Cooking with Alexa

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It’s a bit of an understatement to say that we were excited about the release of the Amazon Echo speaker here at AnalogFolk London. We have spent two years jealously watching our American counterparts living in the future portrayed in Spike Jonze’s film Her, but last month we finally got the chance to get our hands on a few units, and got cracking on making some new skills for it.

Being essentially a voice-activated, hands-free speaker; our first thoughts were on creating something that could help people out in the kitchen. There’s nothing worse than making a mess in the kitchen and then getting that mess all over your computer or smartphone when you’re trying to look up the next step in the recipe.

So as with any project the first thing we did was to see what was already out there. It turned out that even though the device has been out for two years, a lot of the existing skills are region locked. This means that the skills store was essentially starting from fresh in the UK. The only thing we could find that was similar was a Jamie Oliver skill that would “guide you through a selection of main ingredients, including meat, pasta, eggs and vegetables to help you narrow your search and find a delicious Jamie Oliver recipe for you to try.”. This seemed like it ticked all the boxes and was even featured on the Amazon Echo’s packaging as a must install skill. Disappointingly the skill didn’t actually walk the user through a recipe, it instead just emailed the user a selected recipe, negating the whole hands-free experience.

It seemed like a lot of people shared our frustrations with the Jamie Oliver skill. In a Contagious interview with the developers, of the skill, they were asked about the lack of this ability. Their reply "it was another thing that might be added to it”, and that “a lot of the skills on Echo are very one dimensional things, partly because of the way the technology works at the moment”. While we understood the frustrations these developers encountered when making this skill, namely the fact that the Amazon Echo doesn’t hold state, we are never ones to shy away from a challenge!

So here it is -  The AnalogFolk Kitchen Helper!

You can ask the Kitchen Helper skill how to cook a specific meal and it will walk you through the recipe step by step, when you are done with the current step you can ask the Kitchen Helper for the next step at your leisure. Because the skill remembers where you were in that recipe you can take as long or as little time as you want. Also, if you need to hear the current step again, just ask the Kitchen Helper to “repeat the last step” and it will read it out again.

All in all, we are quite happy with how this skill has turned out and are currently busy adding more recipes to it. Keep an eye out on the Alexa skill store as we should be ready to publish it soon.