Alexa News

We recently wrote a three part article on one of our latest Amazon Echo projects, with an exciting video in the works to accompany this I thought I’d take the time to summarize the case study for a quick understanding of what we’ve done.

If you’d like to check out the full story, please read here.

With all the talk of smart homes, we wanted to test our skills and equipment and get to work on creating a smart office. Thanks to Megan, Director of Sales, getting us the opportunity we were able to pair together Giulio (Developer), and Adam (Designer) to create our latest imaginings, and Georgia (Producer) to ensure everything stayed on track.

Our goal was to create an interactive Meeting Room calendar for employee use throughout the office. Using the Amazon Echo, and an LED display screen we would be able to find out the Meeting Room availability, and duration of remaining time before, after and during meetings without any accidental interruptions. The service would connect to our shared calendars and construct a response for Alexa to speak, at the same time the service would connect and update the LED matrix with the current meeting room status.

As mentioned before, we wanted to test our skills and equipment – this project certainly enabled us to use a wide array. We’d recently purchased a new Raspberry Pi 2, which we decided to load Microsoft IoT core on to, and this would host the new service – which would be called by Alexa. The service would connect to our shared calendars which would pull down and format the relevant data, and construct a response. At the same time as this the service would connect to an Arduino via Bluetooth 4.0 and update the LED Matrix with the current Meeting Room status.  

The LED board took inspiration from train station displays, using a scrolling text format. This would ensure that all the relevant information would be visible – with clear red/green colors for available or occupied.

There were many interesting steps throughout this project, and it was great to see, test, and use the final product. The design process was as interesting as the development, with our first use of 3D printing. Adam designed a version of the model, and after some digging around online he contacted a student called Alkaios, who is studying his PhD in Additive Manufacturing; and lucky for us, owned a 3D printer. After some helpful advice, Adam streamlined the model with a version 2.0.

A couple of minor hiccups, some trial and error, and two types of plastic later we received the finished parts to the container that would house the LED. Some care and attention from Adam who filed, sanded, primed and painted the box to perfection – we were now ready for everything to come together.

It was a fun project for all involved, and produced a useful tool for the whole office. As we know that visual demos are always beneficial – Adam has been working on producing a small video to demonstrate how it all works! So keep your eyes peeled and watch this space!