When Amazon adopted the Alexa software that I had once explored as an alternative platform, I began to hope Amazon could bring the technology to maturity and make it possible for me to once more bring Julius Caesar to life and this time make it possible to talk to him. Well, that time finally arrived in late 2018 when I learned to use software called VoiceFlow to develop an Alexa skill for all of the Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.
My initial version of the skill was voice only but when Amazon introduced devices with displays like the Echo Show and Echo Spot, I longed to add images of ancient art and artifacts to help people envision the topics Caesar discussed. I learned how to use Amazon's Presentation Language templates with VoiceFlow to display images I had either taken myself at museums and archaeological sites or those taken by contributors to Wikimedia Commons or licensed with Creative Commons. It took me over six months to select and prepare all of the illustrations and add the programming to my prototype.
On July 1, 2019, I received word from Amazon that the newest version of my FREE educational Alexa skill, "Caesar's Ancient World" has been certified. This latest version of the skill includes 280 images of ancient art from almost 100 institutions worldwide for those of you with Alexa-enabled devices with displays like the Echo Show, Echo Spot and FireTV. Of course, the voice-only version remains available for those with regular Echos or Echo Dots.
I also redesigned the interface so you can now just ask Caesar what you would like to talk about and he will reply with narrative including sound effects. You can say things like "I want to know more about chariot racing" or "Tell me more about your greatest victory" or "I'm interested in gladiators". If you can't think of anything just say "I don't know" or "I can't think of anything" and he'll suggest a topic!
Caesar is now capable of discussing fifty different topics including:
Great Library of Alexandria
private life (Roman)
public life (Roman)
punishing the wealthy
woman Caesar knew
His discussion of the introduction of naumachia as a new entertainment type for Roman audiences is the newest subject I have introduced.
I think this skill is suitable for Middle School students and above. I have selected appropriate images with those students in mind.
I do hope you'll visit Caesar to share his Roman world. If you don't have an Alexa-enabled device, you can install the Alexa app on your smartphone for free and use it for your gateway to the past.