Price It by Phone Wins Twilio + App Engine Contest!

audrey-roy-twilio-app-engine-contest-winnerCongratulations to Audrey Roy, CEO of the startup Fuzzy Rainbow, and winner of the Twilio + App Engine contest with her application Price It by Phone, a mashup of Twilio and Amazon’s API hosted on Google App Engine, and coded in Python.

Audrey is the winner of a Dell mini Netbook and $1000 in App Engine credit from Google.  Audrey built Price-It By Phone, an application that mashes up Twilio and the Amazon API on Google App Engine.

Introducing Price It By Phone

Price It By Phone lets you comparison-shop for books with your touch-tone phone.

Look up book prices by calling (877) 265-8137. Enter the book’s 10-digit ISBN number after the prompt.  The voice will tell you’s lowest new and used prices for the book.

Then, to see the list of books that you’ve already price-checked, with links to their Amazon detail pages, enter your phone number at

“I hacked this together from scratch this weekend.  It’s fully functional as of now, but I still hope to make some bugfixes and maybe add some important features before the deadline (e.g. proving that you own the phone number after you enter it in the web form).  Please let me know if you run into any problems!”

One thing I forgot to mention is that after you get home (or even on your phone) you can visit, enter your phone number, and get a list of the books you’ve looked up with the service so you can go and buy them on Simply awesome!


Audrey Speaks on Developing with App Engine and Twilio

We had a chance to interview Audrey about her experience building Price It, and here’s what she had to say:

How did you hear about Twilio?

I first heard about Twilio at SF Startup Weekend (April 09).  I saw the MonkeyCalling phone survey hack and couldn’t believe it was made in a weekend. 

How did you come up with the idea for Price It by Phone?

I was at an art museum in Washington, DC on Saturday afternoon, looking at books in the bookstore.  There was a thick art book (check out Audrey’s art) that I really wanted to buy, but I didn’t want to carry around such a heavy book while traveling, and I had already gone beyond my shopping budget.  I looked up on my phone to see if it was available.  It was there, and for $37 instead of $60.

google-app-engineHow did you build your app? What technologies, APIs, etc. did you use?

I based my app on Twilio’s Weather By Phone App Engine sample.  Price-It sends a REST request to the Amazon Product Advertising API, passing it the entered ISBN number.  Amazon sends back the book data as XML.  Price-It extracts the book title and lowest new/used prices and outputs a simplified XML response to the caller, using the Say verb so that the result gets spoken.  At this time, the ISBN also gets saved to the datastore under the caller’s phone number.

As for displaying the lookup history on the web:  the HTML form passes the phone number to Price-It via a get request, receiving a JSON-formatted list of ISBNs in return.  Then, the JavaScript side of Price-It sends XMLHttpRequests to Amazon, one for each ISBN.  The XML response data gets parsed and formatted in JavaScript with the help of jQuery.  A side note: the background and header artwork is also drawn with JavaScript, on an HTML5 canvas using Processing.js.

How long did it take to build Price It by Phone?

I began this on Saturday mid-afternoon and finished on Sunday night.  I stayed up really late on Saturday night to get the bulk of the work done.  All the code was written from scratch, although being familiar with App Engine and jQuery helped a lot.  I didn’t expect to finish in time – I was surprised that it all came together.

What do you think of the development experience with Twilio on App Engine?

The Twilio+App Engine part of this was easy.  The nice thing about the Twilio API is that there are so few pieces that it’s hard to go wrong.  The Twilio side was about 25% of the work.  Dealing with Amazon, XML, polishing it all was the other 75%.

Perhaps having another sample showing a web form where you enter your phone number, wait for the app to call you with a verification code, and then enter that code on the web would have been helpful (or having some kind of phone verification checking built into the Twilio API).  The Twilio forums were quite helpful.

Anything else you want to share?

Thanks to everyone at Twilio!  I’ll be working on v2 of Price-It – hopefully I’ll have an update on this soon.

Thank You to Everyone Who Participated

While we can’t award Netbooks to everyone who builds a cool app with Twilio, we will be highlighting other fantastic Twilio apps in the coming weeks and sending all contestants a Twilio “care package”.  If you are interested in participating in a Twilio contest make sure to visit our contests page, where we announce a new contest category every week.  Good luck!