When the Amazon Echo first came out I was looking at them in earnest, but decided I couldn’t justify the expense for something that I may lose interest in or not really make use of. A friend had an Amazon Echo Dot and combined that with a smart Lightwave RF lighting system in his new apartment I had to admit it was a very nice feature. But still I held back.
Then I discovered that you could install Alexa onto a Raspberry Pi!
As I have more than a few Raspberry Pi’s and a spare, here or there, left over from upgrading others, I thought I’d give it a go.
The process is actually very straight forward. Simply install Raspbian and then follow the instructions to setup Alexa.
I’d used a tiny Bluetooth speaker by Rockbox in the past which was a very handy bit of kit with pretty good volume. It also had a 3.5mm audio jack input which was just what I was looking for. I’d picked it up of eBay for less than a fiver, so I thought I’d look for another. This time around I managed to find the next model up, the Rockbox 2, again for less than a fiver. It sounds great too.
Initially I bought a tiny USB microphone which really wasn’t up to the task. Even after messing with the input volume it still struggled. So I then looked at the Playstation 3 Eye which was recommended in the article. It was also very cheap from Amazon – coming in at £7.75 including delivery. The delivery was amazing even without Prime I ordered on Sunday, had a despatch notification at 8am Monday and it arrived that same Monday at 2pm!
I’d already got a Raspberry Pi 2 with a 16GB SD card and a Realtek 8192eu Wireless adapter. So now I just had to put it all together.
Beyond the Realtek driver there’s really nothing much else needed. No drivers for the Playstation 3 Eye – Alexa recognises it and uses the 4 microphone array that it has in it. So it’s all plug and play. Follow the instructions and you can’t go wrong. In my opinion, the most difficult bit is setting up the Amazon Developer account – but that’s all detailed in the guide too.
I’m glad I never purchased the official Amazon Echo right now. It’s a fun project and works very well, the Playstation microphone is excellent, but as I suspected – I’m not really sure of it’s potential for me. Maybe if I start putting together more Smart Home pieces and maybe get it operating with Kodi I’ll be more excited about it.