Experiments

As a Team Day experiment, we built a voice-command app for the Amazon Echo that helps very busy, indecisive people find a great local place for lunch. This app served as an early breakthrough in accessing Yelp for Amazon Echo, which eliminated the need for a visual interface.

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The Problem

Our team takes lunch very seriously, but we don’t often have the time to plan where we’re going to eat. Yelp is an incredible platform for finding local treasures, but its interface can be overkill if you’re on-the-go.

Our Solution

 

This product is a concierge-like app for the Amazon Echo that adds a bit of serendipity to finding a great place for lunch. We call her “The Lunch Lady.”

To start the app, you simply say “Ask The Lunch Lady for something fast” or “…for tacos,” for example. She responds with a great local restaurant and offers to text you the relevant information—the restaurant’s name, address, phone number, and a link to its Yelp page.

The Process

lunchlady-team
Outlining our approach

Discovery – Early exploration for The Lunch Lady started with the device. We were very curious about the Alexa Skills Kit and wanted to build something communal that was better served by an audio interface.

Definition – Since this is a new type of device, it was initially challenging to grasp the full potential of a technology separate from browsers or operating systems that we are familiar with. We found that the Yelp API was the best data fit for this project, as it gave us a variety of relevant results.

Development – The Lunch Lady is an app built using Node.js, Amazon specific Intent and Utterances structure for natural language processing. The workflow was a bit of a challenge since AWS Lambda doesn’t yet provide a great testing environment. This required us to navigate through the Amazon Developer Console, our local editor, zip files, and finally upload our work to Lambda.

Deployment – Testing and debugging was completed through Amazon CloudWatch. It was a challenge jumping from the web-based console to a local environment and back again, but after a more-difficult-than-usual deployment process, we were happy with the result. Despite the challenges, we’re big fans of the Alexa Skills Kit and we’re looking forward to getting the chance to use it again.