Unboxing the Mycroft AI open source digital assistant

Mycroft open source AI

Mycroft open source AI

Mycroft AI is the product of a Kickstarter campaign from Joshua Montgomery, who conceived back in 2015 of a voice activated digital assistant (like Apple’s Siri or Amazon Alexa) that was completely open source, built on top of an open hardware platform. Fast forward two years and $857,000 from crowdfunders and investors, and the first 1,000 units have just gone out to supporters around the world.

Watch me unbox the Mycroft AI Mark 1 “Advance Prototype” and take it through its paces:

Mycroft is really interesting for a variety of reasons:

  • Being open source software, you can see how the code works and tinker with it to make Mycroft do things that its creators never envisaged. This is a great way of learning to code, and understanding how to do speech recognition.
  • Mycroft capabilities, or ‘skills’, are typically written in the very accessible Python scripting language, and can easily be downloaded onto the device.
  • The Mark 1 itself is a clever combination of off the shelf hardware like Raspberry Pi and Arduino, but you can also run the Mycroft software on your existing Raspberry Pi, or on a conventional desktop/laptop. If you do have the Mark 1, then there are a wide range of hardware ports and interfacing options exposed on the back panel, including the full Raspberry Pi and Arduino GPIO pins, HDMI, USB and audio out.

So from an edtech perspective it’s easy to see Mycroft being used as a hook for teaching advanced hardware and software concepts and project work. And perhaps we’ll see DIY Mycroft kits turning up in maker families’ Christmas stockings before long too!

It’s also important to keep in mind that Mycroft’s developers see it as a white label digital assistant that (for example) organisations could customise for their own needs, retaining full control over the hardware and software – unlike the black box solutions from the tech giants. There could be quite a few use cases where this total control turns out to be a key requirement, e.g. from financial services to the defence sector.

I’ll have more to say about Mycroft soon, but in the meantime do leave a comment and let me know what you think about it, and how you might use it in research and education…

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