Voice-activated assistants are all the rage these days, and Apple’s Siri platform has been surpassed by the likes of Google and Amazon. On Amazon’s side, there’s Alexa. This voice assistant debuted on the Echo speaker a few years back and has since expanded to several other devices. Amazon offers access to the Alexa backend for developers to tinker with, but a recent addition makes it possible to roll your own Echo-like device with a Raspberry Pi.
The project outlined by Network World relies upon the Alexa Voice Service (AVS). This is a collection of APIs that allows your average modder to have voice commands processed by Amazon’s intelligent machines. In May of 2015, AVS gained support for the Raspberry Pi, but it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that voice triggering was added. That changes everything.
The Echo and other official Alexa-enabled devices can be activated simply by saying “Alexa.” then, whatever you say next is transmitted to AVS. The problem with third-party Alexa hackery was a lack of voice triggers. Without that, you need some other way to activate the voice input, which makes the device more cumbersome to use. The recent change allows the use of wake words with AVS. That means the Raspberry Pi is a really cheap way to get a robust voice assistant up and running. This system-on-a-board can be had for as little as $20 and is powered by a quad-core ARM processor. It’s not fast, but it’s fast enough for Alexa.
This is by no means as easy as just buying an Alexa device (or a Google Home for that matter), but AVS with voice triggering could be the basis for a lot of cool projects. Amazon has a full rundown on GitHub for those interested in building their own Alexa-powered devices.