Assignment 3 Task 2

The San Jose Mercury News reported that some San Jose City Council members and city staff signed non-disclosure agreements with Google, during discussions about the tech giant buying city property near the Diridon Station in downtown. San Jose’s City Attorney Rick Doyle said that NDAs are becoming more common when dealing with large tech companies, despite public questions about whether city officials accountable to the public should be allowed to sign NDAs.

One of Hillary Clinton’s top aides in her 2016 presidential campaign has filed paperwork to run for governor of California. Amanda Renteria threw her hat into the ring earlier today, shocking some political leaders. Renteria is currently the Chief of Operations for the California Department of Justice, and has worked for Senator Dianne Feinstein in the past.

Passengers on a flight to Honolulu might have started their vacation off with a bang…literally. A United Airlines flight on route to the holiday destination had its engine cover fall off with a bang, leading to an emergency landing in Honolulu. The Federal Aviation Agency is still investigating what might have caused the Boeing 777 aircraft to malfunction like that.

Transit Times: understand your commute

     Kaylee Lawler is a San Jose State student, In the morning, her main fear is that she’ll miss the train. It takes a couple minutes to get to the nearest VTA light rail station, Alum rock.

She’ll run up the stairs and see her train go by and wishes she could have known the schedule before she left home.

She takes the Alum Rock line to the Paseo de San Antonio stop.
The paper fold-outs are a waste of paper, and looking online isn’t quick, she says.
Google maps doesn’t allow her to select a time to leave with simplicity
She wants a list of 3 possible train time-tables or departure times from her home address.

    I propose an interface that pulls transit information from the same sources as Google maps called Transit Times.
It uses your Amazon shipping address by default as your home, and one would be able to set addresses referenced with simple phrases like “Alexa, open Transit Times. Tell me when I have to leave to catch a train to School. This would be achieved with a 2-minute setup conversation, with natural sounding scripting.
    After that, the product would be simplicity
“Here are the three next departure times, 7:23, 7:43, and  8:13a.m. which one would you like to take?”

The default reminder will be 5 minutes before the departure time to let people get out of the door on time.  Alexa will go into reminder alarm mode for 5 seconds then say “you should leave in 5 minutes” another alarm should go off for 5 seconds “It’s time to go, fare-well!”

The simplest implementation of this skill would be a list of train times going to a destination based on official transit authority time-tables, and letting the user handle the rest to reduce the risk of annoying the user.

Oil and State

Big mess:
Two oil companies went bankrupt last year, leaving the state to clean up the mess.  California State lawmakers are considering spending 100 million dollars. The state needs to clean up two offshore oil drilling facilities and a man-made island.

 Second story: Youtube Propaganda:
A Russian state broadcaster has obtained hundreds of millions of views on youtube…

The director of National intelligence accused Russia Today of promoting Russian propaganda just last year…..  Youtube plans to solve the problem by making changes to its platform. Youtube will now start labeling news videos that receive some government funding.

Assignment 2 Skill Survey

Skill: Daily Bruin

I picked this skill since it was California-based. This skill is just Alexa reading the headlines from the Daily Bruin website, some of which did not make much sense for audio. For example, a sports team’s record was read out loud as “(16-7, 7-4)”. The biggest problem though, was that the stories were in the order of whatever was published most recently, instead of the order of importance or relevance.

Skill: The Daily from The New York Times

I am an avid podcast listener, and had listened to The Daily in the past. I was curious to see if they do anything different for Alexa listeners. From what I could tell, it is the same podcast that you would normally hear. I think this is problematic since ideally Alexa would cycle through multiple news sources, but because The Daily is so long, it is going to be fifteen minutes until that happens.

Skill: The Economist Espresso

For a change of news, I picked a world news source this time. This one was appealing because it is not a traditional flash briefing. Instead, you directly ask Espresso for the day’s agenda, or for a brief on the world. I like this format since you can choose each day what type of news you want. The only downside is that it won’t automatically move over to the next news source.

Assignment #1

“Alexa I want to learn something” enables the curiosity skill. This can lead you on a path that follows your interests. Even though Alexa continues to use her robotic voice, the skill matches the interface. There is no break from “her” and it feels like Alexa can engage conversationally. After the initial fact, she prompted me with the options Would you like to “hi, are you curious about rocketry, or evolution?
She even responded to neither, I thought it was going to be limited to yes or no as prompts. Even though this is a default advertised skill, it has the polish that many skills wish to have.

4 out of 5 brains

Find my Phone seems like the most useful Amazon Alexa skill, not that I would lose my phone regularly, no, but setting it up prior and having the knowledge that I can now throw my phone between the cushions and not even have to get up or ask anyone to dial my phone to receive a call thrills a slothful demon inside me. 4 out of 5 couch potatoes

Good Night: If you’re going to be alone in an apartment, it can get very lonely, but if you have an echo with the good night skill enabled, you’ll have an eloquent poet quote Shakespeare and end your night on a high just before you drift to sleep.  Here’s a sample of a response to “Good night.”
“All I wish

a sheet of clouds for your bed

And bright crystals for the stars

while you sleep

may the angels bring sweet songs

that bring you bright dreams

good night.”

While she gets the timing off, the sentiment is sweet.

4 out of 5 sonnets


“Sleep sounds, beautiful dream” This app won’t be stopped between queries, so a gentle piano tune will play throughout your conversations with Alexa when she isn’t talking or listening.
I don’t like that it takes a hard “Alexa, stop.” to actually stop the sounds. But I do like the ambiance it adds to a space like a chiropractic office. This would be perfect if small sounds wake you up, as a constant sound is preferred if you want to sleep.

3.5 out of 5 stars for a limited soundtrack.

Week 1 assignment

The first skill I enabled was “Clean Joke of the Day” by Pineywoods Tech, LLC. When you ask Alexa for the news, it will tell you a joke first. I picked the skill since it seemed lighthearted and simple. The joke is read by Alexa, not prerecorded, so it entirely messed up the joke, since it happened to be bear with long pause one, and Alexa did not pause to finish the punchline.

“Washington Post” was the next skill I enabled. It is published by the newspaper itself. The content it has appears to be updated live. It supports multiple modes, including reading the headlines, a politics brief, and a news quiz. The headlines are read out loud by Alexa, and was hard to listen to. It frequently stumbled on names, and was hard to listen to. The politics brief was read by a reporter, and was a softer and more comforting voice.

The last skill I tried out was “Ambient Sounds: Fireplace sounds” by Invoked Apps LLC. It is a very simple skill, as it just plays the sound of a fireplace. I think it will run forever until you ask Alexa to stop. The company has also published other sounds, including a brook, the ocean, birds, and so on. I think the main appeal for these skills will be helping people who cannot sleep in a different environment ease in to the different sounds.