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Amazon Echo Hacking

By Oliver Smith

I wrote a few apps for my Amazon Echo.

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Private until the NDA lifts!


I wrote some quick apps for my Amazon Echo. The first lets you ask questions of Wolfram Alpha. It's really quick and dirty, but you can ask some basic questions and get answers. For instance:

Alexa, open Alpha and ask "How big is a blue whale?" Answer: Blue whale - Length - 82 to 100 feet.

Alexa, open Alpha and ask "When is sunset in Portland, Oregon?" Answer: Sunset - Portland, Oregon - Today 7:18 PM PDT.

Alexa, open Alpha and ask "What are the planets in the solar system?" Answer: Planets - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune - Total 8

Alexa, open Alpha and ask "What is the circumference of Jupiter?" Answer: Jupiter - Equatorial circumference 279,120 miles.

Alexa, open Alpha and ask "Which planets have rings?" Answer: Ringed planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

Etc, etc. The "Alexa, open..." syntax is just the way Amazon makes you do it right now. Hopefully they will come up with something less awkward.

I was kind of disappointed that the Echo SDK doesn't let you do all that much. For instance, you can't record or stream audio. However, I was still able to get the Echo to control Spotify running on my laptop, which then streams music to the Echo via Bluetooth. So it's pretty indirect. It also makes a lot of mistakes and the Spotify API doesn't do fuzzy matching, meaning if it screws up it can't even guess. It's still better than Prime Music though! I probably won't bother cleaning these apps up enough to release them, but if anybody is curious I'll share the code.

The good news is that writing apps for Echo is pretty easy (the only tricky part is having a webserver with SSL and a domain name available). I'd expect that anything that can be home-automated will be Echo-accessible pretty soon.