My vacation with Alexa

Background:

Every vacation I used go to my native and spend my vacation with family and friends as we all used to go some local places and at least two days trip to Kodaikanal. But in this vacation, I have decided to learn something new for my own career as well as personality development. As I have written about my interest in the previous article, I keep GOTO all those “.Ai” websites to see new updates. Then I thought that instead of exploring something new topic, why not dig more into personal assistance devices. So I decided to buy anyone AI personal assistance devices. currently, there are only two options either Amazon Alexa or Google home. Before I buy anything, I usually study about the product in the original product site, review from Cnet and do the comparison.

Based on my study, Amazon Alexa is elder than Google home. So I ordered my Amazon Alexa on Amazon site just two days before my vacation start and the parcel delivered to me on my first day of Holidays start. Wow! It was very eager to see and complete the setup. While I was testing the device, my Daughter Atarah came to me and asked: “what is this dad!”. Since I was busy in setting it up, there was an answer from the kitchen (my wifeūü§ę) that “Atarah, that is your father’s first wife, don’t disturb your father now”. Ha ha ha… After completing the setup I explained about Amazon echo to my Daughter though she is small to understand all these.

Planning:

As with Android apps, Amazon has Alexa skills app store where you can enable the skills for your Amazon echo device. So I planned to develop new Alexa skill that can narrate the story and in the middle ask you some questions.

Development Journey through Alexa Skill Kit :

The ASK (Alexa Skill kit) is the tool which can be utilized for developing the Alexa skill. To access this tool first we need to register on the Amazon Developer portal. The portal has documentation for Learn, Design, Build, Launch and reach your app to the customers. Each portion of documents is very well explained to start with anyone Alexa skill development as listed below,

Smart Home Skills: This Alexa skill application can be developed for automating the home appliances based on the API that is available to use. The steps are clearly available with sample code in GitHub.

Game & Trivia Skills: This Alexa skill can be used as a sample to develop game or Trivia skills to Alexa.

Flash Briefing skills: This Alexa skill can be enabled in our Amazon Echo device which flashes and brief¬†our desired content on daily morning or whenever we ask “Alexa, What’s my flash brief?”

Custom Alexa Skills: We are also free to develop our own custom skills for our Alexa to reach more customers to promote our own brand.

The ASK (Alexa Skill Kit) is very developer friendly with interaction model as the BETA feature available for us to easily create utterance JSON files. However, the core code (ASK currently support JavaScript, Python, Ruby) either can be deployed on your HTTPS enabled server or AWS lambda (serverless). I always prefer to use AWS lambda as it is very simple to deploy your code without worried about Apache, Nginx, etc but you would need the account in AWS

HOWTO: There are so many documentation available on Amazon portal and GitHub

Apps developed by Me:

It is really eager to develop the apps for Alexa skill after went through all the development documents and sample code. Below are my Apps for details,

The first app that developed for Alexa skill, which user can enable and know about Trichy shopping place, important location, visit the place, etc. This is mainly for the travelers who want to explore TamilNadu south India. Since it is first, I was failed so many times when it was under the Amazon certification process and finally, the app got approved. After my first app deployed successfully in Amazon Alexa skill store, I was feeling like I have achieved something best on my vacation as per my plan.

The next app Clean India Facts Alexa skill App that encourages the customer to listen to the facts of clean India and take the pledge as new year resolution of India goal. While I develop this app,  I learn more about clean India purpose. Without much effort, this Alexa skill app got certified but took more than 10 days to release.

When every time the app successfully released to Alexa skill store, I really got encouraged to do one more, which resulted to create fact app that designed in the form of question and answers. So, when the user asks the Alexa, open football terminology, the app will provide information about terminologies that are used in the football match.

My kids much interact with Amazon Alexa device asking time, song and story. So I thought to have another skill for Alexa, which can narrate the Famous Lion and mouse story with an interactive model of question and answer. Now the skill certified and deployed on Alexa app store and it is really fun when kids are having the conversation with Alexa through that skill.

There are some Alexa skill apps developed and enabled for my kids to enjoy.

Usage:

Earlier days even the typical wired phones were listed under luxury item but nowadays each and everybody having the smartphone that became basic necessary items. Nowadays, most of the big companies invest more on this AI devices for any purpose. In fact, the AI device can replace the clock, Music system, Radio, calendar, family intercom, etc. So the devices are cheaper to buy and use for any purpose. As humans have two faces of positive & negative, even all the electronics devices have positive & negative and it is up to us how we use. I see these voice-enabled devices as,

  • personal assistant,
  • Engaging the kids having the good conversation in the positive approach,
  • A good Learning system,
  • Entertainment devise,
  • The safety system in perspective of Home automation & alert.

For example, my daughter who has just joined the school who knows “what is time” as she more interacts with Alexa asking the time. Also, my younger one is very small but he knows how to invoke the Alexa whenever he wants to listen to some songs. Attached some audio how they interact with Amazon Alexa.

Here are some of Alexa voice-enabled devices for your reference,

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AI out of interest

Surfing on the internet and viewing the good looking site is my usual behavior. As I do the same on my laptop, I was getting into a site called  snips.ai is about artificial intelligence (AI) software.

In common AI stands for artificial intelligence. As we see more technology news, discussion and debate about AI, there are many tools, devices, technology, models, modules, and algorithms are also raising as part of it. However, the whole purpose of AI is to automate certain monkey jobs so we do more innovation and get ourselves to the next level. While I further started reading articles, blogs & books and listening podcast I have got explored into more AIs software, that triggered me to write this blogs.

Some General Terms:

  • AI: Artificial Intelligence
  • Skills: The term describes the assistant or device skills which you can ask for AI devices. Eg: Tell me the weather¬†(weather is skill or capabilities of AI to give you information)
  • Intent:¬†The term describes what the user is trying to do with AI, meaning intention of human to interact with AI to know the weather, calendar, alarm, music, calculate & etc skills to invoke.
  • Utterance: The term describes what are the ways the¬†user can call the skills with intent. Eg: Play the Music or I want Music
  • Chatbot: The term describes a computer program¬†which conducts a¬†conversation¬†via auditory or textual methods.
  • IOT: The term describes the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances which enables to exchange¬†data

Personal Assistance:

There are much personal virtual assistances available either as software on device or software with instruction to develop your own device or only software like Apple Siri, google assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Samsung Bixby, etc..

Snips.ai: The site elegantly designed with complete details of technology with purpose and usage. This software can be easily deployed on Rasberry Pi devices or installed on Linux OS. The main goal of this snips to provide you privacy, in another term you are not connected to the cloud. You can create your own AI device by following the snips-labs and download the models by creating your own or pre-exists skills.  The documentation is available on GitHub for us to try the software by yourself and explore, they also have the community in slack where we can raise our query if we struggle to install the software or downloading the skills. This is a very good option for people who want to make by themselves and have their PA in local rather on the cloud infrastructure. But every time whenever we want new skills for our device then we have to connect snips.ai assistance to create our skills and deploy it back. The main advantage of having this software is to have privacy by running our PA (hey snips,) on the local environment.

mycroft.ai: A complete open-source AI personal assistance software which can download and install on your own laptop or raspberry¬†pi devices with clear documentation. You can also contribute to developing skills and other area based on our own technical capabilities. mycroft also have their own chat community to participate¬†and raise your struggles or ideas. You can also directly¬†buy this device if you don’t prefer to go through or develop your own PA. Adding the skills is very easy as it is a simple Jason file deploy on your device or laptop that already paired with Mycroft home. Though you have your skills in local, you have to pair your device but there are more skills available on GitHub since it is opensource software.

Alexa: Alexa is amazon software that well developed and ahead of AI business now. It has integrated with many hardware modules to deliver the complete home automation without any much effort. Alexa completely runs only in the cloud but you would need only voice recognization device Amazon Echo. As with other software, you can also install the Alexa on your own raspberry pi device but since amazon delivery cheapest devices, it is a good idea to buy one. Alexa developer portal available for the developer to create your own Alexa skills and also an easy option to integrate with your other software. I would encourage you to buy this Alexa echo dot which is cheaper how it really delivers a lot for your kids learning. This personal assistance available with more option like Echo dot (affordable price), echo, echo show & echo spot. My daughter studying KG1 playing with this device and commending the Alexa for story time, Aabaca learning, Christmas music station. To add the skill for Alexa you would need some technical skills such Python, ruby, java, etc on top of Alexa skill kit. I have also created some skills in beta for my daughter to enjoy talking with Alexa.

Siri: Siri is well known personal assistance on Apple devices such iPod, iPhone, IPAD and now it is available on personal assistance speaker Homepod. As like Alexa, Siri also provides developer environment Sirikit which you can use to deliver rich Siri skills. As usual, Apple maintaining their level of software quality and price with Siri development and Homepod.

Bixby: Bixby is another AI software introduced by Samsung. This software will be incorporated into Samsung Android phone kit & Tizen Samsung OS kit and will be released on upcoming new phone versions for the user to experience the interactive voice response with their phones. As like other AI software, Bixby also will soon have developer SDK (Software Development Kit) for the developer to create skills on Bixby.

Google assistant: As currently almost many people using android which has an inbuilt option of “Ok Google” to interact with their phones for certain basic functions, which has been enhanced with more option now and also comes in google home speakers. The developer can build a skilled app on google action¬†dialog flow¬†(previously called api.ai) for google assistant AI.

Business Assistance:

Nowadays, there are many business & companies have incorporated their site with chatbot which will be available 24/7 on the site to give you prompt chat bar with a welcome message and guide you with information specific to that business or product that listed on the site. These chatbots are live because of underlying AI software through APIs.

wit.ai: Wit.ai is complete free AI platform provisioned by Facebook for the developer to create the chatbot skills specific to particular business or product and integrate that with respective business or product’s portal through HTTP API, Node.js, PythonRubyyby technologies. This site has well-drafted documentation which users can completely guide you to develop chatbot. Wit.ai has predefined recipes that can be utilized while developing the App. As with other AI, wit also work based on intent that user can use to interact with a chatbot.

Api.ai: As I discussed above google assistant AI. Api.ai (now https://dialogflow.com/) is the integrated AI API for google assistant or developers can also create skills and integrate that skills in portals or apps through API functionality. To start with dialog flow, the developer has to create a new agent that consists of default fallback intent & user defined intents and also you can enable the webhook to make the HTTP call to the certain site by enabling through fulfillment. The developer guide is very clear to start with a new agent quickly.

Luis.ai: The Microsoft built Luis.ai for language understanding is a complete solution for chatbot, IoT devices, and machine learning platform. As with other Microsoft software, Luis also paid version for the customer who already using windows software and wants to have chatbot in their app or portals. As with other AIs, Luis also work based on intent, utterance & entities but completely on the Azure cloud.

Watson.ai: Watson is IBM specialized AI for business and product to deliver an interactive response to their customer. The Watson has the capacity to perform analytics using which we can create our own app that to analyze the gold prize, the stock market, financial system machine learning and more. The developer guide is clear to walk through using different APIs.

H2O.ai: This is another ai platform for data analytics and machine learning. The complete documentation gives more guide for learning analytics and machine learning associated with different technologies Python, R, PySpark, Spark, Scala & Java.

Hope the above information should have enabled with some bare minimum basic ideas of what is AI and who are currently into AI. When we further explore about AI, we will have to cross by learning different technologies and concepts towards Data science.