Geeks will be geeks. We can’t resist buying the new gadget to play with, especially if it’s hackable. Recently our CEO, Steve, could not resist buying an Amazon Echo, which turned into the beginning of an API journey at APIStrat Austin. When the Amazon Echo was launched in November 2014, I don’t remember people getting overexcited about it. I don’t remember people screaming on social networks that they were dying to get one. Even if it was way cheaper than what it is now, I don’t think people understood at that time the real value of this device. Now, it looks like it was the must-have thing under your tree for Christmas this year. I want to share my story of playing with the Echo for a few days and see how this device will influence the API space in the coming years.
The first time I played with it was at re:Invent in Las Vegas. At the Amazon stand, they had a giant Echo replica that you could get inside and try out live. Inside this sound-proof mega-Echo you could ask Alexa (the AI) all the questions you wanted and she would answer. It was a very impressive demo. It wasn’t just a Siri in a box, it’s much more. At re:Invent AWS announced IoT platforms and integrations with partners like Campbell’s Soup.
I got to play with our own device on a Saturday afternoon. We tried to ask it any weird question we had in mind, trying to figure out patterns and edge cases. I wanted to trick Alexa and ask if she knew what was the square root of -1… of course she knew! We tried the awesome integration by Campbell’s Soup. You ask Alexa what’s for dinner and she will offer you different options for recipes. Something that takes only 30 minutes to prepare? Something vegetarian? This particular recipe? You end up having a specific conversation with your own sous-chef about what you are going to eat tonight. All of this was made possible by the Campbell’s Soup Recipe API – powered by 3scale!
(You didn’t know that APIStrat had an API? Here’s a pro tip: Always scroll to the bottom of a web page – that’s where you’re most likely to find a link to the API page).
The API can give tell you what’s happening now and give you the list of speakers or sessions. The app lets you interact with Alexa like this:
Alexa, ask conference what’s now
Alexa, ask conference when is Kin Lane speaking
or Alexa, ask conference when is the API Design session
Here’s a video that shows how it’s working.
You can find the code of the function here.
Unfortunately, during the event, there was too much ambient noise to make it work all the time at the booth.
This simple example shows that APIs will not be only for geeks in the future, people will use and consume APIs in their everyday lives through devices like the Amazon Echo. I also think the design of the API might change to facilitate the integration with devices like this one. Is that integration-driven design? On this topic, I hereby encourage you to check out Steve’s keynote at APIdays Paris.