Alexa integration for the Guide system

Friday, December 01, 2017 by David Conlisk

Guide Logo

If I haven't mentioned it to you before, the Guide system is micro-prompting assistive technology which helps people to complete the tasks of daily living. It allows you to create a flowchart detailing how to talk a user through completing a task. Guide gives prompts and asks questions via speech synthesis. Users answer yes or no as they progress through the problem space. Guide ensures that the user sequences the task correctly. Guide helps users to live independently without the need for human help when completing tasks such as the morning routine, making tea, or using the washing machine.

Anyway, at the moment the Guide system is a cross-platform mobile app which runs on both iOS and Android devices. It downloads the activities from the server, and uses local voice recognition on the device, so that it can work in an offline environment. Users can also schedule the activities on the device, for example the morning routine can kick in at the same time every day.

You can sign up for Guide and download the Android app for your device to try it out (you'll need to get in touch if you're on iOS).

Our original assumption when we built this iteration of Guide was that not all users would have reliable internet connections. That is why we decided to use offline voice recognition. This assumption now seems out of date. With the advent of the new voice-activated devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, it seems that voice has truly arrived into people's homes.

This is why we have our eye on the Alexa system for the next iteration of Guide. We could leverage the excellent voice recognition capabilities of the device, which are constantly being improved by Amazon. So as a first step I've created a skill to demonstrate Guide on Alexa so that we can prove it works and see how users like it. It's written completely within the Alexa system, using Node.js, and sitting on AWS Lambda. It's based on a much-simplified tea-making activity, and you can try it out for yourself:

Tea Guide (UK version) (or US version)

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