTickets skill can not only find a favorite film, it also sends a SMS with the ticket purchase link. If you just want to stay home and have a beer, there’s Beer Scout, a skill that leverages APIs from Untappd to find and review beers and even add them to your wishlist.

The Mars Rover skill is an adventure game that allows you to control the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit using just your voice. Need a workout helper? Then Tabata Workout is the skill for you. Perform high intensity 20 second interval training via Alexa and record your reps to track progress. Parents can get some additional help with the Ms. Doubtfire skill, making new parents’ lives easier by allowing Alexa to track a babies health. Just say “The baby ate 20 oz” or “My baby needs a new diaper” to get started.

One popular demonstration of rapid software development was Catch Me Up. For those who followed the product announcements at this year’s conference, one of the new services released was Amazon Rekognition. Rekognition allows developers to add image analysis to their applications. The Catch Me Up skill had this new service prototyped and in use — just 48 hours after it was launched on Tuesday!

Thank You

I was honored to take part in the judging for the Alexa Skills Challenge. It was a great experience, not to mention a great addition to this year’s AWS re:Invent conference. I hope to see some of these skills published soon and want to thank all the participants who took part in this challenge.


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