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Building a voice assistant for an Ionic Angular app

With the Alan Ionic voice framework, you can create a voice assistant or a chatbot for your Ionic Angular app. In this tutorial, we will create a simple Ionic app with three tabs. The app users will be able to tap the Alan button and give voice commands on each tab, and Alan will reply to them.

What you will learn

  • How to add a voice interface to an Ionic Angular app
  • How to write simple voice commands for an Ionic app

What you will need

To go through this tutorial, make sure the following prerequisites are met:

Step 1: Install the Ionic CLI

Run the following command to install the Ionic CLI:

$ npm install -g ionic

For this tutorial, we do not need the free Ionic Appflow SDK. If the Ionic CLI asks you during the installation process: Install the free Ionic Appflow SDK and connect your app? (y/n), choose no.

Step 2: Create a template Ionic app and run it

We will be using a pre-made app template provided by Alan.

  1. Navigate to the folder in which the app will reside and run the following command:

    $ ionic start myTestIonicAppWithAlanButton tabs
  2. When prompted, select to use the Angular framework:

    Please select the JavaScript framework to use for your new app. To bypass this prompt next time, supply a value for the --type option.
    
    ? Framework: (Use arrow keys)
    > Angular | https://angular.io
    React   | https://reactjs.org
  3. Switch to the folder with the app:

    $ cd myTestIonicAppWithAlanButton
  4. Run the app:

    $ ionic serve
  5. In the browser, a new window with the app will be opened. Make sure you see the right UI:

Step 3: Install Alan SDK Cordova and Alan Web components

We need to add the Alan SDK Cordova component and the Alan button Web component to the app.

For Ionic apps, you need the @alan-ai/alan-button and @alan-ai/cordova-plugin-alan-voice packages, not the @alan-ai/alan-sdk-web package. Ionic apps can be run on mobile devices with Cordova; they require special versions of the Alan button.

  1. In the app folder, install the Alan SDK Cordova component:

    $ npm install @alan-ai/cordova-plugin-alan-voice --save
  2. Install the Alan Web Component package:

    $ npm install @alan-ai/alan-button --save

Step 4: Add the Alan button to the app

Now we need to update our app to add the Alan button to it.

  1. First, we must tell Angular we will be using custom elements in the app. In all modules where we are planning to use custom elements, add CUSTOM_ELEMENTS_SCHEMA. For this tutorial, we will add it to the following files: src/app/app.module.ts and src/app/tabs/tabs.module.ts.

    // app.module.ts
    ...
    import {CUSTOM_ELEMENTS_SCHEMA} from '@angular/core';
    ...
    
    @NgModule({
    ...
      schemas: [CUSTOM_ELEMENTS_SCHEMA],
    ...
    })
    export class AppModule {}

    see full source

    // tabs.module.ts
    ...
    import {CUSTOM_ELEMENTS_SCHEMA} from '@angular/core';
    
    @NgModule({
        ...
        schemas: [CUSTOM_ELEMENTS_SCHEMA],
    ...
    })
    export class TabsPageModule {}

    see full source

  2. In the src folder, in main.ts import the @alan-button component and call the defineCustomElements(window) method:

    // main.ts file
    ...
    import {defineCustomElements as alanBtnDefineCustomElements} from '@alan-ai/alan-button/dist/loader';
    ...
    alanBtnDefineCustomElements(window);

    see full source

  3. In the src/app folder, in app.component.html add the Alan button HTML tag:

    <--  app.component.html -->
    <ion-app>
        <ion-router-outlet></ion-router-outlet>
        <alan-button #alanBtnEl alan-key="YOUR_KEY_FROM_ALAN_STUDIO_HERE"></alan-button>
    </ion-app>
  4. In the Alan button HTML tag above, we need to replace YOUR_KEY_FROM_ALAN_STUDIO_HERE with the Alan SDK key for our Alan Studio project. In the Alan Studio, at the top of the code editor, click Integrations, copy the code provided in the Alan SDK Key field and paste this code to alan-key.
  5. In the src/app folder, open the app.component.ts file and update it to add the Alan button.

    a. At the top of the file, add the import statement for the Alan button Web Component:

    import '@alan-ai/alan-button';

    b. In the AppComponent class, use @ViewChild to add a reference to the Alan button element:

    @ViewChild('alanBtnEl', {static:false}) alanBtnComponent: ElementRef<HTMLAlanButtonElement>;

    c. Replace the first import statement with the following one:

    import { Component, ElementRef, ViewChild } from '@angular/core';

    d. In the AppComponent class, in the ngAfterViewInit() method, add a listener for the command event. All commands sent from the voice script will be passed to this method. It’s a place where you can set up logic on how the app will react to the commands from the script.

    ngAfterViewInit() {
        this.alanBtnComponent.nativeElement.addEventListener('command', (data) => {
            const commandData = (<CustomEvent>data).detail;
    
            if (commandData.command === 'navigation') {
                //call client code that will react to the received command
            }
        });
    }

    see full source

Run the app. On all app tabs, we can see the Alan button. Click it and say: Hello.

Step 5. Add voice commands

Let's add some voice commands so that we can interact with Alan. In the Alan Studio, open the project and in the code editor, add the following intents:

intent (`What is your name?`, p => {
    p.play(`It's Alan, and yours?`);
});

intent (`How are you doing?`, p => {
    p.play(`Good, thank you. What about you?`);
});

Now in the app click the Alan button and ask: What is your name? and How are you doing? Alan will give responses provided in the intents.

What's next?

You can now proceed to building a voice interface with Alan. Use the following resources: