Amazon, apparently more interested in exposing you to its Alexa Voice Service than getting you to fork over $180 for its Echo voice assistant, has published detailed instructions on building your own version of Echo using a $35 Raspberry Pi 2 single-board computer.
The Echo Pi instructions, published on Github, walk the coding-and shell-savvy through the steps required to create this DIY project (you'll need a free Amazon Developer Account). And while Amazon might forego an Echo sale, it does encourage you to snap up other components needed to supplement your Raspberry Pi Model B -- USB 2.20 Mini Microphone, Wi-Fi Wireless Adapter, etc. -- via your handy dandy Amazon account.
The project involves using a Java client running on Raspberry Pi and a Node.js server. Raspberry Pi is a very flexible platform that supports a host of open source and other OSes, and has spawned Raspberry Pi projects ranging from cameras to supercomputers.
One catch to the project is that your Echo Pi needs to be operated by pushing a button before you ask the device for the weather or some other vital bit of information. The beauty of Amazon's cylindrical Echo speakers is that they are hands-free products, plugging into an outlet and connected to Wi-Fi.
Amazon has previously opened up its Alexa Voice Service to developers, but the Gitlab post makes it easier and provides needed code. Alexa is Amazon's answer to voice assistant technology from the likes of Apple (Siri), Microsoft (Cortana) and Google.
While Echo Pi might be a fun project for a DIYer, it also could benefit Amazon, which as usual might gain insights into users of its technology and might also pick up voice and language data for analysis. Those outside the U.S., including the U.K.-based Raspberry Pi organization itself, are excited to gain access to a DIY version of Amazon Echo since the original product is mainly available only in the U.S.
Here's a video from Novaspirit Tech that shows you how to build an Echo Pi.