Video: Voice-Command System Rivals Siri

By: 
July 25, 2014

The Raspberry Pi mini-PC has been used for countless DIY projects since its creation, including 3D printers, drones, a LEGO-based robot, and makeshift DJ soundboard. Now, two Princeton University students bring us a voice-command system for our homes, based on the simple and affordable Raspberry Pi.

Charlie Marsh and Shubhro Saha developed the open-source device that they named
Jasper. The technology is similar to iOS's Siri or Google's Google Now. The British Jasper is an always-on, voice-command system that provides users with requested information any time.

The device itself requires very basic equipment that most DIY designers will already have at home. The complete list of equipment needed includes a Raspberry Pi Model B board, 4GB SD Card, USB Microphone, micro-USB cable, Ethernet cable, wireless USB adapter, USB wall charger, and speakers.

The best part is that Jasper is only limited by your programming capabilities. Currently, Jasper comes prepared to tell you the time, weather, news, email notifications, bad jokes, and can even play songs from Spotify. The virtual assistant, however, is an open-source device and comes equipped with a developer API that can be customized via the Python programming language.

After setting up the equipment, Jasper is always waiting for voice commands. When you're getting ready for work, you need only yell out, "Jasper, what is the weather like?" After a few seconds, Jasper will respond, "This is Chicago. No one can predict the weather." Well... maybe not. He's not quite as cheeky as Siri.

With a little programming you can get Jasper to read you updates from your social media accounts, news headlines, and even send commands to other automated devices in your home. Whatever Jasper's response, you'll need to listen very closely to understand his robotic speech. He sounds something like a 1980s film bot.

For those less creative DIYers, the Jasper website holds a plethora of information on how to set up your Jasper and provides various download links and information on how to customize your device.

Saha has worked on a number of other developments, including Spamchat, for spamming your friends' Snapchat; LiveTwin, a hacker's dropbox; and SimpleHTTPServer, for instant file-sharing.

Marsh is a self-proclaimed nerd of functional programming and machine learning. Aside from the novel Raspberry Pi-based virtual assistant, he has also worked on Quizzler, an automatic question generator for iOS powered by Python; Grapher, a tool for creating graphs using iOS; and Rule-Opt, an SDN Rule Optimizer for heterogeneous hardware.

Both Marsh and Saha are in their third year of undergraduate studies at Princeton University.


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