Talk to your Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has tied up with Google for a project called the Artificial Intelligence Yourself or AIY. This is a Hardware on Top or HAT project for the Raspberry Pi 3 (RBPi3) to transform the single board computer into a virtual assistant. This is the first time that Google is offering something exclusively for hobbyists, and the kit comes free with the printed issue 57 of the MagPi—the official magazine of the Raspberry Pi.

The kit with the MagPi magazine consists of a Voice HAT board, a speaker, a stereo microphone board, a large arcade push button, and a set of wires. This is all one needs to add-in voice integration to the RBPi3, turning it into a personal Alexa alternative. Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon. Intelligent personal assistants are capable of offering real time information, such as news, traffic, weather, apart from playing audiobooks, streaming podcasts, setting alarms, making to-do lists, playing back music, and most importantly, capable of voice integration.

The MagPi magazine contains all the build instructions for putting together the free hardware voice kit; you only need to add the RBPi3 to get it working. There is also a custom cardboard case to house the entire kit along with the RBPi3. Apart from the RBPI3, the AIY voice project will work with an RBPi2 and an RBPiZW as well. Once the hardware is assembled, you will need some software setup, with access to the Google Assistant SDK and Google Cloud Speed API.

The MagPi 57 issue offers several voice integration ideas for the AIY voice kit and you can enhance them or build your own projects. For instance, you can have a voice integration project to answer all your questions just as Alexa does. Alternately, you can create a voice-controlled robot. In fact, some owners of RBPi are building secret AIY projects at Hackster.

According to Billy Rutledge, Google’s director on the project, the AIY project demonstrates a practical method of starting and running a natural language recognizer in conjunction with the Google Assistant. Not only will you have all the functions of the Google Assistant, you can as well add your own pairs of questions and answers.

The Voice Kit and RBPi3 combination acts as a voice recognizer and uses the Google Assistant SDK to recognize speech. For evaluating local commands, it uses a local Python application. You can talk to the Google Assistant, which makes use of the Google Cloud Speech API to answer back. If you wish to use voice capabilities in your future projects, check out the Maker’s guide for more creative extensions.

The arcade style button has additional functions other than initiating the speech interaction. A bright LED mounted within the button signals to verify your device is running properly through different types of blinking. For instant, the LED pulses to indicate the device is just starting up, and the voice recognizer has not started functioning yet. Once the device is ready to be used, the LED blinks every few seconds. The LED glows steadily when the device is listening, and pulses if the device is thinking or responding.