Alexa, a Text Adventure, and YaaS

Last week I went to the Building IoT conference. There was a very inspiring talk about Amazon Echo towards the end of the conference. It gave me the idea to combine a chatbot or maybe Alexa with a text adventure.

For those who didn’t have a computer in the 80s (can you believe that smartphones didn’t exist???) or don’t know what a text adventure is… In a text adventure, you type some simple commands, walk through a fictitious world, find things, and everything is text based. Wikipedia names it “interactive fiction“.

So I thought, I’ll try something with these two ideas. I had already prepared a version of quixe that runs a text adventure on Node.js (and doesn’t need a browser). Then I found some documentation on how to run Alexa locally on my MacBook. So, I didn’t need any of these scary “does it spy or not” devices next to me. I then used an example to set up an Alexa skill on Cloud Foundry, which I found on the GitHub page of Gregor Wolf (an SAP Mentor). After throwing everything together and configuring the skill, I was able to open the text adventure and send some commands to navigate through the game via Alexa.

By the way, I’m using Zork as text adventure. The scenario is that you’re standing in front of a house with a small mailbox. You open the mailbox with the simple voice command: “open mailbox“. There is a leaflet inside of the mailbox and with the “take leaflet” command, you take it. At this point, I came up with the idea to add this leaflet, and later a golden egg, to a YaaS shopping cart. I’ve just set up a YaaS project for it, and now I’m able to walk through the Zork world and add items to my shopping cart via Alexa.

If you’re interested in playing Zork or want to get a feeling for a text adventure, there are different online versions available, for example at textadventures.co.uk. The simple commands of an old text adventure fit very well to the Amazon Skill commands (utterances).

This was just a proof of concept. So, what’s next? The text adventure idea is still a bit far off, not only in time. Perhaps we could transform a shopping experience in a mall into a text adventure collecting products with Alexa.

I mean, people like to shop, don’t they? Well, not everyone (not me!) – but if we gamified it for those that don’t, they would love it too.

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