AlchemyAPI Hack Night

On Tuesday night, IBM hosted a Hack Night at Hacker Dojo. The topic of the night was the suite of APIs offered by the AlchemyAPI service in IBM Bluemix. We discussed three of Alchemy’s services: Language, Vision, and Data News. You can find the AlchemyAPI lab we used in my Node-RED labs available on GitHub.


In the first part of the lab, I showed how to analyze a news blog post and extract entities, keywords, sentiment, emotions, and other attributes. The REST-based API is simple to use, allowing multiple types of inputs: text, HTML, or a URL where the content resides.

This lab uses Node-RED, a graphical interface of nodes built on top of Node.js. It offers a quick drag and drop interface to prototype ideas. You could also choose to use IBM Watson SDKs available in other languages if you want.



Keeping flexibility in mind, I designed the flow to output two formats: a human-friendly webpage and a JSON response. The JSON response flow could be modified to add more results from other services, or reduced with your own custom logic.



The second part of the lab showed how to use the AlchemyVision API to analyze images and get information about people pictured. For example, a picture of the President of the United States is recognized as Barack Obama and provides attributes like his gender and age-range, and categories (President, Person, Politician).

Again, the REST-based API is pretty flexible on the inputs: an image or a URL to an image. Did you know you can also provide a URL of a webpage where AlchemyAPI will look for the main image and analyze that?

I split the flow and display a simple webpage that’s human-friendly and also offer a option for a JSON response.




The rest of the evening was spent in groups brainstorming ideas of how the service could be used in new and existing applications. Some ideas that the hackers came up with included:

  • use AlchemyData News to determine if it good time to buy or sell stocks based on what the news is saying about a company
  • analyze Instagram photos to track trends over time of what is being photographed
  • ensure profile pictures on social networks are of people instead of cats
  • a conference room assistant that listens for keywords and captures images
  • an intrusion detection system that uses AlchemyVision

Hopefully this lab provides a starting point and understanding of what the Alchemy APIs offer and how easy it is to get started via the Node-RED boilerplate or in code directly interacting with the API endpoints.

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