Amazon Echo digital personal assistant. Source: Flickr.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just tell someone, “Find me a podcast about science,” and they’d do it immediately? With the Amazon Echo digital personal assistant Alexa, you can.
Erik McBeth is the developer of the Alexa skill called Magic Podcast, which uses the Audiosear.ch API to find and play podcasts based on title or subject matter. This means you can simply say, “Play Fresh Air” — or whatever your podcast of choice is — and the newest episode of that podcast will begin. Even cooler, Magic Podcast can also be used as a discovery tool. Discover podcasts by subject area by asking Alexa to “Find a podcast about food,” or “Find a podcast about business.” Magic, indeed.
Erik got the idea for Magic Podcast after developing another Alexa skill called Magic Jukebox that allows users to stream SoundCloud music on their Amazon Echo. The most complicated part of the skill — responding to requests to pause, start, and skip tracks — was written during the Magic Jukebox development cycle. All Erik needed to adapt it for podcasts was to find an API that could plug into his existing infrastructure.
“So far so awesome. Don’t need to subscribe to anything. Say the name of the podcast and it plays the most recent episode. Simple.” — an Alexa Magic Podcast skill user
He looked at a few different options, including Feed Wrangler and Digital Podcast, as well as others that had seemingly gone defunct. None were a fit, since Erik needed links to actual mp3s served up over HTTPS (Alexa will not play audio from untrusted sources). He also liked the fact that by using Audiosearch’s API he could allow his users the option to play a specific show or look for podcasts on a certain subject.
Users have responded very positively to the skill, commenting on the novelty (“This skill just upped the cool factor of Alexa! Made her more functional for me.”) and simplicity (“So far so awesome. Don’t need to subscribe to anything. Say the name of the podcast and it plays the most recent episode. Simple.”) Erik has many plans for adding to the skill in the future, such as allowing users to save favorites or screen out podcasts they prefer not to listen to.
For now, users are simply enjoying the ability to add podcast functionality to their Echo experience. Have an Echo? Enable the “Magic Podcast” skill here. Or take the Audiosear.ch API for a spin yourself!
See you in the archive,
The Pop Up Archive team