The AI is Always Watching

My phone can now understand me but it’s still an idiot when it comes to understanding what I want. We have both the hardware capacity and the software capacity to solve this right now. What we lack is the social capacity.

We are currently in a dumb state of personal automation. I have Google Now enabled on my phone. Every single month Google Now reminds me of bills coming due that I have already paid. It doesn’t see me pay them, it just sees the email I received and the due date. A creature of habit, I pay my bills on the last day of the month even though that may be weeks early. This is the easiest thing in the world for a computer to learn. But it’s an open loop system and so no learning can happen.

Earlier this month [Cameron Coward] wrote an outstanding pair or articles on AI research that helped shed some light on this problem. The correct term for this level of personal automation is “weak AI”. What I want is Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) on a personal level. But that’s not going to happen, and I am the problem. Here’s why.

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Animatronic Head Responds with Animated GIFs

[Abhishek] describes Peeqo as a “personal desktop robotic assistant” that looks like “the love child of an Amazon Echo and a Disney character.” We’re not sure about that last part — we’re pretty sure [Bender Bending Rodriquez] would fail a paternity suit on this one. Just look at that resemblance.

vkwnaidWhatever Peeqo’s parentage may be, it’s a pretty awesome build, and from the look of [Abhishek]’s design notes, he put a lot of thought into it, and a lot of work too. The build log reveals 3D-printed parts galore, custom-etched PC boards, and a hacked Raspberry Pi to both listen for voice commands and play responses in the form of animated GIFs on Peeqo’s ‘face’. The base has six modified RC servos to run the Gough-Stewart platform that lets Peeqo emote, and the head contains pretty much all the electronics. Beyond the hardware, a ton of programming went into giving Peeqo the ability to communicate through head gestures and GIFs that make sense for the required response.

Whether it’s bopping along to the tunes on your playlist or motivating you to lay off the social media with [Will Ferrell]’s flaming angry eyes, Peeqo looks like a ton of fun to build and use. Conveniently enough, [Abhishek] has shared all his files so you can build one too.

We haven’t seen anything like Peeqo before, but we have seen a lot of Amazon Echo hacks and even a few Stewart platform builds. But did we inadvertently feature a project starring Peeqo’s dad way back in 2009?

[Thanks to Aaron Cofield for the tip]

Meet ‘Raspberri’, Your Personal Voice Controlled Assistant


We’ve all seen the old movie scene where the executive calls his assistant on the intercom for some task or other. [Jan] may not be an executive, and he may not have an assistant. He does have Raspberri, his voice controlled personal digital assistant. Raspberri started life as a vintage Televox intercom box. [Jan] found it at a second-hand store, and snapped it up in hopes of using it in a future project. That project eventually happened when [Jan] got a Raspberry Pi and learned how to use it. He decided to build the Televox and Pi together, creating his own electronic assistant.

[Jan] started by adding a cheap USB sound card and WiFi module to his Pi. He also added a small 3 Watt audio amp board. The Televox used a single speaker as both audio input and output. [Jan] didn’t want to make any modifications to the case, so he kept this arrangement. Using a single speaker would mean dead shorting the audio amplifier and the sound card’s microphone input. To avoid this, [Jan] added a DPDT relay controlled by the original push-to-talk button on the Televox. The relay switches between the microphone input and the audio output on the USB sound card. Everything fit nicely inside the Televox case.

With the hardware complete [Jan] turned his attention to software. He went with PiAUISuite for voice input. Voice output is handled by a simple shell script which uses google voice to convert text to speech. For intermediate processing, such as scraping a weather website for data, [Jan] created custom python scripts. The end result is pretty darn good. There is a bit of lag between saying the command and receiving an answer. This may be due to transferring the audio files over WiFi. However,  [Jan] can always get away with saying his assistant was out getting him more coffee!

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