Learning with Bloc = Training at Amazon

Earlier this year, Bloc met Alexa- Amazon Alexa, that is.

Amazon Alexa is the voice-activated operating system for the Amazon Echo. You may have seen a few of the company’s funny commercials, featuring Alec Baldwin, advertising the product’s various capabilities. Since hitting the market, Amazon Echo as well as many other household intelligence hardwares, have been sweeping the consumer market.

Alexa also adds voice capabilities to devices like Fire TV, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, NEST thermostats, Philips Hue lightbulbs, and Belkin WeMo switches. Alexa is being positioned to be the center of a connected home and is being hailed by many as the most game-changing platform since the iPhone’s Siri feature (it’s a B. F. D.). The Alexa developer community has already released over 400 skills including teaching the Amazon Echo to order a pizza from Domino’s, call an Uber, play a song on Spotify, and connect with dozens of other IoT devices.

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Create Skills for Amazon Alexa
Bloc has partnered with Amazon to create the Alexa Project. This project is designed to immerse students in real-world experience at top tech companies. Its curriculum, the Alexa Skill Set, teaches students how to build engaging voice experiences. The program also allows for students to explore with unique problem solving solutions and be creative in ideating for new product features.

Any students who are successful in creating new skills for Alexa have not only a serious addition to their portfolio, but the capability to have their work showcased and incorporated into Alexa’s algorithm. Upon creating three or more unique skills for Alexa, the candidate is also awarded the opportunity to sit with Amazon executives to discuss assets and employment.  

“We’re delighted to collaborate with Bloc to help developers and designers learn more about Voice User Interface Design and how to build Alexa skills,” said Rob Pulciani, Director of Alexa. “We look forward to seeing more great Alexa skills from the developer community. Their creativity is making Alexa even better for customers.”

Bloc Alumni and Amazon
Henry Schaumburger is a graduate of Bloc’s Full Stack Developer Track and was part of the pilot program for the new Alexa project. Henry and his mentor Mark Carpenter decided to create an Alexa skill that looks up the geographic location of a telephone area code. Check out a recording of his Alexa skill at Henry’s portfolio website.

Attend the Alexa TechTalk
Henry and Mark hosted an online TechTalk about how they built their first skill with Alexa. They cover how they used two platforms — Alexa Skills Kit and AWS Lambda (part of Amazon Web Services), and the JavaScript runtime environment Node, to create this simple skill. Check out the recording here: Getting Started with Alexa TechTalk

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