Raspberry Pi’s New AIY Projects Kit

A New Voice HAT Board Using Google’s AI

Amazon’s $100 million Alexa Fund has paid dividends for them with a stealth takeover of CES for the last couple of years, where we’re seeing third-party manufacturers integrating Amazon’s technology into devices ranging from cameras to cars. This must have worried Google because they’ve made a big push to publicise their own competing Google Assistant technology. But, because it’s Google, they’re directly targeting developers, and today that means an exclusive project kit bundled with the latest issue of the Mag Pi.

Called AIY Projects, the free kit bundled with Mag Pi 57 enables you to add voice interaction to your Raspberry Pi projects. This isn’t the first time Raspberry Pi have included hardware on the cover of the Mag Pi, the Raspberry Pi Zero was the first computer ever given away free with a magazine after all, but is certainly the first time Raspberry Pi have partnered with someone else to do so.

The partnership isn’t a surprise of course, it was announced back in January that the two companies were teaming up to bring machine learning to the Pi and “arrive in style” on the Raspberry Pi.

Inside the kit is a voice HAT board that’ll connect directly to the GPIO header of your Raspberry Pi 3 board, a microphone add-on board, a speaker, a big arcade button, and a variety of wires and headers. Finally there’s also a cardboard case which, after Google Cardboard, has become synonymous with Google’s own prototyping efforts.

All you need to provide is a Raspberry Pi 3 — although the board should work with a Raspberry Pi 2 or a Raspberry Pi Zero. Unfortunately it looks like earlier Pi models don’t have enough power to run Google’s software.

Once you have the kit put together there is some software setup to do, but instructions for that are right alongside the build instructions in the magazine. After that you have direct access to the Google Assistant SDK and the Google Cloud Speech API. So if Google’s Mocktail Mixer build was a little ambitious for you—and for that I don’t blame you—this may well be the kit you are looking for to get started with voice control for your projects.

The AIY Projects kits are bundled free with the print edition of the Mag Pi. Right now the only way to get your hands on the kit is to pick up a print copy of the Issue 57 of the Mag Pi, costing £5.99. While the Foundation says it may release the voice HAT separately at some point, with everything else they’re doing it might take a while for them to get around to it.

Alasdair Allan
Scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. Building, breaking, and writing. For hire. You can reach me at 📫 alasdair@babilim.co.uk.
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