Meet the open-source community’s answers to Google Assistant and Alexa

Hey, Mycroft

Article from Issue 211/2018

Voice-activated assistants like Mycroft bring online, hands-free help to users, but with more transparency and less spying.

Every few years, Silicon Valley becomes obsessed with a new development in the tech space. Some, like the 3D web, fizzle out and leave nothing more than a footnote in the history of the tech industry. Others, like the push towards cloud services, have become a central part of many users' (and developers') lives.

Silicon Valley's latest craze is voice assistants. Google, Apple, Amazon, and a few others are all jostling to make the most capable voice assistant on the market, hoping to create an artificial intelligence that will do everything for you on your phone or computer. This year's CES has seen all kinds of devices powered by either Google's or Amazon's AIs – home automation kits, smart speakers, cars, and more.

As is the case with most proprietary services, these AIs have one big caveat: They are opaque, and they collect a lot of information about you that gets sent to someone else's opaque servers. Luckily, the open-source community is already at work on several voice assistants that are transparent and respectful of your privacy – and that strive to match their commercial rivals in functionality.


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