Smart home assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, can add a lot of convenience to your life. You can use them to control your lights, play music, and even order products online. But they also have many downsides — privacy concerns often being at the top of the list. Luckily, there are other options out there, and Laurent Chervet has taken advantage of one of them, Snips, to create the extremely versatile Project Alice assistant.
Laurent started working on Project Alice two years ago, when Snips was first released. He wanted a way to build the ideal home assistant, and Snips was the perfect platform to do that with. It’s a “private-by-design” voice service that can run completely offline, and so removes the concerns many people have about other services. But that’s just the underlying platform, and Laurent still needed to come up with the best way to implement that in his home.
To accomplish that, Laurent turned to Raspberry Pi. Project Alice is actually composed of two classes of device: a base station that does the real processing, and satellite devices that provide access to the service in each room. The base station is built around a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, and each satellite device has a Raspberry Pi Zero W. The satellites also include a speaker, NeoPixel LED ring, a host of sensors, and a ReSpeaker 2 for the microphone, all packed into a 3D-printed enclosure.
Because each satellite device is relatively inexpensive, Laurent can put one in each room so Project Alice is always available. Project Alice is capable of handling all of the same things other voice assistants do, and even has some unique capabilities that Laurent showcases in his series of YouTube videos. Some of those are part of the standard Snips experience, and some were developed by Laurent. However, the Snips service is completely offline and only understands words in its library. That’s why Laurent has also made it possible to use Google’s ASR (Automated Speech Recognition) for certain tasks.
Laurent is hoping to have Project Alice in a releasable state soon, and recently demonstrated it at the Maker Faire in Paris.