Junior programs a new skill for Amazon Echo

Photo credit: Amazon

Photo credit: Amazon

By Kayla Britt, MS&T Editor

Junior Skyler Ehly always found himself asking, “What’s at Servo?” or “What’s the Bullet special today?”

He owned an Amazon Echo, which he and his housemates in Blue Note used pretty often, and decided to research how to become an Amazon Developer. He found himself busy with classes, but while he was abroad in England the following semester he had some free time on his hands.

He chose to spend his free time pursuing the project that had sparked his interest the previous semester, and quickly got started on making his idea a reality.

He contacted the Gettysburg IT department and the Vice President of Information Technology, Rodney Tosten, replied back to him. He offered Ehly a job writing a program code for the skill. After months of writing code and planning, the feature was ready to be put into action.

The main feature of the skill, which can be used by anyone with an Alexa-enabled device, allows you to get menu information from the Dining Center, Bullet Hole, Commons, Dive and even the Servo truck.

All you have to do is give Alexa the location and date, and it will respond with the menu update.

In addition, if you want to know what’s on the menu for a specific meal, you can ask: “Alexa, ask Gettysburg College Dining: what is the Bullet special on Friday?”

Ehly plans to refine the feature during the rest of his time here at Gettysburg. One improvement he hopes to make is to shorten the time it takes Alexa to retrieve a response.

He also hopes to incorporate more information about Servo, as currently the skill only gives information about the entrée and saute sides, but not the grill.

He also has ideas for other features that he and Tosten can work on together. A news skill could allow Gettysburgians and alums to listen to a news article on the school webpage.

This would be a convenient way to stay up to date about what’s going on around campus without having to go directly to the website. Ehly’s next big project involves looking into Watson, another artificial intelligence program with wider capabilities than Alexa.

He believes that through Watson users will be able to inquire about a variety of subjects regarding college life and news, so that everyone can more easily stay updated about what’s going on. “After I graduate, I hope to be able to hand down the projects to an underclassman to continue the work,” said Ehly.

The Amazon Dot sells for around $50, and Ehly hopes that his skills will inspire more students to purchase Alexa-enabled devices. “I’m curious to see if these skills will encourage students to purchase Alexa devices,” said Ehly. “It certainly would encourage me.”

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