Written by Lu-Vuong Le
Edited by Nikola Tosic
Last week, I attended my first workshop with the meetup hosted by the AWS Programming and Tools group. It was an awesome meetup and a great introduction to voice technology with the Amazon Alexa.
The event was organised by https://www.meetup.com/Melbourne-AWS-Programming-and-Tools-Meetup/, the venue was sponsored by Contino at Level 37, 360 Elizabeth St Melbourne. They have a really nice office, and a spectacular view of the whole CBD!
The workshop was run by Dyung Ngo, a voice and Alexa enthusiast from the Melbourne Alexa Meetup Group. As Amazon Alexa is not part of his everyday job, and being an enthusiast looking to future of human to computer interface, Dyung was a great presenter and very knowledgeable when introducing to us how to develop an Alexa skill with NodeJS, Lambda and Serverless.
Learning how to create Alexa skills was definitely new to me, but it was extremely enjoyable to work through. For example, creating an invocation, ‘Fact Skill’, and triggering it through the Alexa console by saying ‘Open Fact Skill’ was really exciting. To be honest, the possibilities that came to mind at this point were fairly broad.
We learnt about other important concepts during the workshop, such as utterances. Uttering ‘Give me a fact’, or ‘I want a fact’ would invoke the Skill. While no advanced concepts were covered, skills, utterances and their integration with AWS Lambda functions is more than enough for most of the technical and non technical audience to grasp on Lambda concepts. As voice technology is gaining more popularity, understanding the concepts and building blocks for such system is not only valuable for technical folks, but for hobbyists and those with curious mind and desire for understanding on what happens under the hub as well. While this workshop was technical in nature, there was no automation involved, and I felt there was more value in just awaking the curiosity in participants on all of the practical applications of Amazon Alexa and voice technology in general.
In the end all of us went through the steps, successfully creating a Skill for Alexa with our own invocation command, where it would give us a fact back from a list of predefined list of facts. By the end of the workshop, it seemed like everyone was able to get it working as you could hear Alexa telling people facts all over the room!
On a side note, for those of you wanting to follow the workshop tutorial, there is a github repository which contains the steps for the workshop.
As a beginner to voice technology, it was a very exciting experience. I felt that workshop does a good job at introducing Alexa technology with hands on experience. The structure of the workshop had a good flow with the work split into simple an easy-to-follow, steps. Even those who had not used AWS before could follow the steps fairly easily. In addition to this, the assistance from the presenter and assistants was really exceptional! They were very approachable and were always helping people who needed assistance with setup or any other issues.
For my first experience with this Meetup group, I can say it was amazing! It was a nice environment to learn with everyone else and I was able to network with both new and old faces. With a great event venue, the organisers have created a superb workshop that had a friendly and open environment with an equally great presenter.
Personally, I will make use of this to new knowledge to explore what else I could do with this technology and perhaps try to create my own skill for use on Alexa.
Overall the whole meetup experience had a feeling of a tight-knit, welcoming and accessible tech community and knowledge sharing. The Meetup group puts on really good events, opportunities to learn and network with other professionals. I will 100% be attending further events hosted by the group!
On a finishing note, anyone with interest in Amazon Alexa development in more detail may find Melbourne Amazon Alexa meetup interesting (run by Dyung whom also ran this workshop). Also, for the more details please refer to Amazon Alexa developer documentation.