Lots of people have been looking into the usefulness of Amazon Echo as a piece of assistive technology. I decided it was time for me to try it out myself. Echo is pretty good at picking up your voice, even at a distance, even with other noise around, sending to Amazon for processing to figure out what you said, and then responding to it that.
Echo is compatible with a few common home automation products out there including Phillips Hue lights and Belkin WeMo power outlets. Using Echo together with these products, out of the box, with very little setup, you can turn simple appliances on and off with your voice. By simple appliances I mean anything that you could fully turn on or off by pulling the power plug out or plugging it back in, ie. lamps, fans, some ACs, etc. More advanced electronics (and even some models of the above) will not simply turn back on when plugged back in and/or do not handle well being unplugged while still on, so would not work in that setup.
However I was curious if you could push Echo’s utility a little further, and it turns out there are many different methods that allow you to do that. Of course they all have different tradeoffs in terms of setup time, financial cost, ease of use, etc. Here’s the result of using one such method to control a power wheelchair.
NOTE: this is NOT what Amazon Echo was designed for. This is NOT its intended use. However I found the result somewhat interesting and illustrative of some of Echo’s limitations and limitations of voice control overall in this method. These demos lack CRITICAL safeties that need to be in place for anyone (but especially someone with significant disability) to use safely.
This post gives some background and method but does not attempt to be a full how-to, nor is it actually showing off a fully implemented solution. However parts of it do work pretty well and may spark some ideas. There are many other voice controlled wheelchair solutions available, both professional and DIY. This project was done specifically to gain experience and learn more about using Amazon Echo.
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8-6-2021 (August 6, 2021) is the Snakiest day of the year and it’s also this year’s CircuitPython Day! The day highlights all things CircuitPython and Python on Hardware. See you there!
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