My first Alexa ‘Skill’ and getting a free echo Dot

After playing around with python scripts for some time, around a year and a half ago I came up with the idea of a talking alarm clock made in python.

The main features of my talking alarm clock would be, telling you the time, the latest news – courtesy of the BBC’s RSS feeds and giving me the weather.

After a little research into text to speech using python, I settled on using Feedparser to get the news and weather feeds, and pyttxs for the text to speech work. After not very long, I had a working model, and that was that.

If you’re interested, you can check it out on bitbucket here – this was more of a proof of concept than anything else so don’t expect any pretty code, or in fact anything fancy at all really.

Anyway, as with a lot of my projects, this started as an “I wonder how hard it would be to…”, and after answering that question, it was more or less forgotten about.

Around a year after that, I got myself an Amazon echo dot and as usual, I started messing with some making a few hello world ‘Skills’ for it but didn’t really get much further than that.

Until I came across the Amazon Developer Perks promotion, where, at the time I published my Skill, Amazon would give you a free Echo Dot just for publishing a skill!

Update: Amazon has introduced a new tiered reward system, where currently you have to get at least 100 unique users to claim your Dot

This was too good an opportunity for me to pass up on so I . started racking my brain for ideas of what my new skill should be, and finally, it hit me – convert my Talking alarm clock into an Amazon Alexa Skill.

After much research and trial and error, I conceded it was not possible to use my skill as an alarm clock, as Amazon doesn’t (or didn’t at the time at least) provide any way to trigger your skills at a set time. So, eventually, I settled on keeping part of the original python app, and turn it into a News Reader. I also had to drop the weather part, as it was approaching the end of the month and I still had to submit it for approval and get it live to get my free Dot.

Hosted on an awesome website – PythonAnywhere – for free, this skill reads BBC news RSS feeds for headlines, technology news, or both.

Feel free to check it out here

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