Do you feel weird asking the weather or seeking advice from a faceless device? Would you feel better about talking to a classic 1978 2-XL educational robot from Mego Corporation? Matt over at element14 Community, where tons of interesting stuff happens, has got your back.
Watch Matt explain how the 2-XL toy robot worked before he started tinkering with it. This robot works with Google Assistant on a Raspberry Pi, and answers to a custom wake word.
Our recent blog about repurposing a Furby as a voice assistant device would have excited Noughties kids, but this one is mostly for our beautiful 1970s- and 1980s-born fanbase.
2-XL, Wikipedia tells us, is considered the first “smart toy”, marketed way back in 1978, and exhibiting “rudimentary intelligence, memory, gameplay, and responsiveness”. 2-XL had a personality that kept kids’ attention, telling jokes and offering verbal support as they learned.
Delve under the robot’s armour to see how the toy was built, understand the basic working mechanism, and watch Matt attempt to diagnose why his 2-XL is not working.
Setting up Google Assistant
The Matrix Creator daughter board mentioned in the kit list is an ideal platform for developing your own AI assistant. It’s the daughter board’s 8-microphone array that makes it so brilliant for this task. Learn how to set up Google Assistant on the Matrix board in this video.
What if you don’t want to wake your retrofit voice assistant in the same way as all the other less dedicated users, the ones who didn’t spend hours of love and care refurbishing an old device? Instead of having your homemade voice assistant answer to “OK Google” or “Alexa”, you can train it to recognise a phrase of your choice. In this tutorial, Matt shows you how to set up a custom wake word with your voice assistant, using word detection software called Snowboy.
Researchers havedemonstrated the ability to send inaudible commands to voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.
Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online – simply with music playing over the radio.
A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.
This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.
After the outstanding success of their AIY Projects Voice and Vision Kits, Google has announced the release of upgraded kits, complete with Raspberry Pi Zero WH, Camera Module, and preloaded SD card.
Google’s AIY Projects Kits
Google launched the AIY Projects Voice Kit last year, first as a cover gift with The MagPi magazine and later as a standalone product.
Makers needed to provide their own Raspberry Pi for the original kit. The new kits include everything you need, from Pi to SD card.
Within a DIY cardboard box, makers were able to assemble their own voice-activated AI assistant akin to the Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s own Google Home Assistant. The Voice Kit was an instant hit that spurred no end of maker videos and tutorials, including our own free tutorial for controlling a robot using voice commands.
Later in the year, the team followed up the success of the Voice Kit with the AIY Projects Vision Kit — the same cardboard box hosting a camera perfect for some pretty nifty image recognition projects.
For more on the AIY Voice Kit, here’s our release video hosted by the rather delightful Rob Zwetsloot.
Check out the exclusive Google AIY Projects Kit that comes free with The MagPi 57! Grab yourself a copy in stores or online now: http://magpi.cc/2pI6IiQ This first AIY Projects kit taps into the Google Assistant SDK and Cloud Speech API using the AIY Projects Voice HAT (Hardware Accessory on Top) board, stereo microphone, and speaker (included free with the magazine).
AIY Projects 2
So what’s new with version 2 of the AIY Projects Voice Kit? The kit now includes the recently released Raspberry Pi Zero WH, our Zero W with added pre-soldered header pins for instant digital making accessibility. Purchasers of the kits will also get a micro SD card with preloaded OS to help them get started without having to set the card up themselves.
Everything you need to build your own Raspberry Pi-powered Google voice assistant
“Everything you need to get started is right there in the box,” explains Billy Rutledge, Google’s Director of AIY Projects. “We knew from our research that even though makers are interested in AI, many felt that adding it to their projects was too difficult or required expensive hardware.”
Google is also hard at work producing AIY Projects companion apps for Android, iOS, and Chrome. The Android app is available now to coincide with the launch of the upgraded kits, with the other two due for release soon. The app supports wireless setup of the AIY Kit, though avid coders will still be able to hack theirs to better suit their projects.
Google has also updated the AIY Projects website with an AIY Models section highlighting a range of neural network projects for the kits.
Get your kit
The updated Voice and Vision Kits were announced last night, and in the US they are available now from Target. UK-based makers should be able to get their hands on them this summer — keep an eye on our social channels for updates and links.
As more and more digital home assistants are appearing on the consumer market, it’s not uncommon to see the towering Amazon Echo or sleek Google Home when visiting friends or family. But we, the maker community, are rarely happy unless our tech stands out from the rest. So without further ado, here’s a roundup of some fantastic retrofitted home assistant projects you can recreate and give pride of place in your kitchen, on your bookshelf, or wherever else you’d like to talk to your virtual, disembodied PA.
Turned an 80s Tomy Mr Money into a little Google AIY / Raspberry Pi based assistant.
Matt ‘Circuitbeard’ Brailsford’s Tomy Mr Money Google AIY Assistant is just one of many home-brew home assistants makers have built since the release of APIs for Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Here are some more…
Oh Teddy, how exciting and mysterious you were when I unwrapped you back in the mideighties. With your awkwardly moving lips and twitching eyelids, you were the cream of the crop of robotic toys! How was I to know that during my thirties, you would become augmented with home assistant software and suddenly instil within me a fear unlike any I’d felt before? (Save for my lifelong horror of ET…)
Please watch: “DIY Fidget LED Display – Part 1” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAZIc82Duzk -~-~~-~~~-~~-~- There are tons of virtual assistants out on the market: Siri, Ok Google, Alexa, etc. I had this crazy idea…what if I made the virtual assistant real…kinda. I decided to take an old animatronic teddy bear and hack it so that it ran Amazon Alexa.
Several makers around the world have performed surgery on Teddy to install a Raspberry Pi within his stomach and integrate him with Amazon Alexa Voice or Google’s AIY Projects Voice kit. And because these makers are talented, they’ve also managed to hijack Teddy’s wiring to make his lips move in time with his responses to your commands. Freaky…
Speaking of freaky: check out Zack’s Furlexa — an Amazon Alexa Furby that will haunt your nightmares.
Give old tech new life
Devices that were the height of technology when you purchased them may now be languishing in your attic collecting dust. With new and improved versions of gadgets and gizmos being released almost constantly, it is likely that your household harbours a spare whosit or whatsit which you can dismantle and give a new Raspberry Pi heart and purpose.
Take, for example, Martin Mander’s Google Pi intercom. By gutting and thoroughly cleaning a vintage intercom, Martin fashioned a suitable housing the Google AIY Projects Voice kit to create a new home assistant for his house:
This is a 1986 Radio Shack Intercom that I’ve converted into a Google Home style device using a Raspberry Pi and the Google AIY (Artificial Intelligence Yourself) kit that came free with the MagPi magazine (issue 57). It uses the Google Assistant to answer questions and perform actions, using IFTTT to integrate with smart home accessories and other web services.
Not only does this build look fantastic, it’s also a great conversation starter for any visitors who had a similar device during the eighties.
…and then I’ll put that box inside of another box, and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives…
A GIF. A harmless, little GIF…and proof of the comms team’s obsession with The Emperor’s New Groove.
You don’t have to be fancy when it comes to housing your home assistant. And often, especially if you’re working with the smaller people in your household, the results of a simple homespun approach are just as delightful.
Here are Hannah and her dad Tom, explaining how they built a home assistant together and fit it inside an old cigar box:
My 7 year old daughter and I decided to play around with the Raspberry Pi and build ourselves an Amazon Echo (Alexa). The video tells you about what we did and the links below will take you to all the sites we used to get this up and running.
And now it’s your turn! I challenge you all (and also myself) to create a home assistant using the Raspberry Pi. Whether you decide to fit Amazon Alexa inside an old shoebox or Google Home inside your sister’s Barbie, I’d love to see what you create using the free home assistant software available online.
Check out these otherhomeassistants for Raspberry Pi, and keep an eye on our blog to see what I manage to create as part of the challenge.
In this video I get an “Ok Google” voice activated AI assistant running on a raspberry pi. I also hand make a nice wooden box for it to live in.
OK Google, what are you?
Google Assistant is software of the same ilk as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. It’s a virtual assistant that allows you to request information, play audio, and control smart home devices via voice commands.
One can barely see the iPhone’s screen. That’s because I have a privacy protection screen. Sorry, did not check the camera angle. Learn how to create your own loop, why we put Cortana out of the loop, and how to train Siri to an artificial voice: https://www.danrl.com/2016/12/01/looping-ais-siri-alexa-google-home.html
You probably have a digital assistant on your mobile phone, and if you go to the home of someone even mildly tech-savvy, you may see a device awaiting commands via a wake word such the device’s name or, for the Google Assistant, the phrase “OK, Google”.
Understanding the maker need to ‘put tech into stuff’ and upgrade everyday objects into everyday objects 2.0, the creators of these virtual assistants have allowed access for developers to run their software on devices such as the Raspberry Pi. This means that your common-or-garden homemade robot can now be controlled via voice, and your shed-built home automation system can have easy-to-use internet connectivity via a reliable, multi-device platform.
Andrew’s Google Assistant build
Andrew gives a peerless explanation of how the Google Assistant works:
There’s Google’s Cloud. You log into Google’s Cloud and you do a bunch of cloud configuration cloud stuff. And then on the Raspberry Pi you install some Python software and you do a bunch of configuration. And then the cloud and the Pi talk the clouds kitten rainbow protocol and then you get a Google AI assistant.
It all makes perfect sense. Though for more extra detail, you could always head directly to Google.
I couldn’t have explained it better myself
Andrew decided to take his Google Assistant-enabled Raspberry Pi and create a new body for it. One that was more aesthetically pleasing than the standard Pi-inna-box. After wiring his build and cannibalising some speakers and a microphone, he created a sleek, wooden body that would sit quite comfortably in any Bang & Olufsen shop window.
It’s more straightforward than Andrew’s explanation suggests, we promise! And with an array of useful resources online, you should be able to incorporate your choice of virtual assistants into your build.
If you’re looking for more information on Google Assistant, check out issue 57 of The MagPi Magazine, free to download as a PDF. The print edition of this issue came with a free AIY Projects Voice Kit, and you can sign up for The MagPi newsletter to be the first to know about the kit’s availability for purchase.
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