A while ago I started exploring the current state of voice interfaces and smart home technology. One particular interesting smart home application is Amazon’s Alexa. It’s a device with a speaker which can answer questions, turn lights on/off, and can give you a so-called flash briefing.
You can develop Alexa skills yourself, and publish them in Amazon’s store. Skills are not stored on the device, but instead are API’s that handle all communication. A particularly interesting approach that is recommended by Amazon is to use so-called Amazon Lambda functions. Lambda is a service of Amazon which allows you to have a “function as a service”. You specify the python code you want to run, and the function lives on Amazon’s infrastructure. No setting up a server, no maintenance and keeping it up, your function goes online whenever someone calls it and Amazon handles everything.
I decided to make a flash briefing for InfoQ.com. The flash briefing is like a quick overview of your news items and can be either audio or text (which Alexa pronounces for you). As InfoQ already has a great RSS feed with summaries for technical articles I figured that it would be interesting to be kept up to date with that.
At the moment the application works, and is published in the Amazon store!
The skill will also soon be available in Japanese and French-speaking countries.