An Alexa Skill for Unlocking Channel Content on my Roku

At home my young kids consume their favorite TV programs from the Disney and Nick Jr. channels on our Roku. We have a subscription to DIRECTV NOW that gives us access to the content on these channels. One annoyance of this setup is that every month these channels require us to manually re-affirm our DIRECTV NOW subscription. The process involves taking an activation code displayed by the channel on TV and manually entering it into an activation web site online. Then I need to enter my DIRECTTV NOW credentials to unlock the channel content again.

This minor inconvenience started grating on me over time, and I was curious to see if I could simplify things using our Echo Dot. After all, Robert Heinlein once said, “Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” I wanted to simply be able to tell Alexa the channel that needed to be unlocked and the activation code, and then have it perform the unlock automatically. This would also enable my wife and kids to unlock channels when I wasn’t around.

Here’s how I created a skill to do just this…

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What I Learned From Building an Alexa Kid’s Skill with the New Alexa Python SDK

Writing an Alexa kid’s skill is something I had been intending to do for a while. I have young ones at home, and they frequently use our Echo Dot. I like that Alexa’s emphasis on voice-first interactions provides a different experience than using a TV or iPad, even if the conversation is ultimately with a bot.

Recently, Amazon announced the availability of the Alexa Skills Kit SDK for Python, complementing their existing SDKs for Node.js and Java. This announcement provided me, as someone who regularly uses Python, the impetus to dive in.

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