Hack the Now & Next: Alexa edition

On July 21-22, 2017, Ratio and Globant hosted a hackathon at our new offices in Seattle’s Westlake Park. Our focus was voice technology, specifically, Amazon Alexa. Alexa is the brain behind the voice service powering the Amazon Echo and its family of devices. Alexa has capabilities (known as Skills) that provide customers with personalized experiences (“Alexa, what’s the weather like in Maui?”). There are now more than 15,000 skills allowing users to play music, order coffee or call an Uber, all with just the power of your voice.

On Friday July 21 we kicked off the event serving pizza and beer to an excited group of participants. After some inspirational comments from our CEO, Nate Thompson, each person spoke briefly about their ideas and many new acquaintances were made. The following day was a great time of learning, ideating and enjoying building solutions with this exciting new area of technology. It was rewarding to see people who had never met before working hand in hand building some truly interesting skills. Ratio and Globant leaders and consultants showed up to support the hackers with technical leadership, compelling ideas and bold encouragement.

We closed the hackathon with demonstrations of each solution. Many interesting ideas were presented including “Pop Chef” where you could hear recipes based on what you’ve seen on your favorite TV show and “Now Tonight” where a user could ask Alexa for evening entertainment options in the city. The winning skill was dubbed “Ask SAM” (SAM is the nickname for the Seattle Art Museum). Built as a guide for youngsters touring the museum, the idea was to place an Echo Dot at eye level for selected works of art. This would make it easy and fun for the kids to ask questions about the art pieces as well engage in fun games like “I Spy” or “Fact or Fiction.”

All in all the event was a grand success. “What makes Seattle a special place is not only the level of talent here but their passion for new technology”, said Jeff Rubingh, VP of Innovation. “It was great to see the excitement that an event like this generates.” The winning team members each received an Amazon Echo as a reward for their efforts.

We’re excited to host more Hackathons to inspire innovation in the community! Stay tuned for our next Hackathon in the Fall!