[DEPRECATED] Ask Alexa 2.3.6

Version 2.3.6 of Ask Alexa

I am pleased to announce the 2.3.6 version of Ask Alexa! In this version I continue (along with help from the community) to evolve the application to allow more conversational syntax, along with adding more functionality for existing and new devices.

This app is used for those who are not happy with simply with simply saying “Alexa, turn on the living room”. If you are curious about the STATUS of a light, or run a very complex set of instructions (or even use a little bit of logic to choose what runs), then this program is for you. While the thread is long, I recommend you start with the first paragraph here ([RELEASE] Ask Alexa).

This will be a simple upgrade (Scenario 1 http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa#How_Do_I_Upgrade_Ask_Alexa)

PLEASE NOTE: Now that this app is rather stable (It is now almost 2 years old!) now I will be updating it less frequently except for bugs and new features. I am waiting for Amazon to release their ‘push’ notifications where some amazing stuff will happen with this app. Until then, if you do have a great feature idea for this app, just let me know.

Other additions to this new version include:

  • Improved setup process This now cuts down the installation to less than 10 minutes with both the Lambda and Developers sites. Simply click the Settings>>Setup Variables and instead of constantly copying/pasting from multiple locations you copy the code given to you to Lambda, and then the JSON to the developer site and you are ready to start using the application. Power users can still manually install and maintain their respective sites as well, so this is not a step down! Please note, YOU are still in control of the application and maintain the Amazon pieces. I have no access to your information! I have started the documentation, but it is rough right now: http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa#Single_Step_Interaction_Model
  • Improvements to WebCoRE integration Many more users are using the xParam to send specialized commands to WebCoRE, essentially making WebCoRE voice capable. One limitation has been the ability (ironically) to send numbers from Ask Alexa to WebCoRe. Because of the way voice commands are used, numbers were used to designate a delay in execution. With this revision I allow you to choose between a delay (something that can happen on the WebCoRE side anyway) and passing that numeric value directly to WebCoRE, or send it as the xParam. This is an elegant solution that helped @avnergid control the volume of his Onkyo stereo and @tbam control his Tivo. Thanks to both of them for the suggestion! They can each post more about their integration if they would like. @GRClark, this is what you were waiting for as well :smiley:
  • Sample Utterances To support different ways to send items to WebCoRE a few new utterances have been added. his is a good opportunity to test the new setup process within the developer area setup! Otherwise, the utterances are here: https://github.com/MichaelStruck/SmartThingsPublic/blob/master/smartapps/michaelstruck/ask-alexa.src/Sample%20Utterances

For those with IDE integration with GitHub, simply update the repository and you will have the latest code for the SmartApp itself. It is recommended up update the utterances as there are some new ones available.

All of you have been great in asking very relevant questions and making suggestions that I end up using. Here are some helpful tips on usage and support:

  • Sometimes it works best if I can work real time with you. To facilitate this, I have created a Slack channel: https://askalexa.slack.com. Using this tool is easy and will allow for real-time collaboration to solve the problems faster. To use this feature, I must invite you to the Slack channel. This will not be for normal questions; please use this forum for that function.
  • The Echo, as it is designed currently, cannot react to switches opening or other actions within SmartThings. She will do things for you, but only at your direction and at the time of the request. The delay timer mentioned in the control macro happens at the SmartThings hub, not within the Amazon Alexa control. See the new Message Queue functions for similar functionality with Big Talker!
  • When evaluating new features I will typically ask for a valid use case. If it can be used by others to bring them value I will put it on my list of future revisions. Not all suggestions will be used and many times I add aspects of the request.
  • There are no dumb questions, but many of the questions you may have were probably answered in the year since the initial release. Please take some time to go through the forum and the wiki if you have issues. And don’t be offended if I give you the specific area of the manual that answers your question. I have spent almost as much time on the documentation as I have on the app. Finally, there are some big fans of Ask Alexa that know almost as much as I do. They can also help.
  • Feel free to send me forks of utterances or even code revisions. As mentioned above, if it adds value to the overall program I will try to include it. This also goes for the wiki documentation…while I have spent over a year and a half creating this document, I am open to it being improved; I know there are probably still grammatical errors or syntax issues…If you find them, fix them…I will include your name (if I can) in any fixes submitted.
  • If you find a bug or a consistent crash please help me track it down by giving me repeatable steps to reproduce it. A non-reproducible bug, many times, indicates other areas that may be at fault besides the app. If you watch the live logging and see a red error with a line number, that is very helpful to me! However, I will need a full screenshot and not a copy/paste of the text. But be careful about revealing your OAuth and AppToken in your public posts. People can control you house with that information. You may want to blur that out.

As mentioned above, revisions will be less and less now. And with the code base now unified, I expect less and less additions…especially as I partner with other application developers to ensure their strengths can be brought into the notification model of Ask Alexa . Any and all suggestions are still on the table for addition.

As always, I appreciate any public accolades or even donations to my PayPal account: https://www.paypal.me/mstruck . And, if you are so inclined, I also will accept bitcoins (or fractions thereof) if you have any laying around. My wallet ID is: 1CMgaiKgBfojTBCLpHLfa9KvcrW3cNxVpm


Always amazing work Michael,

If I am currently a power user by default - not by choice, and want to change over to the ‘new install method’ where you generate my stuff for Lambda and Dev (because I’m lazy)

  1. is there benefit - like no more constant cutting and pasting because I’m still building out and my system is on constant flux?

  2. if there’s a benefit to me switching, what’s that procedure look like?

Thanks again for the much increased WAF!

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For #2 I would start here for the documentation http://ask-alexa.com. While it is a long document, the actual pieces for installation can probably be done in less than 1/2 hour, and upgrades can be done in less than 10 minutes. I can even do my WHOLE install in less than 10 min, but I no longer have to consult the manual :smiley:

As for the ‘benefits’ it really depends on your use case…if the native install works for you, then there is no real benefit. For me I user a combination of the native integration for control of devices, and then Ask Alexa for reports (ie. status of various items) and large macros use a combination of native integration that calls items from Ask Alexa (Advanced features).

The benefits of this installation (your question #1) is certainly the limited amount of copy/pasting that you no longer have to do to set up the Amazon Developer area. Before, each ‘slot’ (7 +) would have to have data put in. Now, you simply download the code from the app, then upload it to Amazon and all of the intents, slots and utterances (1000 of them) are all put into the proper place.

If you want to tackle this Saturday or Sunday I will be online to assist, but I am actually very curious how a new user is able to get through the new process with the instructions.

Let me know if that helps! And welcome to the forums!

Oh I’ve done the install many times - thanks for the offer. (I’ve hosed the install more times than I can count and blew up my utterances a few times as well). I was interested if switching over included a full reinstall to switch or if it was an easy couple of entry changes in Lambda and Dev.

Then I think you might be a perfect candidate…you can contrast the old and new processes…All I ask is you keep track of how long it takes you to do it.

There are so many hidden features that you can discover based on your use case that I would suggest you install it and see how it works. I would read how I integrated the native routines with Ask Alexa in some rudimentary decision making process: http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa#Good_Night_Weekdays.2FWeekends_.28Native.2C_Non-Invocation.29

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Will do. Ex product support manager here, I keep good process notes. :slight_smile: I’ll follow up with you in PM afterward.


I appreciate it!

Updated to 2.3.6a to accomodate a situation where the user goes directly to installation and doesn’t enter an invocation name in the SmartApp…The new installation uses this information in the SmartApp to populate the name in the developer area (if you use the single step method of installation introduced in this version).


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If you are looking at this thread contemplating installing Ask Alexa for the first time, just FYI…there is a new version coming out tomorrow (Friday 1/19). I wouldn’t hesitate as the upgrade is simply new IDE code, but just FYI for those on the fence. New features include WebCoRE xParams that can now be created within the app and MyNextManager integrations.

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I been reading all of this and it sounds greatñ but I’m not a developer. Im a simple human been with a lot of curiosity. how can do all of the things you explain? of two developer sites, etc. its there how to book for dummies? how I can install your app?

Great questions…first, you are probably going to want the latest version; this is the thread fo 2.3.6…latest is 2.3.9.

Next, I would read this: http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa

It SHOULD give you everything you need to know to install the app. Thousands have using just the instructions, but if you have never done any Amazon AWS work, it CAN be challenging. That is why I am here :slight_smile: I can assist you with some of the more complex items, as can some of those that have gone before you.

Good luck and let me know how I can help.

Thank you for quick answer.
I feel like talking to Obi-Wan Kenobi !!!
I will read it and try until I can. As I mention before no Amazon AWS (werever that means) experience before.

May the force be with you

Obi wan… I need your help.
I had aparently I did everything but Im stuck. I had publish like 4 diferent apps aparently but nothing showing on my Iphone smarthings app.

Ok…So let me know what you see. Does the app load up? Did you get the Lambda installed properly? Don’t post it, but did you get the appID and Token in that code?

Most importantly, if you are NOT seeing the app in “My Skills” area I would ensure you created a developer account in the SAME account as your devices (basically, you primary Amazon account).

If you say “Alexa, open SmartThings” does it do anything?

You may want to PM me as some of the information could allow others to control your devices (unlikely, but possible).

Let me know.

Now I now.
No the app did not show up, Yes I open a lamba account and the aws account too. but I do not got any of those.

I have the amazon and smarthings connected already.

I think I sent you a PM. I hope it reaches.

Got it…sent a response!