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A Journey Into Developing an Alexa Skill
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As the universe of IoT continues to grow at a rapid pace, our abilities to interact with these devices can be useful. As an added bonus, developing these skills can be fun too! I’ll take you through my journey of developing my first Alexa skill in Python for Amazon Echo devices aptly named Happy Days. It is a random quote generator that delivers positive quotes. I’ll go over the skills of how to get Python to talk to Alexa and how to dump that code into Lambda for a seamless delivery between Amazon Web Services and the Alexa Skills Kit in just a little over 200 lines! Never developed an Alexa skill before? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either. I’ll provide plenty of resources to help get you started on a path you’ll never want to leave as an Alexa developer. Building an Alexa skill helps: Further develop your own skills in Python. Gain familiarity with Amazon Web Services’ Lambda service which allows you to run code without provisioning or managing servers. BYOC - Bring your own code! (Python, Node.js, Java, and C#). Gain familiarity with Amazon Web Services CloudWatch service which helps monitor and log activities with your Amazon Web Services resources which is helpful for troubleshooting. Gain familiarity with the Alexa Skills Kit which is the platform behind Alexa development. Learn about tools and resources you can take advantage of to ensure you have a meaningful development experience. Learn how to “talk” to the Alexa Skills Kit through your Python code. Helpful reminder that user experience is key!
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and wow and main areas have the lunar this people know me as heats don't even answer to really long story and so my talk today is about Alexa development and is anybody developed in Alexis go before in the audience looking at you be nice and and you had 4 if I just want to know who's like a 1st time developer just beginning with developments in judgment because I'm in the same boat coal CELP dual enjoy that and and what and and if you don't the doorstep the and so basically and I work for 10 united to Seattle there has influence the job the haves and so there is this initiative for 20 22 move completely into the cloud as no see if that I know there are people here that work for universities it's that this is my complex thought processes like I see are data centers and I see clouds and I'm just like what am I going to do kind of repair myself for there's an end sort came into mind and start Alexa development the reason that came into my mind is cos it's not just Alexa development at least not with ideas so it kind of dives into AWS little that which I'll talk about and heavily using landowner for the skill that I created and I got some experience with CloudWatch and which is basically how you can find out your errors and it's it's a good debugging tool and so I'm gonna show you a role involved with CloudWatch and so the other things that I was getting into and of course the Alexa skills kit which gets married to Linda so the 2 can talk together so what I wanted to talk about is allotted for me has changed since last the con and we had gender kind in Philadelphia last year and I went in for a Shiite gender lines like but GenGO so after the 1st conference and I got into the conference meeting I could never do this I'm not that smart and then and we have an incredible team of volunteers and stuff and I thought I would give it a shot and 1 thing I like about this community and the people sitting in front of me is that we are probably 1 of the Austin communities in code and Python Django was supportive and no 1 has ever looked at me like a your stupid everyone's always got suggestions on how to make things better and that's why I decided to write this skill in Python and there's also not a lot of Python Alexis skills out there I'm hoping that that's going to change and you'll see throughout my talk I do you give my get covered count I encourage you to look at that because I've actually included the whole Happy Days skill and the components of that skill in my get kind of feel free to use it as you wish it's out there so that hopefully you can use parts of it
next I and not a developer in think there was an a systems administrator working in to the developer space and after this I think an aspiring no and so building is still help me in a lot of things and like I said a was touching lander CloudWatch and was looking at billing alerts which by the way if you're setting out to use for the 1st time I highly suggest is not as my billing are to tell me if I went over 1 dollar and which has happened so don't to dollars and 17 cents reader unhappy days that when I was doing this in 1 go back my husband in there it so this happened and we go AWS 10 grand or 1 billion dollars I didn't know what was going to happen when I went down this road so in building this skill as noticing a lot of things I was able to troubleshoot my own code a little better CloudWatch lobster really good in showing you exactly where you failed and unseen on a red 0 and not going to complain and the the color that you're about to see is only 200 lines 200 lines took me a little to annex a little over 2 and half months to do and get through the Alexis go process and the test to them in new and it took me a while who and so if you don't know what alexa issues the voice service between and behind the echo show the echoed echo look the diet any time you call elects I think she is needed right now which is great I learned that another torque so they didn't knew her because they see the name more than once and it provides for custom develop skills Amazon doesn't call them and apps their skills and so you can use an API through the Alexa skills kit to build your own skills to be about whatever you want whenever you want and you can also leave things in development or you can choose to publish that if you're publishing then Amazon developers go through and they pick apart your skill which is not a bad thing and at 1st when I submitted this skill and I got feedback was a gun into right the 1st time then so I'm pointing out to me like this is a professional code review you could not from it that OK that's pretty cool am so I'm done so far is I published happy days I did that I started that directly after the last and the con conference because there's so many positive things being slung around the nose like and the new do positive put generator and it's going to be also and it works and then I'd also developed a working died and that was for a quarterly that we did find that remains in development if you decide to leave your skill in development you can still access it because it links directly back to the Amazon account so if you're not comfortable you don't go through the publishing process with the Amazon you can leave it in development there was a senior software engineer that decide to go home and make our us skill for his family and so that would be an example of what you might want to leave development word if you wanna publish sorta died because then you would have to get the OK from all the people at 10 yet well I make that was I know I wanted to do this but it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to make because that's a creative thing and that's up to you do you wanna make something that helps people I know why do which is why I made it or that the said you wanna leave in development to a family thing that works too young to have to keep in mind in this process is that the content that you're making is going to cook be consumed by users of the product sooner me thinking through voice design is the voice design and I'm making it easy for the user to get through chances are if you're fumbling with the voice designed you're for use a fumble to so as most people know customer service is my biggest biggest biggest thing for me so I was very careful with that and as they made this scale and what did
he do make this happen it wasn't hard and an Amazon developer account that's free union Amazon Web Services account that's also free and for those of you who don't know Amazon offers a free tier Amazon Web Services you can use the services most of them at for free for a whole year differed looking to get in the Amazon Web Services space this is the perfect way to do it if you haven't done that already it used to be that you needed a device to test you don't need that anymore and you can use echoes in I and by the way will be uploading these inter-speaker that there's a lotta Urals embedded in this presentation that will be helpful so make sure I get them up 1 speaker that tweet about it and yet so you just get the log inferred echo sin that ties into your Amazon account kind works the same issues a little clunkier because you have to push the buttons say Alexa open bar and it's not it's not as quick but that's another option you have if you don't feel like giving an Alexa device but they're cool so that 1 and like to point out that in no way I no ties with the Amazon my huzzah more friends on is basically it so this is just me being excited about a product and kind running with it FIL Ulam's like I
said military set those up before you get started and especially if you're going to be using some resource-intensive things if you decided to use as 3 buckets with the high availability that may not fall under the free chair in fact and preacher wouldn't and once you start consuming services that have a lot of stuff in the ah yes might also be an 1 of those things that are not included but billing alarm seed all have to be like this guy and let's get it done I
mean this is what I this is why I I use any in Python 3 . 6 is available now in case you didn't know for and it had previously not been available and we're all waiting with bated breath and then it happened we really would this year but if you're not a Python person you can do it in no JS st C sharp reading do in job and reusing landing CloudWatch and again there's tutorials on this the way I that started with the color skills tutorial and there's actually a blueprint for that in land of functions which all a click over to real quickly to show you before we go in and make that a skill might my goal today is to get a skill up and running that doesn't exist yet so we'll just use the code from Happy Days and you happy is testament called that way it shouldn't take too long probably 10 minutes if you can believe it this and there's other
stuff the Amazon developer Forums are amazing and they have their own Alexis section if you're struggling with a party NeuroLex at 2 and you can ask them and there's also office hours and were you can talk to real Alexa developers at Amazon and so that's 4 PM at 1 of 4 a e at the piano and then 4 PM on the East Coast time it works out for me a little better now than the west coast the and so the
anatomy of happy days but they said there's my guess have there and so there's a repository for the skill and happy days that pi is actually going to be the land to code that I am dropping in the land and the intense they're just did just she's Sun and that's what the user wants to do what is the intent here what are we trying to solve for the user the utterances are the actual phrases that you would give to Alexa so if I said Alexa open happy days that's an example of an utterance now you'll see when I get into my utterances which I'm going to show you this list is very short the working guide utterances there were over hundred so the goal for utterances that is this think about your user how many ways could they asked for my still to do something and the list can go expensive depending on what you're doing and then the more quotes that tired that's in there I had received from some feedback that somebody had heard these quotes a lot and there a little bored so as like open I can I can do something about that so I think I added another 50 quotes and end in adding stuff to land it's actually really easy and if I don't suggest adding your code alive possibly setting up a test environment to make sure that it works if doing it live it means Union-wide if you change it's going to change on the platform for this I thought I knew what I was doing and did because it didn't break but probably not best practice if adjusting started but putting it all together and I'm going to actually run through very quickly the code behind happy days it's only 200 lines of problems it's not going to be painful that's the hope so here's what
I got going on and doing from future import print function because when I did this it is in Python 2 . 7 and I wanted to pull the functionality of plate on 3 over you'll see when we get down into the code a little more than using the spread function a lot it's needed because this is kind how Alexa deals with their responses and things of that nature so you'll see that when we moved down further and doing import random is anyone have a guess why doing import random the no again other the yes yeah when I was when I was doing this I didn't want her to spit out it seems that every time so import random so I could randomise the quote there's a lot of them there's a lot when he noticed a battle when you notice about these quotes the it basically in plain text Alexa reads text as if you would write it as if you're writing a book if you put a common she's gonna pause these before she goes on to the next thing she say Japan exclamation point there we electric Signac her so I hope so you can really mess with her voice now I've gotten some feedback that Lexus voices so robot our and things of that nature that I'm sorry I didn't make her and but there's some some cool things that people have done in regards to recording something so you would recorded something like an intro a lot of people do this with podcasting you'd story that file in an S 3 bucket and then you would work with the audio player In the Lexus skills can so that you're recording actually talks and Alexa doesn't and that could inch into some cost some scroll down here and help this is big enough for everyone to see in getting these talks I've realized that could be small so I went ahead and zoomed in anyone Newton the basically what we have here is word of finding art land handlers these are really important because this is how this is basically how Alexa handles code this is how she handles sessions launches and things of that nature the so let me just skip share so if I were you right now and you were basically In my get further I would definitely just basically copy and paste blind 78 through 91 and you can add to that and if you don't have that event handlers it's not gonna work this is really needed and so you can see launch request that's basically we out well let me say that the 1 above that is on session started on session started is when I say lack so when I say elected that session starts the launch part is when I say open Happy Days so then she's going to watch me scale but the intense is how she's going to handle what we need to do and the session ended only happens at the end at the user says stop cancel that's when your session and it happens and that's when the session just at you're no longer in it so yes so on intent and things of that nature now here on defining my intents and you're gonna see these come up when I go into the Lexus skills kit portal and and this is where they get matched so I have a happy days intent which is linked to the welcome response and the Amazon no intent you can use you can choose to not defined the no intent but it's built 10 so if you don't define anything for it that's fine you don't need to because it's built in same with the yes the know the help I have another call intent because they thought was someone's not happy enough and they won a 2nd once they have another codon tend to cancel and stop intents are the same the built in your have to define and I believe that I do and Susan around defining might get welcome response notice only my search session at tributes dictionary open the reason I'm doing now is because throughout this skill it needs to pull down the information from 1 block to the next if I were to put stuff in there should she would just notch which is stopped working so you'll see that I keep these brackets open for the curly braces I guess we keep these open until the end when I'm saying session ended is when you'll see this actually have more than just nothing in between them so the random number this is where I'm using the integers and grabbing the random quotes
you'll notice here my speech output which is what she's actually saying she can speak the logic which is really pretty cool she knows now that she needs to go out into my list of codes and she knew she can pull whatever she wants has to be 1 she knows she can do that and then she knows how to say it and and choosing the would you like to hear another quote you can see I have shouldn't session is false because she needs to stay in section if I had this is true Alexa would stop and if somebody wanted to hear another quote well too bad for them and but for user experience she saying false this is also something that if you do decide to do your skill and you would want to use with the help intent because if the user is asking for help on your skill they're gonna need the sessions stay open city continue to interact and so I also had handling another pull request and she's doing the same thing there handling help requests this is all pretty pretty basic stuff all changing here's her speech output and her re-prompt text the rate context as if you're user doesn't answer within a certain amount of time it don't know what that amount of time is but if she's waiting for a while she can reprompt and say do you still need hell when everyone have a set she can do that and here's the handle finish such a request so as you can say that and still do have matches my and you still have my dictionary open and that was my dad and should and session is true because at this point where the word the bill speech live response something I wanted to talk about is SS and all that that the language as a sum now and you can fine-tune if you're using that for this still I was just getting started so I decided to use plain text if you wanted to look in essence amount if you know more about a system now over me FIL free you'll just have to change this output speech and the re-prompt to access and now this is where you would make that change so the millions visual response without the card and not using cards for this because I made this skill before the echo show came out they may note that the show is so show of hands life wouldn't know what it is so as just cannot with echo show which is a visual box if you use it for conference calling but you can also use it for skills so that whole thing about skills and cards is that you can use cards to relay pictured as Texas someone's hard of hearing this is a good thing to think about accessibility wise songs hard of hearing you can read the text on the screen and some actually really excited about that the show I think that the next scale I make will probably have Carter and then at the end I have my build response this is important and the reason this is important is because this takes my session and transfers it back to you at the skills that as I have this it would just stop and Alexa skills OK it wouldn't be able to pick up all the information that we just got throughout the 200 lines of code and then she can talk say what we did so there's that piece that's actual anatomy of the code 0 200 5 lines call and I think the were in guiding me workers probably 600 herself so I'm getting better these are the intents for Happy Days he's going to be Lexus skills care and I'll show you that later by use revivalists skill from scratch it is alive demos so bear with me in case things don't go very well the many but I had sample utterances that idea the this and so is so as you can see these incidents are really short I don't have a lot of fish showed you were in guiding the well and but that's pretty much it for the cold part now it is the dental part and the demo parts pretty cool if it works fingers crossed so this is the part where I think we need to switch to someone that I don't know where the power button is the 1st power but the could yes not that she's not well enough shares yes yes so very sad and happy is the Alexa and open Happy Days testing and I couldn't find any enabled video skills go to the music TV and books section of the Alexa Alexis in out what have patience for her release and so we don't have the skill yet right so what is built 1 real quick yes they think it's important that when I'm talking about this that I can show you the steps needed to take it so we're gonna start off with the land of function and so this is basically if you haven't been Iqaluit I the dash for
free WS for those of you who haven't had any
experience with AWS is all services they AWS has I believe that land under it's
so little land and these are the the functions I have already this is in the works be ready for that that's skills and the amazing on-site have time much time less free time anyone I select the blueprint and what I wanted to show you offer this and hopefully I hinges the this a little
smaller so it can fit more stuff and the colors skills tutorial that I talked about L it's not finding that's perfect the so land has blueprints and those in recently already set up a ready to go you can manipulate them there is a color skills tutorial and here's somewhere I hope unless they got rid of it all and yes who said that the smart thing the I need to at see it work I love helpful audience thank you do so if you want to try out the blueprint that goes with the tutorial this is where you would find it and there's no JS sorry and JSI advantages language and don't plan on anytime soon so as to stick in the right on world this blueprint still and 2 point 7 I don't know when the updating it but to just get your feet wet goes to the tutorial and set it up you understand a lot more about how you can interact with the Alexa and so I'm not going to do that you can do your own ones from scratch which is what I'm going to do if they actually have my food in another window so the 1st part of this is that you have to basically marry land and the skills to he got married to they don't have to talk to each other so this is I'm setting up a trigger and so I'm going to select Alexis skills and triggering it for land and then they go on the next and then in my function and then say Happy Days testing because that's all I use doesn't like the with that's OK the fingers crossed that this light demo thing those but if it doesn't register on my runtime is 2 . 7 and the reason I'm doing this for the tutorial is that that I know the happy these who works with 2 . 7 if anyone has use lander the way it works is you basically destructive structural line up a code in lines and the cool thing about this is you can kind of change from the flying things of that nature so I'm going to do is to be all of that I'm gonna go back into my Happy Days code and I'm just
gonna rabbit and then a piece step then they come down here the land of function and the land here and there are 2 things that handle your code and there's blame the function that fine that's actually what's in your land that code I got really confused when I was reading errors and trust me this being my 1st lander still I was seeing red usually 10 in this school who retired better hurry up you some coerced by your hand 1 right and I choose an existing role and using them to basic that situation and the reason that and choosing matters because all I need is to be able to write CloudWatch logs so that I can do about it and then you go to the next 1 then the look at what's going on here yeah that what's good enough and they create the function yeah I it has n is effect that's great recommend testing the function this is new of this might not work with the and then test it and
shirts fine bear with me have been here a while this is what I need to so
it should be green yet I knew those that have been I mean of course it's fine as in this like a million so I think this is fine so I am OK they are and it's very important here the air and Atlanta gives you you need to put into the steel sticks when you're doing a senior error into a notepad file don't think about stealing error and because in 20 minutes I'm going to delete this whole thing so that's it that's all I have to do a melanocyte that 1 5 minutes not being so now I'm going to go over to the developer portal and this is where the Lexus skills kit lives of course it went inside
it cool no no access
and never mind you yeah and then it started as you can see this is where all my other skills live it's the land of misfit toys and some had a new skill and then in a in a happy is testing my apologies from going too fast if you had any like in-depth questions and always open to answering then had the at the dock th is where I can be reached FIL outskirts and then saved and then the going to go on to the
next the so this is where you enter your tents which I hope our up and there just the ones that you saw on my code so like game of matching
if you think about it that just those there those are slot types I did not use them in an not since we're running out of time the sample utterances adrenaline that's cool cool in the next In
cooled everything's great the great so what do
you think my hair and those that have
constraint there better that comes in and selecting North America and fortunately Lexus skills right now is only available in North America and Europe I know that they are working on that account linking and if you'll somehow wanted to charge people for years for your skill this is what you would do you nature Amazon account Amazon store and that's how you do it and that's basically it I'm not going to go through the service the voice simulator and this is how you could test what's going on but I will show you hopefully on the next page if you decided to publish this is what you would do you get testing instructions for the Alexa crew and all that stuff at this point you should be ready to go 2 fingers the Alexa and open Happy Days testing and here's a dose of happiness the purpose of our lives is to be happy Dalai Lama would you like to hear another quote now I would not and user doesn't have been as well and few could see that the standard line would not because they would I did not I make that simple utterance which is why he's he's still silicon I running short on time can't that I had 10 minutes left to talk and then I can ask questions yes still time to the really good stuff not that that wasn't good stuff my so they said
and the 2nd the presentation now
and yet if you could produce and sounds like I finish now the treat to sport some great this is amazing and I submitted to Amazon and they're like no now like you forgot help section you forgot this you forgot that has its own distinct
so I did there's an examiner stuff back again another e-mail response back from the elect 16 and they're like 0 and this this this 2 you moles of this ever going to happen at this 1
at OK this is actually when you know they're really gets great were publishing it smells like that is really cool stuff and we are publishing just
remember your putting it out there you're putting Africa heaters have some of by that there's some constructive feedback the feedback about adding more quotes that works so popular I took that and I implemented into my still some might fusion customer service and then everybody gets kind of like a happy face even know I might be like Pereira sciously thank you for your feedback
and the nice thing about him is on that are doing right now is if you decide to publish a still this is not with development if you decide to publish a skilled you get swag for so actually took the peak at this month's wagon its for those of you like stocks and I mean it's publishers scale but is that how is that coming out that's interesting and the day a natural going on not bring up the work of the jth I can't school stocks that states that the publishers still here but in view an echo . and that's why I and and that's where I is a binary socks from fermions analysts century recall all you have to do is publish promotional credits is something that
was recently and that was recently right out and if few have scale and it's published you are you can get up to 100 dollars a month for yourself if you're using having resources and things like nature Alexa the Amazon teams main thing is they want people to build skills and they want the new tools to enable you to do those things I have to give away today
I had no well affiliation there's on none of this is just the using Amazon network and I said hey I get these talks and I have some AWS promotional credits beginning like 50 over last year and so I have 9 25 dollar AWS credits the away and there are tens and papers in a box next Mr. just triplet there in front row if you are interested in joining the best way to get a hold of you all be pulling the winners leaders today and I will inform you get Jeff been awaiting the box and the paper and the PAC away n who's willing from crop to that is not open it up for questions and the idea should meet this clear up here and this think that it mn still on world is still on you know and this together look clapping the but as the presentation is devoted you'll wanting pretty much directly to a land and then you'll your code is potential you to write the Django elixir skills there here there is a flask are still and this is more than the example that I Self agenda flat asked and which of the quiz from John Wheeler was mired attribute-based tutorials and when I'm doing my trivia cell and the color skills to trail that I did is more in line with what I have seen this project the doing trivia scaling you any user genital tool flask gasses probably the best that that as when and how long she can talk for years of quantum guessing likable Leonard author cuts off after a certain amount and just how did you would pronounce seem weird names or whatever so yes that's part of the testing phase that idea is listening to how she said stuff sometimes it doesn't it doesn't come off like I wanted to and then I kind have to to be quite a few words if you saw all pronunciations and how things go like in the dictionary like if you take that out she would do it for sure and there's an inspire me and skill ambitious come in the on and that that goes on for a while those are actually like alive talks from people and things of that nature and podcasting gone for a while to basically she's not going to stop until you tell it to they could go on forever just be just be ready for that built from AWS the helmet spent on the CloudFront again there are a few shows there's any trail that that any hookup CloudFront to the land and then so the females become watch silly you doing a basic execution all that I showed it's it's just going to do that anyway and hoping that just get out of my slide show now so I knew into a yes here the stocks
in them so they wanted to go into
CloudWatch I would go into the dashboard
sorry have that just services Claire plumage monitor resources and applications to collect the hopefully 72 under load a look a win over my estimated charges that states so as I say don't have anything set up right now but this is very creative dashboard for CloudWatch and it's OK it's called what is happening so if she were to have mass that that you would see what's logs and they would pointing to the line of code where there was much it because we're trying to get at is is the way you do almost like web analytics on this where you can see how many people are using the winter the United man on the cell there's actually and metrics In the Lexus skills that that you can go into it tells you how many unique customers what they're calling the numbers are down right now because the skills been out for a while and but I'll show you if I
still have the Lexus skills can open just didn this video back again
that's this is where you go for that that the metric so as you can see it can tell you how many customers the session the number of utterances and and you can do your time here you wanted to know how many people are done in the last 3 days you can do that and there's a lot of flexibility in here that wasn't in here when I 1st started making it so I'm really glad to see that Amazon has changed your stuff and it more user-friendly this is where you go for the information like that this is how I found out by the way I noticed in my metrics not long after I did this that i'd spiked up too late but maybe 3 thousand users at 1 point and that's how we found out that I been published somewhere and so it's called a look at that and see and I think to the mad publishers when best let's still Javier mind mind on the black constantly constantly creating axis else add which is just something from me thank a it's time to get back on the bias and the Netherlands which trust me there's something out there but my questions about the utterances so you so you have to expose fight each 1 separately Lasso misery facility where you can kind of figure out which was saying like show me the weather reverses what is the world will know would you would have to capture both those utterances of this you see when I when I told her earlier I forget what I asked you should understand so that's why I utterances you wanna think in waves as many utterances as you can to support you to base have you you've noticed do you watch a show at sh skill each store so if you have published and and people are giving you high stars and left or right now and I'm sure you're going through the process with the at so they're seeing what you're making if they think it's good enough they're gonna put you in the store which is also when I found out that 1 point I was on the front page of the Alexis skull store and so they think that your skills good people are using it and people are liking it chances are that through the and up the the right let's give a 1 1 it nurse if path
and it's