It has been another exciting and busy week (and weekend) for the Mycroft team. This week seemed to be all about the future … the future of voice interfaces, the Future of Cooking, the future of funding. Keep reading to see what all the future holds and what that picture has to do with Mycroft!
Sometimes it is hard to convey to people that Mycroft is much more than just a cute little plastic thing with big glowing eyes. So our design team put together a video showing the vision we have for what Mycroft will look like in 2018 when it is three years old. This future shows how “Mycroft” will break free of one physical location and follow you, understanding You and always ready to help.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and at 24 frames per second this video will tell you a lot more than what I can type here, so just watch the video below. I’ll wait…
Over the weekend, Josh and I visited General Electric’s facility in Louisville, KY known as FirstBuild. They were hosting their annual mega-hackathon, themed “The Future of Cooking” this year. To be honest, we weren’t sure what to expect of the weekend but we decided to visit at GE’s invitation and just see what happens.
The first thing I’ll say is that the FirstBuild “co-creation community” is almost indescribably awesome! It is really the biggest, baddest makerspace you can imagine. There are industrial-sized 3D printers, laser cutters, waterjet cutters, a CNC Mill and CNC Press/Break, and all kinds of other building toys to induce drooling in Makers. They’ve opened this mini factory up to the community AND provided access to their engineering resources to help move vague concepts to prototypes and will help those become products. It is a great concept and and I highly recommend swinging by anytime you are near Louisville.
Once we arrived, we decided to join in the hacking fun instead of just standing around observing. We joined a group of three industrial design students from the Columbus College of Art and Design and a local electrical engineer and decided to take up the challenge of improving the cooking experience for the visually impaired.
We did some quick video research to see what it is like to cook when blind. Watching that video is a white-knuckle experience! The poor cooks have to feel around in to hot ovens, touch hot burners, and spill ingredients as they try to cope with a world that was in no way designed with visual impairment in mind. We decided we could do something better than the status quo, and set out to build it…in just 24 hours.
We took an existing GE induction cooktop, integrated voice control and feedback, proximity detection electronics, added clever physical design hacks and built an attractive housing for it all to make something useful for not just the blind but also for the sighted. I know I want a built-in digital scale in my kitchen stove — “Hey Marco, I need to add two cups of milk”, the scale zeros as it reaches out to the internet to calculate the correct weight based on the density of milk, then I pour until it says “stop”. There goes the pile of dirty measuring cups in the sink after dinner!
You can see our Marco demo below. Forgive the sound quality, it was filmed on a cell phone camera after we’d been working 23-hours straight building the stove.
We were really happy with the results. And so were the judges — we won the first place award from 3M for innovative use of their products (epoxy used for the braille and touch control indicators), the first place GE Industrial Design award, and the Overall Grand Prize! The three students walked away with the prize money and were VERY happy that they’d decided to invest their weekend in this competition.
The best part for me is that this once again realized our mission of AI for Everyone. This time our open technology allowed us to quickly integrate the electronics of a Mycroft Holmes 1 with some Texas Instruments sensors and GE’s Green Bean hardware interface to turn a dumb appliance into a smart one. Most importantly, this could really improve the world for millions of people. Nearly 40 million people in the world are blind, and nearly 250 million more are visually impaired, and every one of them need to make food every day.
As I discussed last week, we are working hard to make sure the Mycroft organization is around for a long time in the future to support the community and development of voice technology for everyone. Recently Startland News ran a story on our successful closing of the Angel funding round, followed by Mycroft AI coming out on top of over 400 startups to win the LaunchKC competition and gain the support of the Kansas City business community.
Now we are on Fundable! Everyone in the Mycroft community is welcome to check it out and keep helping us build a better future!
Steve has been building cutting edge yet still highly usable technology for over 25 years, previously leading teams at Autodesk and the Rhythm Engineering. He now leads the development team at Mycroft as a partner and the CTO.