The entire voice assistant world right now may seem like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. If you are really following the industry you may know about IBM’s Watson, Microsoft’s Cortana, Hound and Viv. However, credit goes to Jason Baker writing at Opensource.com for highlighting a couple of open source tools also available to developers.
The Open Source Voice Assistant Challengers
Mr. Baker points out that Mycroft and Jasper have speech recognition (speech-to-text), natural language processing (NLP), speech generation (text-to-speech) and intent processing. Both are open source and run on Raspberry Pi and similar circuit boards which are low-cost and popular among maker communities. Jasper appears to be just software although the video shows a small packaged Raspberry Pi board with connectors. Mycroft has open source software and has a hardware device priced at $154 on Indigogo. It is scheduled to ship in January 2017 and has adopted Amazon Alexa terminology such as skills to describe capabilities or applications that can be built into the solution. Check out the video demo.
Amazon, IBM and Others Taking Open Source Approach Too
Just as interesting, the first open source voice assistant development tool listed in the article is Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) from Amazon. ASK is generally regarded by developers as easy to use, is already being applied to numerous non-Amazon devices and supports Raspberry Pi. IBM’s recently announced Project Intu for Watson also claims Raspberry Pi support. There is an open question here. With big players that have sophisticated AI such as Amazon and IBM already providing open source access to their development platforms, what role will open source tools like Mycroft and Jasper play? Amazon Alexa developers have already launched over 5,000 skills and have access to a user base that may be as high as 30 million consumers when you combine Echo and Kindle Fire devices. What is the incentive to build for other platforms with less robust AI and tiny user communities?
Devices are Commodity Already
The device side of the equation may also be important. The $154 price tag for the Mycroft hardware appears to be pretty reasonable until you look at the Amazon Echo Dots at $49 and Google Home at $129 or on sale for $99 this week. It looks like prices above $100 may not even sustainable in this market unless you are getting a high quality speaker combined with the package.
With that said, it is great to see so much innovation in this space particularly from startups committed to open source software and hardware support. Here is the Jasper video so you can see another example.