“Alexa, tell me about NBC…” “Alexa, tell me about NBC…” Jun. 30th, 2016 Four Kitchens
A person talks to a screen.

“Alexa, tell me about NBC…”

June 30th, 2016

Alexa, the AI interface behind Amazon Echo, has a new “skill” (read: app) for accessing content on NBC.com. Four Kitchens and NBC.com have been working together in a strategic partnership for a while now, building up and diversifying the way that content on NBC.com can be accessed by viewers across multiple platforms and devices, and the newest of those is Echo — Amazon’s audio-only interface device.

Inspired by the Alexa codebase developed for SyFy.com (another NBC Universal property), NBC.com came to the team at Four Kitchens, asking Web Chef Elliott Foster to build out the first Amazon Echo “skill” for a broadcast TV network.

“None of us have an Amazon Echo, so that was a challenge.” — Elliott Foster

Elliott (along with three other developers on the NBC team) accepted the challenge, producing a full Echo interface for NBC.com in just one week from start to finish. Because no one on the developer team actually has an Echo, their work had to be completed in Amazon’s own Alexa sandbox. The Alexa interface has a unique way of processing spoken language, so Elliott had to anticipate not just how people search for shows on NBC, but also how they might talk to this weird little black tube that Amazon built. For example, you might say “Alexa, start NBC” which is straightforward command, or you might instead say “Alexa, tell me about Saturday Night Live” and your Amazon Echo can now parse the information on NBC.com and use that to respond. It’s pretty cool; you can see Four Kitchens’ own Todd Nienkerk trying it out in the video, below.

Key Practices

  • content API
  • spoken interface
  • Amazon Echo
  • Alexa skills

Team Members

  • Elliott Foster – Four Kitchens
  • Helior Colorado – NBC
  • Eric Bower – Avalon
  • Mateu Bosch – Lullabot