Review: Building Voice-Enabled Apps with Alexa

I got a free copy of Building Voice-Enabled Apps with Alexa by Kory Becker, to do a review.

At first glance, I thought it would be a sort of dumb history-lesson of chat-based apps, from a non-tech perspective, without any good details. For this book, that would be like judging an awesome videogame by it's introductory levels.

I found it to be fairly comprehensive, and got into all the details I could hope for:

  • Practical application: They straight-up walk you through making a voice-enabled text adventure, shopping app, the entire setup/config/deployment process, development tools (I didn't know there was an echo simulator!), and lots of solid code-examples, mostly with nodejs. It's simple enough for a beginner to follow, but advanced enough to not be boring at all. Really good stuff.
  • Context: A great view of past and future context of language-based app, including lots of delicious voice-UI design-theory.
  • Inspiration: After I read a bit, I got super-pumped to make an Alexa app. I had already been thinking about this for my girlfriend's 9 year old (they love the Alexa game "The Magic Door") and I thought before reading this "maybe we'll make a game, if it's not too complicated". This book gave me confidence that I can assemble something fairly quickly that works pretty well, and we'll probably start on it next weekend. Stay tuned for a detailed look at this process.

If you are already familiar with node programming, do like I did, and jump to "Your First Amazon Alexa App" chapter, and put together a sweet demo. The other stuff is interesting for sure, and well laid-out, but I got up and running super-fast, and it got me excited to run through the rest of the book.

All-in-all, I would highly recommend even code-newcomers picking up this book and trying out the awesome recipes, if they have an interest in the exciting world of conversation-based UI applications. The background and theory for application-design reminds me of when I first learned a bit about color-theory. It'll take my game to the next level, and help me make better applications.