Friday, July 20, 2018

Julius Caesar Reborn!!!

A couple of months ago I posted an article about my efforts to create history-themed skills for Alexa-enabled devices. As I explained, Alexa is Amazon's artificially intelligent voice-activated virtual assistant. I have been working on recreating Gaius Julius Caesar so Roman history enthusiasts can talk with him about Roman culture, his military career, and people he knew during his lifetime.

At the end of June, Amazon approved my new FREE skill "Caesar's Ancient World."  It is available in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and India for Alexa-enabled devices and the free Alexa app for smartphones. Initially, I built what is commonly referred to as a "chatbot" or what Amazon refers to as a "social bot" that could answer whatever questions you wished to ask. But, Amazon did not like an open-ended question and answer session so I had to redesign Caesar and apply a more traditional branching menu with predefined topics. Still, I have him explain historical events from his perspective across a broad array of topics including his childhood, his victories, his defeats, Roman institutions like the senate and the dictatorship, Roman entertainments like chariot racing and gladiatorial combat, Roman marriage, Roman adoption, Roman punishments, what it's like to experience a Roman triumph, and his opinions on people he knew during his lifetime. He'll even tell you what he liked to eat (based on a couple of delicious-sounding recipes from Apicius' cookbook!)

I plan to add more to his memory as time permits. But, at least for now, I hope you will find an audience with him interesting.

Many of us who are interested in the ancient world also enjoy viewing museum exhibits. Many major museum have Twitter accounts and tweet information about upcoming exhibits, special presentations, and other activities they offer. However, plowing through your Twitter stream can be daunting looking for timely information. So, I have created a series of skills that group tweets of major museums together and read them to you using Alexa. The first skill I designed was called simply "Museum Tweets." It is a skill that provides the latest tweets from major museums across the United States divided into East Coast, Midwest and West Coast regions. It is dynamic and the contents of the skill change daily based on how often different museums post news to Twitter.  Since I have published "Museum Tweets", I have also developed and published museum tweet skills for the United Kingdom (United Kingdom Museum Tweets), Canada (Canadian Museum Tweets), and Australia (Australian Museum Tweets), too.

So, if you love museums as much as I do, I encourage you to give these skills a try if you have an Alexa-enabled device or the free Alexa app on your smartphone!

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