Ask Alexa - Flash Briefing

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A core function of Alexa is the ability to play on-demand news or information from other skills. With Ask Alexa, you have the ability to define one of your Macro Groups or Voice Report Macros as part of your 'Flash Briefings' from Alexa. These flash briefings are activated simply by saying "Alexa, flash briefings". Please note there is no skill name or any other parameters required as this is a native function of Alexa. This may be useful to get a quick summary of your home. And, with the ability to run macro groups, you can actually perform actions upon running the flash report.

Summary

AskAlexa@2x.png

Category: Ask Alexa Feature - Requires Ask Alexa

Author:Michael Struck --MichaelStruck (talk) 00:01, 1 January 2016 (EST)

ST Community handle: https://community.smartthings.com/users/michaels/activity

Latest Version

Flash briefing capabilties are built into the base code of Ask Alexa. There is no additional code to install to use macros. You WILL need to setup and install a new skill, however. These instructions will allow you to do that.

Set Up Your Ask Alexa Smart App For Flash Briefing

To allow Flash Briefings to be activated, first go to <<Settings>> within your Ask Alexa SmartApp. Enable the section labeled <<Enable Flash Briefing>>. This will expand the interface to allow you to choose ONE type of output (macro group, voice report macro, or Message Queue contents) to utilize as your flash briefing.

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As mentioned in the section Ask_Alexa_-_Macros#Extension_Group, an extension group will allow multiple extensions to run depending on restrictions. This could mean multiple voice reports that make up your Flash Briefing (such as weather, home report, etc.). However, you ALSO have the ability to include WebCoRE or Control Macros within the Macro group, allowing the Flash Briefing to actually perform actions on your SmartThings environment when the flash briefing is run.

Once you choose the macro you want to use as the output of your Flash Briefing, you will need to set up the Amazon Skill for this function. Please note that you will need the URL that should now be present in the <<Settings>><<Setup Ask Alexa>><<Setup Variables Link>> section. This will only appear when <<Enable Flash Briefing>> is turned on.

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Set Up The Flash Briefing Skill

You will now need to create a new skill on your Amazon developer account. You should have already set up your developer account to get the main Ask Alexa skill created, but the instructions for setting up a developer account are here: Developer Account.

  • To begin creating your skill, go to https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/alexa/alexa-skills-kit and find the area on the right side labeled <<Start a Skill>>. You will be brought to a dashboard of your current skills. Another way to get to this area is to find the <<Alexa>> menu item on most screens within the Amazon Developer web site.

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  • On the Alexa Skills Kit Developer Console, click <<Create Skill>>
  • Clicking this button will walk you through specific steps of building your new skill. Name the skill something like Ask Alexa Flash Briefing then click <<Next>>.
  • On the next page you will be given 4 choices. Choose Flash Briefing, then click <<Create Skill>>

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  • On the next page you will be asked for a custom message. Type:
Custom Error Message There was an issue getting the Ask Alexa Flash Briefing. Please try again.

then click <<+ Add New Feed>> below the <<Custom Error Message>>. Enter the information as outline below:

Preamble From your Ask Alexa App:
Name Ask Alexa
Content update frequency Weekly (this setting doesn't make a difference but must be set)
Content type Text
Content genre Other (this setting doesn't make a difference but must be set)
Feed Enter the URL copied from your <<Setup Variables Link>> page in your Ask Alexa SmartApp (see Ask_Alexa_-_Flash_Briefing#Set_Up_Your_Ask_Alexa_Smart_App_For_Flash_Briefing)
Icon Optional, but you can use this one: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/MichaelStruck/SmartThingsPublic/master/smartapps/michaelstruck/ask-alexa.src/AskAlexa512.png

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  • At this point you can click <<Add>> to save the information. This is the only information needed to utilize the skill. The other tabs <<Account Linking>> and <<Privacy & Compliance>> are not necessary. You can also add icons and other information to the Flash Briefing by clicking on the <<Launch>> at the top of the page:

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The recommended icons to use are here:

Icon Size Location
108 x 108 icon https://raw.githubusercontent.com/MichaelStruck/SmartThingsPublic/master/img/flashsm.png
512 x 512 icon https://raw.githubusercontent.com/MichaelStruck/SmartThingsPublic/master/img/flash.png
  • Click <<Save and Continue>> at the bottom. Please note that you should stop here with your Flash Briefing. The next steps in the interface are for publishing the app for others to use....something you DON'T want to do unless you want the world to control your home.


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Now that your skill is set up, the final step is to enable it in your Amazon Alexa app (or web page).

Amazon Flash Briefing Setup

The final step is to ensure your new skill is enabled within your Alexa app. You may also set this up in your web browser at http://alexa.amazon.com. For clarity, the screen shots below came from the web site and not the app.

  • First, go to the menu item <<Skills>>. Then, narrow down the list by clicking <<Your Skills>>in the upper right corner of the screen. Finally, scrolling down you should find the <<Ask Alexa Flash Briefing>> skill. Click on this and enable the skill.

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  • Next, go to the left menu area and choose <<Settings>>. From here, choose <<Flash Briefing>>.

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  • Ensure the small slider indicates your Ask Alexa skill is on. You may also choose other briefings on this page to be included with your Ask Alexa briefing.

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  • From here you should be able to simply say "Alexa, flash briefing" to get quick access to your Ask Alexa reports.
   Please Note
   Flash briefings take into account the restrictions for any voice, weather or macro 
   you have set up. However, since the Flash Briefing API from Amazon DOES NOT provide
   the speaker identification, you will be unable to hear your flash briefing if you
   have restrictions based on which speaker is being spoken to.