If you haven’t heard of Mycroft, there’s a good chance you’ve been living under a rock. And not one of those fancy under-a-rock condos either—the kind of under a rock without—horrors!—wifi! Mycroft is a project over at Indiegogo and Kickstarter that has the distinction of being the first truly open source, open hardware home AI to grace the technological landscape. And, of course, it runs GNU/Linux.
Mycroft is designed to respond to natural human language and execute functions based on what you say/it hears. This allows it to integrate with an array of online sites like YouTube, Netflix, Pandora, and Spotify (along with many others) so you can find content/control those sites with the ease of voice. Say, “Mycroft, rock me some Clutch,” and Electric Worry comes slamming out of its hi-fi speaker like a jagged sound-rainbow spewing forth from a crack in Hell. (If you don’t know who/what Clutch is—I’m telling you, you need to get out from under that rock).
But that’s not all! Mycroft is also designed to integrate with the IoT. As such, Mycroft can take advantage of light controls with Hue lights, lock/unlock door locks with SmartThings, make coffee with WeMo, and change the thermostat with Nest. Pretty nifty, eh?
Mycroft also uses what the project is calling “scenes.” Scenes are vocal macros that trigger a set of commands which are executed in a preset order. For example, you could tell Mycroft: “Leaving the house,” and Mycroft would turn off set appliances like the coffee maker, turn off the thermostat (or set it to a preset), and lock the doors behind you. Personally, I’d like a “disco” scene: the disco ball drops from the ceiling, the Bee Gees kicks up, and fog blankets the living room. “Bring your own bell-bottoms, sucka.”
Since Mycroft is open source, devs can get in there and tinker away. The opportunity for it to be able to integrate with more and more devices is wide open. Want to control a Roomba?—code it. Want to be able to check the levels in your *ahem* hydroponics garden?—code it. Software Dev versions of the device are available alongside the regular stuff on the campaign page. Also, Mycroft is rocking a Raspberry Pi 3 and an Arduino. That means getting in there and extending its capabilities hardware-wise is only a screwdriver away.
As a super gold-star-and-glitter GNU/Linux bonus, Mycroft’s stretch goal was met. This goal might be of benefit to you even if you didn’t or aren’t planning on backing the project: the guys and gals down at Mycroft HQ decided it would be cool if the GNU/Linux desktop could benefit from Mycroft’s code as well. And I agree wholeheartedly! This means that you’ll be able to control your desktop’s functions with Mycroft’s speech recognition software a la Siri or Google Now: control applications, launch media, and change settings with just your voice and the magic of technology. Since the device is running Ubuntu Snappy Core and since Mycroft has teamed up with Canonical, it’ll be reportedly easy to integrate with the Unity desktop. The Mycroft team has stated that they’ll reach out to other desktop communities as well, so I’m sure other distros will also see it running in short order.
The original campaign was successfully 129% funded on in September 2015, but if you want to get your hands on one, you can still contribute here or here. The project’s time line has shipping of pre-orders going on from May 2016 to July 2016, so you’d be just in time to get your hands on one (or several). Price for a hardware dev kit is $254 and for a regular extendable it is $154. The Mycroft team will release all of the Mycroft A.I. code under GPLv3 once they’re ready to ship.
The Linux Crowd
About this column: The Linux Crowd attempts to locate interesting crowdfunded projects and bring them to your attention, the GNU/Linux enthusiast. These projects are curated from the usual crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Crowdsupply.org., in order to find those that look particularly noteworthy, but ones specifically that use GNU/Linux as a major component. Some of these projects are ongoing and could use your support, while others might have finished (successfully) in which case you can still contribute to purchase an item.
Hit me up with corrections, comments, well-wishes, or digital beer at FreedomPenguinBrad@gmail.com