The Amazon Echo
has been a pretty hot gadget to have around the home. At its core, the Echo is a smart speaker system which can respond to voice commands care of Amazon's digital personal assistant named Alexa
. Alexa can queue up your favorite playlist, remind you about your meetings for the day, re-order toilet paper, or even help set some mood lighting with the right integration. For all the fun and convenience the Echo can offer, though, it doesn't come cheap with a current price point of $179.99.
Fortunately, Amazon has provided a solution to this cost problem, provided you are willing to get your hands dirty. Amazon released instructions on GitHub
this week on how to setup Alexa Voice Services (AVS) on everyone's favorite open-sourced microcomputer, the Raspberry Pi
Here's the kit list to pull together to create your own home-made Echo:
And of course you'll want standard computer peripherals like a keyboard, a mouse, and an HDMI monitor as well if you don't have SSH pre-configured on your Pi. Amazon also suggests basic programming experience may be needed and familiarity with shell, though their excellent instructions ought to do a good job of holding your hand if needed.
Once you have it hacked together it can be placed anywhere you can provide power. This project should provide you with a lot of flexibility to think up creative places to use it given that the Raspberry Pi can be battery powered.
Amazon deserves commendation for opening up Alexa to more devices. Importantly, this release isn't limited to the Raspberry Pi. AVS simply requires a Java
client to run using a web browser. The Raspberry Pi is merely among the cheapest means to that end. There's no end to the number of devices that can run AVS with properly adapted instructions. This move should also bolster Alexa's adoption rate as Amazon positions their assistant against the likes of Google Now
, and Microsoft
. Competing solutions can create some really cool conveniences for consumers and provides an excellent avenue to advance machine learning research. Simple projects like this can also spark interests into hardware and software development, inspiring a new generation of technophile talent.