Connected Lab, Amazon Host Hackathon to Teach Echo New Skills

This past weekend, Toronto-based connected software company Connected Lab teamed up with Amazon to host a hackathon.

The goal was to develop new skills for Alexa, the voice-controlled software inside the new Amazon Echo.

“When we talk about this type of voice-based technology, we often refer to it in a future sense. But this technology is here and happening right now,” says Mike Stern, CEO of Connected Lab.

Over the course of 24 caffeine-fueled hours, Canadians were invited to Connected Lab’s offices to develop exciting new voice skills for Alexa to perform.

“My Fridge,” created by a team from local mobile firm TribalScale, took home top prize and programmed Alexa to track what items you are putting into your fridge, as well as expiry dates. Now Alexa can remind you that your milk is expiring before it starts smelling up your refrigerator. By tracking your fridge’s inventory, the “My Fridge” software recommends recipes based on what you currently have in your fridge, and sends the recipe instructions to your smartphone.

Other exciting projects included a team of Connected Lab employees who transformed Alexa into an office assistant to help them book conference rooms.

One participant who works at RBC Capital Markets took the marriage of technology and dating one step further and created “DateHacker,” which provides personalized dating advice such as the best first-date spots in your area and reminds you to bring along enough cash and breath mints.

A team of Humber students, calling themselves the “HumberHackers,” used Alexa to control Chromecast and YouTube. It allows viewers to surf YouTube entirely by voice, goodbye remote control. They even built their own website to act as the control centre.

“As these projects show, the way we go about our daily lives is going to change, whether that’s the way we buy groceries, date, or interact at the office,” said Stern. “We’re thrilled to have created a way for talented Canadian designers and developers to showcase what the future could look like.”

The winning team was awarded Amazon Echos, a feature on Amazon’s developer blog, and the opportunity to interview for paid positions with Connected Lab.