Futurama’s Bender Makes a Perfect Personal Voice Assistant

Redditor Zen_Kong's 3D-printed, Raspberry Pi-powered Bender head is a bit more belligerent than other smart speakers.

Voice assistants, like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google's aptly-named “Assistant,” are all designed to be helpful while also being as inoffensive as possible. You may be able to change the assistant’s synthetic accent and maybe even talk it into telling you a joke, but these assistants are designed by committee and built by massive corporations; the last thing they’re going to do is give the assistant a real feeling of personality that could potentially rub some customers the wrong way. Bender, the robotic smartass from the TV cartoon Futurama, is the antithesis of that kind of safe design. That’s why Redditor Zen_Kong used a Raspberry Pi to build this Bender personal voice assistant.

Futurama, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching it, was an adult-oriented, science fiction-themed cartoon that gained quite the following over its 140 episodes. There are several memorable and beloved characters in the show, but Bender, a wisecracking robot voiced by John DiMaggio, is a fan favorite. Bender is crass, sarcastic, and hilarious, which makes his personality perfect for a voice assistant built by someone with a sense of humor. In this case, the voice assistant looks like Bender’s head and is able to respond to voice commands with audio clips of Bender’s voice from the show itself.

The Bender head-shaped enclosure — which can be downloaded on Thingiverse — was 3D-printed, with some parts printed on a Creality Ender 3 and some (the translucent parts) on an Anycubic Photon. Inside of that 3D-printed enclosure is a Raspberry Pi Zero W, which performs the speech recognition and handles requests — all of which is done offline. Impressively, Zen_Kong didn’t use an existing voice assistant like Mycroft. Instead, they used Pocketsphinx speech recognition software in combination with software that they wrote themselves in Python. Zen_Kong doesn’t provide a lot of detail about what capabilities the device has, but the code is all open source. That means you could build you own Bender personal voice assistant to try yourself.

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