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Building a voice assistant for an Ionic React app

With the Alan Ionic voice framework, you can create a voice assistant or a chatbot for your Ionic React app. In this tutorial, we will create a simple Ionic app with three tabs. The app users will be able to click 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 React 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 alan-react-ionic tabs --type=react
  2. Switch to the folder with the app:

    $ cd alan-react-ionic
  3. Install dependencies:

    $ npm install
  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. Create a wrapper component for the Alan button. To do this, in the src/components folder, create the AlanBtn.tsx file with the following content:

    //AlanBtn.tsx file
    import React, {
    	useEffect,
    	useRef,
    } from 'react';
    import { withRouter } from 'react-router';
    
    const AlanBtn: React.FC = (props: any) => {
    	const alanBtnComponent = useRef<any>(null);
    
    	useEffect(() => {
    		alanBtnComponent.current.addEventListener('command', (data: CustomEvent) => {
    			const commandData = data.detail;
    
    			if (commandData.command === 'command') {
    				 //call client code that will react to the received command
    			}
    		});
    	}, []);
    
    	return <alan-button ref={alanBtnComponent} alan-key="YOUR_KEY_FROM_ALAN_STUDIO_HERE" />;
    };
    
    export default withRouter(AlanBtn);
  2. In the alan-button 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.

  3. In the src folder, open the App.tsx file and update it to add the Alan button.

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

    import AlanBtn from './components/AlanBtn';

    b. Inside the IonReactRouter component, add <AlanBtn />:

    //App.tsx file
    ...
    const App: React.FC = () => (
    	<IonApp>
    		<IonReactRouter>
    			...
    			<AlanBtn />
    		</IonReactRouter>
    	</IonApp>
    );
    ...
  4. In the src folder, create the typescript declaration file named alan-btn.d.ts with the following content:

    //alan-btn.d.ts file
    declare namespace JSX {
    	interface IntrinsicElements {
    		[tagName:string]: any
    	}
    }
  5. The final step is to add the Alan button loader to the entry point of our app. In the src folder, open the index.tsx file and add the following:

    //index.tsx file
    ...
    import {
    	applyPolyfills,
    	defineCustomElements,
    } from '@alan-ai/alan-button/dist/loader';
    
    ...
    applyPolyfills().then(_ => {
    	defineCustomElements();
    });	

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: