Open Voice Prototypes

01 April 2019

Demo content

Over the past 12 months the Open IoT Studio has exhibited several prototypes exploring different aspects of the voice enabled internet in Dundee, London, Berlin and Bangalore.

v1 images

The first prototype exploration for Dundee Design Festival in 2017 explored transparent listening behaviours for machines.

The theme of transparency was then exaggerated further in a project exploring three different future scenarios for the voice enabled internet in collaboration with Superflux.

OFE images & video

For the next iteration we wanted the prototype to function as a ‘smart assistant’ and it was important that it had the typical functionality of a ‘smart speaker’ in todays market. Specifically, we wanted members of the public to be able to interact with an internet enabled voice assistant within the exhibition and workshops. We wanted the project to be open source and repeatable in the future, so we chose to experiment with Mycroft, an open source voice assistant platform. The team at Mycroft released a raspberry pi version of their platform allowing us to experiment with a DIY voice kit.

mycroft close up

This new prototype explores;

Transparency How, when and why are machines listening to us and how can we tell whether they are or aren’t?

Interoperability Why should consumers be locked into a specific voice hardware ecosystem?

Intuition How can we design affordances that explicitly show their function, e.g. why do smart speakers not look like ‘listening’ devices?

Modularity How can we mechanically control what hardware is switched on / off within a smart speaker?

Personality How does the tone / voice / personality of the device affect the user experience?

This prototype was exhibited at Dundee Design Festival 2018 and was useful in creating discussion in workshops with members of the public around future voice scenarios.

mycroft with annotated parts

The microphone, speaker and camera can be removed individually. Magnets hold each component and conduct electrical signals through the component when connected.

mycroft animated gif

This allows you to glance at the object and see what functionality it has, e.g. can it listen, can it speak, can it see? Even if your object was hacked, the mechanical override of removing the microphone completely means that the audio data would not be accessible.

The prototype also explores personality of voice, and each time a component is removed or added, a different voice will let you know whats happened.

“Wow, who just turned out the lights? I can’t see anymore…”

mycroft image & audio snippet