Voice assistants are very useful though there is a lot of questions about privacy. Many of the companies that offer a Voice assistant claim that they are not going to be using your data to market products to you. But there are a lot of reports of that not being the case. My daughter in particular is very concerned with privacy and refuses to use any form of voice assistant. Honestly, I do not blame her at all. Though I have to say with all the “Town hall meetings” I have had at Apple where Steve Jobs (Never met the man or even been in the same building as him ) was speaking about privacy I am going to put Siri on top of the list as one of the most private.
Jarvis voice AI could it be a thing?
This last weekend my wife and I started watching all the Marvel Moving again in chronological order. I really liked the idea of Jarvis. Though we are very far from the idea of having a really intelligent AI in our homes (I do write a sci-fi Podcast about what happens when AI go wrong) I do like the idea of having an assistant that can run custom protocols. Siri, Google and Alexa just do not offer that feature. (without a decent amount of hacking)
While doing some research on an unrelated project I discovered Mycroft AI. This is an open-source voice assistant that is dedicated to privacy. Best of all it gives us the option to install the software on our own devices. I decided to give it a try.
You can buy a Mycroft device from their website and honestly would recommend doing that if you are not a tech geek like myself
Installing Mycroft on an old computer.
I had attempted to install Mycroft on a few of the computers I have sitting around that Run Linux. However, I did note that those old computers did not have the processing power to do the job. (Linux will run on a very old mac or PC however Mycroft needed a little more power). I was going to have to try something else.
I thought about running Mycroft on one of my Macs however I am always switching user-profiles and that would make it so Mycroft would not always be active. This sort of device needs to always be online.
You will hear me talk more about Raspberry Pi and how awesome they are to work with. However, that is a whole different blog post.
Because I am in development of the Magg-pi Web Blocker. I happen to have a few Raspberry Pi sitting around. I decided to install the Mycroft AI OS on one of them for testing. (I can take the SD card out of the raspberry pi and replace it if I did not like it)
having nothing to loose I installed the OS on the SD Card,
Microphone and Speakers
Unlike the old laptop that did not have enough power. The Raspberry Pi does not have its own speaker and microphone. I do have some boards that I can install but that is going to require some soldering and a little bit of coding. I’m not shy of doing that however for testing I will just have to find another way.
The Raspberry Pi 4 does have an audio-out jack. So I connected the device to the house speakers in the living room. I do note that at this point the device does not produce the power to really be able to hear Mycroft clearly. I may try to connect to some Bluetooth speakers later if I decide to keep Mycroft.
As for the Microphone. The only thing that I had that would not require soldering is a USB Blue Yetti that I use for Podcasting. Yeah, I know overkill for this project. I’m clear this is going to be a temporary thing.
Runs on Linux
One of the things that I like about Mycroft is that it runs on linux. This means that my Bash Scripting and python skills will come in handy for this device. It also means that I can directly connect with the device via SSH. (Remote access using command line)
Actually using Mycroft AI
My wife is on the ASD spectrum this does mean that unexpected noises really bother her. So the process of me testing Mycroft Ai would be annoying to her. With her being gone for two weeks this is a perfect time for me to test the device.
Unlike the other Voice assistants, Mycroft only comes with a basic set of skills. However, you can install new skills all the time by saying “Hey Mycroft install __________” and that is it … it will install the skill. Some skills like checking your email do require you to alter some settings on the web interface.
One of the features that is really interesting to me is the ability to create new skills. This is not going to be something that someone who is not a programmer is going to be able to do on their own. Though the idea of having some of my python and bash scripts triggered by voice is very exciting to me. “Hey Mycroft update all the Linux devices” etc. .
Next blog post will be about my review of using Mycroft after a few days.