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Blog Series: “Alexa, How’s the Surf?”

By now, most people have heard of Alexa, Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) artificial intelligence (AI) persona who can answer virtually any question a user asks her through the Amazon Echo device.

But, did you know, AWS also provides a suite of tools that empowers you to ask similar questions by text message, Facebook Messenger or even an old-school phone call?

The AWS suite includes Amazon Pinpoint and Amazon Connect. Pinpoint enables searches with email, SMS, push notifications and chatbot devices, while Connect is for calling into a voice assistant through a phone.  These tools are powered by a cloud-based AWS application called Lex, which runs on a serverless platform called Lamda.

Accomplishing this feat does require some programming knowledge, however—and that’s where I come in.

A few years ago, I embarked on a journey to discover how to make Alexa answer a simple question over a variety of devices. Because I am an outdoors enthusiast who loves surfing almost as much as I love technology, I used the command “Alexa, Where’s the Surf?” to have Alexa help me assess local surfing conditions.

I chronicled my journey through a series of blog posts, where we go beyond voice search with AI technology.

The Series

Alexa, How’s the Surf?: Developing Skills for the Amazon Echo— This first blog gives you an overview of Alexa and the basics of programming using the Amazon Echo.

Alexa, How’s the Surf? Revisited – With Improved Amazon Skills— Our second blog goes a little deeper, as I share some of the knowledge I gained while studying to earn my AWS Certification.

Alexa, How’s the Surf? Transformed for Today’s Chatbot Technologies— In this third blog, we pull it all together and gain even more background on these awesome new tools—and some hints of where it may allow us to go in the future.

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