Build a Alexa skill in (about) one hour

Since a few weeks ago the Amazon Echo Dot is finally available in Germany, the first not English speaking market. Time for me to test the cloud-based virtual assistant and see if it is really possible to build a trivia skill in under an hour as Amazon claims. And hopefully find out a bit more of how AWS Lambda is used by Alexa.

Any other benefit?

A new challenge aside, Amazon offered two main benefits to develop news (German) skills for Alexa.

  • developers who published a German Alexa skill in March could get an Alexa hoodieScreenshot from 2017-04-03 17-20-19

What’s the challenge?

No real technical challenge. Setting up a few trivia sentences in German was the hardest task. Never wrote a Node.js Lambda function before (I am more familiar with Java and Python) but there was no really any code to be written, it was simply a matter to change the template that Amazon set up. The goal was simply to get a meaningful skill live in the shortest time frame possible.

How long did it really take?

About one hour to set up the skill. A little longer to decide the topic, find an easy name (lauf lauf) of the trivia and the keywords to trigger the skill. And less than two hours to collect a few running trivia and write them in German. And submit the new skill for certification. All together a not too long evening in front of the laptop. The skill was approved after less than four days.


How does it sound?

What about privacy concerns?

You might not be a strong supporter of virtual assistants always in stand by mode. I do not have Alexa on all the time, I do not need to. I just got  a timer to switch it off at scheduled times and I changed a bit the default configuration  to avoid storing all the information on the Alexa application too. Note as well that you do not need to have a real Echo device to develop a skill but testing it in a real scenario is the fun part.

Was it worth it?

Yes. Not a technical challenge (it’s really too easy to set up a trivia) but a useful and interesting introduction to the world of Alexa and Lambda integration. And still impressed that in one evening I got something I was not familiar with from (almost) zero to live. Next step is to build a real skill, possibly using the Alexa Skills Kit SDK for Node.js