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Our First Google Home Development Project

 

After using voice service devices for a bit now, I can see the potential in the Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Siri and other voice services.  I use Siri to shortcut tasks that take longer to type than they do to say, like setting reminders and calling people when I’m driving.  Once I realized the time it saves to use a voice service, I’ll never go back.

Having found the benefit of voice services, we decided to create our first app to be an introduction to our company when someone walks into our office.  We could eventually expand it out to create tickets in Pivotal Tracker or setup some custom functionality, but for now we are just welcoming people into our office.  To make an Action (what Google calls their Home apps) in Google Home you’ll first need to layout your speech flowchart, then use either API.AI or the Actions SDK, create any WebHooks you might need, and finally deploy your Action.

Is my App a Good Fit?

 

As a general rule if you can find a portion of your application that is easier to ask for than to look on the phone and type for, then yes it is a good fit.  Single questions with minimum interaction are the best.  For our month long fishing tournament app, WeighMastery, we have leaderboard results.  That is a prime example of a good fit because we can just ask, “Ok Google, talk to WeighMastery and tell me the latest leaderboard from Central Florida Offshore Anglers”. That is much easier for me to ask for, than it is to go to the web page and look it up.  Think outside the box here.  Even small portions of your app can be a good fit.  An example would be for rental companies.  If you have a recurring customer that rents the same property over and over.  Wouldn’t it be easier for them to ask Google if their rental is available the week of May, 14th and book it right then and there!  Your company calls them for payment and it’s all set.

You have your Idea, now it’s time to start making your App

 

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With any voice service, the first place you start is with the flowchart of your dialog.  You can use any of the flowchart services out there to design this.  Your flowchart can get very large very quickly so try to strive for the minimum viable product.  Also remember, if it’s easier to type than it is to ask for then maybe there shouldn’t be a dialog for it since most people will just use their phones.

A Deeper Dive into the Technical Side of Google Home Development

 

In my next post, I will dive deeper into the features of API.ai and the gotchas we ran into while developing our Action. Here is an overview of the items we’ll cover:

  • Setting up the Google Home to listen for phrases for your Action (Intents, context, and parameters).
  • Integrating API.AI to pull data from your app's API. 
    • How homophones affect your Action.
    • Running tests through the device or through Google's Simulator.
    • Exporting your app from API.AI to Amazon Echo.
    • Hacking a deploy to your local device without pushing it to the app store so your Action stays private.

     

    Click here to read Part Two - Let's Get Technical.

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