Building a Special Needs Voice Assistant with Amazon Polly and Raspberry Pi
As a computer programming parent of a 16-year old non-verbal teenage boy with autism, I have been constantly searching over the years to find ways to use technology to make our lives together safer, happier and more comfortable. At the core of this challenge is the most basic of all human interaction—communication. While Calvin is able to respond to verbal instruction, he is not able to speak responsively. In his entire life, we’ve never had a conversation. He is able to be left alone in his room to play, but most every task or set of tasks requires a human to verbally prompt him along the way. Having other children and responsibilities in the home, at times the intensity of supervision can be negatively impactful on the home dynamic.
When I saw the announcement of Amazon Polly and Amazon Lex at re:Invent last year, I immediately started churning on how we could leverage these technologies to assist Calvin. He responds well to human verbal prompts, but would he understand a digital voice? So one Saturday, I setup a Raspberry Pi in his room and closed his door and crouched around the corner with other family members so Calvin couldn’t see us. I connected to the Raspberry Pi and instructed Polly to speak in Joanna’s familiar pacific tone, “Calvin, it’s time to take a potty break. Go out of your bedroom and go to the bathroom.” In a few seconds, we heard his doorknob turn and I poked my head out of my hiding place. Calvin passed by, looking at me quizzically, then went into the bathroom as Joanna had instructed. We all looked at each other in amazement—he had listened and responded perfectly to the completely invisible voice of someone he’d never heard before. After discussing some ideas around this with co-workers, a colleague suggested I enter the IoT and AI Science Fair at our annual AWS Sales Kick-Off meeting. Less than two months after the Polly and Lex announcement and 3500 lines of code later, Pollexy—along with Calvin–debuted at the Science Fair.
Read the entire article here, Pollexy – Building a Special Needs Voice Assistant with Amazon Polly and Raspberry Pi
via the fine folks at Amazon Web Services.