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Amazon Echo Hacking

By Oliver Smith

I wrote a few apps for my Amazon Echo.

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Colossal Cave Adventure app


I wrote an app so you can play the old text adventure "Colossal Cave Adventure" via Echo. Unfortunately, it's an incredibly frustrating experience. I'm finding that Echo is really, really bad at understanding commands for this game. It was pretty annoying shouting "ALEXA, SAY TAKE KEYS" a dozen times with the only response being a confused beeping sound. I didn't even get to the part where you have to say "xyzzy".

My guess is that Echo is built around matching what you're saying to pre-existing phrases, and doesn't do well at all when there's no lookup table. That would explain why it does okay with the normal commands that Amazon built in to it, but it's not really viable for something freeform yet. I guess it could just be my voice, though.

There is a way to give Echo a lookup table for your app by specifying all the phrases ahead of time but I think there are just too many for a text adventure to be feasible. Also I doubt it would improve the experience that much, since unless you already know all the right commands you're still going to be frustrated when Echo doesn't even parse your failed attempts correctly.

Oh well, maybe I'll finish it up just to have a live app to show off.