Home Home Automation Getting Alexa to talk

Getting Alexa to talk

Sometimes things look much easier on paper.

Encouraged by my recent ‘successes’ with Amazon Echo and NodeRED, I came up with few more scenarios that I would find rather useful. Getting Alexa to talk when you have pending notifications on your phone seemed like a logical next step. Hell, if I was feeling bold I could even create a custom reply skill to handle each notification with the ‘reply’ option! I was not aware what I’m getting into.

Getting Alexa to talk

In theory, a web request would be good enough to get the information out and to the Alexa. I have seen a tutorial or two online, therefore, it should not be so hard to get this done.  What I also found surprising is how random the Alexa skills appear to be. All the pretty cool ideas I have had in my head seem to be absent from the skill menu.

Amazon Echo has been on the market long enough and I would think that by now these things would be pretty much sorted. This is not the case. I followed Nathan’s guide to try to figure out the Alexa and NodeRED web calls without much luck. It seems like I have opened a small Pandora box (not the one with jewellery) called AWS.

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Amazon AWS

Currently, I’m stuck with Amazon servers not playing nice with my self-signed SSL certificate for the NodeRED server. This means that even the simplest request gets rejected.  The ‘tutorial’ offered by Amazon covering the certificate creation is pages long. I never had the need to get the certification (Google Chrome will be punishing websites that process a plain text even in a search window) up until now.

Looks like for the next couple of weeks I will be picking another ‘skill’. Getting Alexa to talk isn’t as easy as I imagined. This, in my eyes, explains the pretty odd selection of the skills available to be used with Alexa. A few random companies bothered to include the Alexa integration and bunch of students testing sample skills out. A pretty disappointing landscape for now for a DIY tinkerer like me.

Alexa, talk to me

I have to say, that this is pretty discouraging. It happens quite often when I discover a new environment that I would like to involve in my home automation attempts. It creates a lot of frustration and heads scratching.  I guess me and Alexa won’t be talking for some time. The 50h working weeks don’t make this any faster neither, so do bear with me.

Not all gloom and doom

I don’t want to leave this post being all negative. I came across an inspirational video 2 days ago that eased me into overcoming struggles. If you as well find yourself fighting against something that is possibly bigger than you – you should watch a journey of Scotty Allen and the iPhone audio jack.

It gave me the will to open the AWS developers guides again and try again. Also, I think Amazon itself has faith in me as they sent me an invite to join the Amazon Echo conference in the UK.  I’m happy to know someone has faith in me. Even if I’m talking about Amazon’s PR bots.


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