Are voice-powered in-home smart appliances going to be the next must-have piece of consumer tech? Amazon’s Echo appliance has been off to a strong start, and Amazon’s already brought that same Alexa-fueled voice control to a growing family of devices. Rumor has it that Google’s even working on building an Echo-like device of its own. And while we may be about to see more and more manufacturers bringing us similar devices, you don’t have to wait for one of those to come around to start playing with some Echo-like interactions of your own, thanks to Amazon releasing plans that let you roll your own Echo-ish hardware with the help of a Raspberry Pi.
Outfit a Raspberry Pi 2 with a microphone, speaker, internet connection, and Amazon’s software, and you’ve got all the pieces you need to build a workable Echo knock-off of your own.
The software configuration process is a bit involved, requiring users to set up a lot of software, register for a free Amazon developer account, and get all the authorizations needed to begin sending voice queries to its Alexa service. It may take a while, but Amazon lays out everything you need to do step-by-step, and getting things running is just a matter of seeing the procedure through to the end.
Amazon’s project may come in a bit more affordable than a pre-made Echo, but it’s not without its downsides – and the most severe is that configuring the software as described, interacting with Alexa is a manual process: you need to press a button to both begin and end listening to voice queries. That hiccup aside, it’s still a pretty experiment to try, especially if you’ve already got some of this hardware lying around.