My background is in IT/Network support, and I’ve always had an interest in programming. I was intrigued by the Echo as soon as I saw it advertised.
Since I live in the UK, I had to import my first Echo from the States before they became available over here. I could see the potential of Skills so I began playing around with the Alexa Skills Kit. I now develop Alexa skills in my spare time and I published my first skill in February this year.
Burglar Deterrent has been my most successful skill, it’s intended to provide an extra level of home security by giving the appearance someone is at home when you are away.
I saw how popular the ambient noise skills are, such as wave sounds etc, so I started to think if there was any way to adapt this concept to make it useful in other ways. I combined this with trying to create a skill that can be used regularly and for long periods of time. That was when I came up with the idea of creating sound environments which mimic someone being at home.
I realized people have Echo devices in many different rooms throughout the house so created an environment for each. People often mention the Home Alone similarity, which I didn’t think of at first, although maybe subconsciously growing up with those films had an impact!
I developed the skill within Amazon Web Services, using node.js code and hosting the audio files on an S3 bucket. Creating the sound files took up a lot of the time, using audio editing software.
I’m currently working on updates for Burglar Deterrent to add extra functionality. The main request has been allowing the skill to be scheduled or activated remotely, but unfortunately this isn’t technically possible within the Alexa Skill Kit environment for custom skills at present.
The aim is to add this when/if the functionality is available to the platform. I’m always thinking of new ideas for skills, it’s finding an idea that stands out that is difficult!
I found the best place to start was looking at the Alexa templates available on githubhttps://github.com/alexa/ Then creating a skill modified from one of those, maybe a trivia skill for example (my first skill was WDW Quiz, a Walt Disney World trivia game).
The Amazon Developer forum is a great source of help too. Spend some time thinking of something unique, that is widely applicable to lots of people. Making the skill available in as many countries as possible is also a good idea, it’s fairly simple to add all of the English speaking regions. Once you have a good idea, it’s often difficult getting the word out so people are aware of it. That’s where Voiciety is really useful once you have published your skill!
“Once you have a good idea, it’s often difficult getting the word out so people are aware of it. That’s where Voiciety is really useful once you have published your skill!”
Where can we go to follow you and your work?
Look out for some of my other skills: