The Google AIY Voice Kit lets you build your own natural language processor and connect it to the Google Assistant. All of this fits in a handy little cardboard cube, powered by a Raspberry Pi. More information
While on vacation, I am going to build this and I’ll report back my findings.
I successfully built the kit and tested the example python code. I am looking for new features to add and will report back on what I find.
History of the Google and Raspberry PI Voice Kit
Growing up, the free toys on the covers of magazines were made of plastic. They were cheap, and cheerful. Yet the last thirty years has reduced the price of computing to the point where cheap and cheerful plastic toys have been replaced by other things. Around this time last year Google and Raspberry Pi did something rather intriguing. Together they packaged machine learning — the ability for your Raspberry Pi to think and reason — as a kit, and made it available free on the cover of a magazine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the print run of the magazine sold out in hours. To be fair, it wasn’t exactly on the cover. They had to put it, and the magazine, into a box. But I guess it’s thought that counts..?
Based around the a Raspberry Pi HAT the kit enabled you to add voice interaction to your Raspberry Pi. Later in the year, Google made the same kit available through retail channels. Google called it AIY Projects, that would be AIY for “artificial intelligence it yourself.” The kit came with almost all the bits and pieces you’d need to build a Google Home style Voice Assistant using a Raspberry Pi. There was even a cardboard case for the project build which, after Google Cardboard, has become almost synonymous with Google’s in-house prototyping efforts.
Second AIY Projects Kit
Then, towards the end of last year they announced the second AIY Projects Kit. This time it was a Vision rather than a Voice Kit. The contents looked familiar to anyone that’s played with the original Voice Kit. But this time, the kit was based around a Raspberry Pi pHAT — better known as a Pi Bonnet . Designed to work with the lower powered Raspberry Pi Zero instead of relying on the horse power of the Raspberry Pi’s 3 faster processor — the new kit moved a lot of the processing power it needs onto the Vision board itself, and the Intel Movidius chip on top hints at the biggest departure from the original Voice Kit. Unlike the Voice Kit, the Vision Kit is designed to run the all the machine learning locally — on the device — rather than talk to the cloud.
Only a very limited quantity—around 2,000 units—of the Vision Kit made it onto shelves before Christmas, and then things went ominously quiet. That is, until just three weeks ago, when Google launched updated versions of both the Voice and Vision Kits.
New Kits have everything
This time the kits really did have everything, including a Raspberry Pi Zero W with pre-soldered headers, and an SD card with a pre-burned image. All you needed to add was a USB power supply. Unlike the original Voice Kit, the latest releases are built around a Raspberry Pi Bonnet, and both the Voice and Vision Kits now use the Raspberry Pi Bonnet form factor. The new Voice Bonnet has a few less pin outs than the original Voice HAT so if you’re really interested in hacking around with the kits and attaching them to external hardware — rather than just building them — you might want to think about picking up one of the original Voice HAT based kits while they’re still on shelves. You can still find them if you look.