I am unapologetically obsessed with smart home devices. Right now, my home’s ecosystem contains Amazon Echoes, Phillips Hue Lights, August Locks, Ecobee Thermostats and a Riley robot. I also have integrated home security and monitoring along with some custom data collection applications. I have found a lot of room for customization with my smart home products, but until now I have never been able to build my own hardware and software components from scratch. I am still experimenting, but the Google Voice Kit that I recently stumbled upon maybe a game changer for me.
Google’s Voice Kit falls under what Google calls AIY projects or do-it-yourself artificial intelligence. The Voice Kit comes with a hardware attached on top (HAT) board which connects to a Raspberry Pi (RPi) 3 Model B that is sold separately. The Voice Kit also includes a stereo microphone, a speaker, all the connectors you need, and a cardboard housing. After assembling the Voice Kit hardware, you can use the Google Assistant SDK and Cloud Speech API to create custom voice commands and applications. The Google Assistant SDK gives you access to everything a Google Home Assistant can do – so the sky is the limit!
In this post, I will show you my initial build. This post is not meant to be a tutorial as the instruction book you get with the kit is very well written. My goal here is to show you what a Voice Kit build entails, and I will give you an overview of the things I encountered. In future posts, I will extend the software capabilities of my Voice Kit – but we will start by putting it together.
The Voice Kit Build
- Welcome home. Along with the Google Voice Kit and Raspberry Pi, you will need a Micro-USB power cable, a micro SD card, a keyboard, mouse and HDMI monitor to complete your build.
- The Google Voice Kit comes with everything else you need except a Phillips 00 screwdriver and a small amount of glue or double sided tape.
- The Voice HAT board is the Voice Kit engine that connects to the RPi.
- The Voice Kit speaker attaches to the Voice HAT board.
- The stereo microphone also plugs into the HAT board. Folding the Voice Kit box can be a bit tricky. Folding your box on a flat surface can help line up the edges.
- The speaker and RPi slide into place in the Voice Kit box. Make sure you line up the ports on the RPi with the openings on the box.
- Pay close attention when connecting the arcade button wires. If these wires are not in the right order, your unit will not work and the connections are difficult to take off once they are snapped in. A dab of glue or double sided tape will help the microphone stay in place better.
- Google Voice Kit. Completed Build.
- Now use Etcher to create an operating system image on your SD card. Attach your keyboard, mouse, and monitor; and insert your SD card into the RPi. Start your RPi and run the Voice Kit test files that are on your desktop.
- Set up your Google Assistant SDK and Cloud Speech API instances. Be careful and meticulously follow the instruction book. Pay close attention to the authentication steps.
- After everything is setup, you can ask Voice Kit your first question. Check out this quick video. I love that the Google Assistant SDK can understand my Southern drawl.
Wrapping Phase One Up
This stage of my AIY project took me a little over two hours to complete. In the next phase, I am going to create an app my Voice Kit will use to answer some data driven questions. Please look out for my next post: DIY Artificial Intelligence: Software Build. In the meantime, let me know if you have any application ideas or suggestions for decorating my Voice Kit box.