Home Assistant, the open-source smart home platform, is getting its own voice assistant. The founder, Paul Schoutsen, posted a blog last week announcing a new project that could locate all the voice commands that control smart devices – without the need to connect to a cloud that assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant have. The voice assistant is planned to be available sometime in 2023.
Schoutsen also runs Nabu Casa, a company that basically provides first-party cloud services for Home Assistant and also contributes to the development of the free platform. In addition, it makes the Yellow out-of-box hardware solution that Home Assistant can run in your home without having to manually build one on a computer or Raspberry Pi.
“No web searches, calls, or voice games.”
To build a voice assistant, Nabu Casa needed someone with experience, so it enlisted developer Michael Hansen to lead the project. Hansen is the creator of another open-source product called Rhasspya voice assistant supported by its own community that integrates the technology into every solution they try to build.
Schoutsen writes that one of Nabu Casa’s biggest priorities for the new voice assistant is working with multiple languages. The user interface for the Home Assistant application already supports 62 languages, and Schoutsen hopes the community can help make them all speech-ready.
The Home Assistant voice product isn’t initially capable of things you’d expect from a smart speaker. Schoutsen explains: “To keep the amount of work ahead of us manageable, we limit the number of possible actions and focus on the basis of the interaction with your smart home. No web searches, calls or voice games. And certainly no ‘by the way’s!”
Voice assistant products have become an expensive category for leading companies
Voice assistants usually have “smart” internet-connected features built in that are great for things like answering trivia questions or checking sports scores. Alexa and Google Assistant are both particularly good at being “know everything”/”do everything” devices, but those capabilities can complicate things if all you need is a smart home controller. Apple’s Siri is the easiest and fastest voice assistant for home commands, according to Apple The edgeby Jennifer Pattison-Tuohy, but it still requires an internet connection to work, while Home Assistant’s solution will be entirely local. Siri also works best when you’re all-in on Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem (now “Apple Home”), though Matter support now bridges that gap – allowing all devices to work with each other’s ecosystems at the same time.
Home assistant has also picked up Matter support, so in the future it could use its own voice assistant to control the devices it has brought together on one platform. The platform already has it conversation integration who understands text-based speech, and Schoutsen mentions collecting command sentences into a new onestore of intentions”, which can help the community program their own actions.
However, a Home Assistant-based smart home doesn’t need the cloud, is open-source with a community that supports it, and has optional off-the-shelf hardware you can buy if you’re not great at programming yourself. Whether it will work as well as the big-tech voice solutions, however, is a question we might find the answer to next year.