January 3, 2017 level13studios No comments

Slight tangent, voice skills!

So now Christmas is well and truly over and forgotten about, except for the extra weight gain and the odd present or two that you haven’t yet put to any use, I decided to use the Amazon voucher I got for Christmas to frivolous use by purchasing an Amazon Dot. Now I eagerly await the delivery of my first step in bringing my home to AI life, but what has this to do with a blog about web development you may ask? Well actually, a fair bit. Alexa (the AI voice of the Dot and the Amazon Echo), is able to bring to you information from across the internet just by a simple voice command. “Alexa, what is the weather” I am reliably informed will provide me with a weather update, and this isn’t the limit of Alexa’s capabilities. Even more exciting, I happened on this, ‘Alexa, when’s the bus?‘ blog post which details how the poster, Lorna, was able to use Javascript in the developer portal to scrape the information about her local buses from a specific URL. Of course this does rely on the website never changing that URL and having up to date information but just having this ability opens up so many possibilities.

It has set me wondering how in the future, and who knows how far, whether we’ll be creating websites which displays information in markup which AI can understand and interpret. Yes we are so much further along from the old days of using tables in HTML to create webpages as we now have semantic markup but is this enough for AI to one day find the information itself without us having to feed the data into it? I’m by no means an expert in AI though I did do a degree in Cognitive Science (the study of intelligence in mind and machine), but that was many moons ago and it’s fair to say things have advanced since then, so I can only make educated guesses as to how AI will shape web development in the future. We now have smartphones and account for mobile development on our websites so will AI be something that we have to develop for and test? I know AI has been around for a long time and many companies and corporations have dipped their toe or dived right into it, (Alexa is just one of many smart consumer devices), and it seems as though we are on our first steps in a truly AI world at the consumer level (as envisaged in many a sci-fi film or tv show) and it makes for a very exciting future. Until the day Skynet becomes self-aware of course…

 

Update [10.01.2017]

I’ve now had Alexa for just under a week and she is residing in my bedroom (yes, I’m already thinking of her as a she rather than a machine). When Alexa first arrived, I set her up in my office and enjoyed playing some tunes from my phone via bluetooth (okay so I could have just plugged my phone into the same speakers as Alexa was plugged in to), and trying out different commands. I particularly enjoyed being able to ask her what 400 US dollars is in GB pounds and quickly realised how lazy I could become by asking Alexa questions rather than going to a website and looking it up for myself (I wonder if she’ll ever be clever enough to answer my coding questions). After consigning her to my bedroom, I’ve mostly used her to wake me up in the morning, give me the news, tell me the weather, tell me when the ISS space station will next be flying by, and I’ve tried a hypnosis skill while drifting off to sleep (a lose weight session, have yet to see the results). All in all, I feel she is wasted in the bedroom and I now must have one in every room as well as smart light bulbs that she can turn on and off for me. I’ve yet to try adding my own skill to Alexa but there’s plenty to play around with (if you can remember all the names needed to trigger them). I look forward to the day when a synthetic (as in the TV series Humans) can do my work and look after the house for me (while I do, er, I’m not exactly sure), but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. It does make me wonder what is yet to come and so I’m off to listen to this Future commerce podcast to find out.

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