You can add the Roku media player to the list of devices that can be bossed about by the Amazon Echo and its built-in AI: Alexa. [Julian Hartline] has figured out how to use Amazon’s voice-controlled Echo device with a Roku media player. He did this by using the Alexa Skills Kit, the SDK that provides a programmer’s interface into the functions of the device. That allows you to add functions to the Alexa and the AWS Lambda cloud service that processes the voice commands (Amazon calls this an Alexa Skill).
Rather than have the cloud service talk directly to the Roku, though, he decided to have a local node.js server act as an intermediary. The Alexa sends the voice command to the AWS Lambda service, which processes it, sends the command to the node.js service, which finally sends the command to the Roku. It works, but it seems a little slow to respond: see the video after the break. In the example shown, Alexa actually causes the Roku to launch Netflix and input a search string for the requested show. Pretty slick!
[Julian] used the node.js intermediary for two reasons. One is that it makes it easier to add more devices to the service, because it is easier to add support for the new devices to the node.js server, such as the IR blaster support that he has also added. The second is that he says that the Alexa can’t send commands directly to new devices itself: it lives on your local network, but can’t send commands to devices that it does not have built-in support for. “The ASK is unfortunately a bit limited in its current incarnation” [Julian] told us. “I assume that the WeMo functionality is done using the connection that the Echo has to the local network. I hope (and expect) that someday access to this functionality will be granted to third party developers.” We hope so too. The WeMo functionality he mentions has been hack as an additional way to hook into the closed Echo system.