Bob: The Bot I Created to Watch Out for Me

I first started working on Bob a few years ago. How it began was I lived alone and had my own apartment and had my business. It was not unusual for my family or my best friends not to hear from me for weeks at a time especially if I was knee deep in a development project. However, because of this I realized that if something were to happen to me, it could have been a while before anybody realized it (after all, I do have cerebral palsy so I am more prone to accidents).
So I created Bob. The first task I programmed Bob to do was to check on me every eight or nine hours by sending a message to my phone. If I didn’t respond within so many hours, it would send a text message to my family and my best friends saying, “it’s been x hours since I had checked in, could someone please check on him?” This worked well. Too well. The problem with it was if I would occasionally sleep in, I wouldn’t hear the request to check in and it would send a lot of false alarms.

What I did to solve the “bot that cried wolf” problem was reporting common daily activities to Bob. Whenever I did one of the following activities, Bob would count it as a “check in”, resetting the clock:

  • Post something on Twitter or Facebook
  • Using my phone’s location, check in every time I left and came back to my apartment

Since I was using an Android phone while I was developing the upgrades, I was able to go deeper into the integrations such as:

  • Every time I sent a text message
  • Every time I made a phone call
  • Every time I answered a phone call

All of those activities counted as a “check in” (those activities don’t count now that I switched back over to iOS since Apple doesn’t allow developers access to the phone or messages portion of their devices).

I also expanded it where if I’m at either a hospital or a police station in Bakersfield for over ten minutes (to prevent it from going off by just driving by), it will send me a message asking me if I’m okay? If I don’t respond within ten minutes, it will alert everyone where I’m at.

The next portion of the system that I want to get around to developing is adding motion sensors so Bob automatically knows when I wake up in the mornings and when I go to bed at night.

However, my goal is to expand its functionality than just being a monitoring system. I’m not quite sure how yet but I want to make it smarter to either automatically handle a handful of digital tasks or do a lot of the repetitive steps for me.

Amazon Echo and Siri: An Unexpected Way to Practice Speech Skills (from a guy with cerebral palsy)

Because of being born with cerebral palsy, in school I saw a speech pathologist all the way to my junior year just to practice my speech and to develop better speech muscles.
As an adult with cerebral palsy there have been points in my life where my family has told me that I needed to start practicing my speech again. That task is difficult without hiring a speech pathologist myself because when I talk, I don’t hear what everyone else hears, to me it’s as clear as day.

Then I bought my first Amazon Echo Dot last year (I bought the Dot versus the full blown Echo just because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to use it). After about a week of trying to use it, I finally just unplugged it and through it in a drawer because it only understood me about half of the time.

But then I busted it back out earlier this summer and started to force myself to use it for certain things. I didn’t realize it but by forcing myself to use it for tasks like, “Echo, wake me up at 6:00” or waking up and saying, “Echo, play my flash briefing” or “Echo, remind me…” what I’m actually doing is practicing my speech with the Echo providing the most important thing in practicing: feedback. If the Echo does what I want it to do, I know I said the command clearly enough, if it doesn’t, I have to sit there and repeat myself until it gets it right.

Once I realized what I was doing, I went ahead and turned on “Hey Siri” on my iPad (since it’s the device that I’m mostly on at home). Now whenever I want to turn on music, or some other basic tasks, I make myself speak the command, therefore practicing even more.

So if you have a child or loved one with a speech impediment, low key buy them an Echo Dot for $40 to get them to unconsciously practice their speech.