2 min read
Mycroft.ai is an open source voice assistant. It provides functionality that compares with Alexa, Google Home, Siri, etc, but with the potential to avoid the privacy issues of these proprietary systems. Because of the privacy advantages of using an open source system, Mycroft has an opportunity to distinguish itself in ways that would be meaningful, especially within educational settings.
If I was part of the team behind Mycroft.ai, these are four things I would recommend doing as soon as possible (and possibly this work is already in progress -- as I said, I'm not part of the team).
- Write a blog post (and/or update documentation) that describes exactly how data are used, paying particular attention to what stays on the device and what data (if any) need to be moved off the device.
- Develop curriculum for using Mycroft.ai in K12 STEAM classes, especially focusing on the Raspberry Pi and Linux versions.
- Build skills that focus on two areas: learning the technical details required to build skills for Mycroft devices; and a series of equity and social justice resources, perhaps in partnership with Facing History and/or Teaching Tolerance. As an added benefit, the process of building these skills could form the basis of the curriculum for point 2, above.
- Get foundation or grant funding to supply schools doing Mycroft development with Mycroft-compatible devices.
Voice activated software can be done well without creating unnecessary privacy risks. Large tech companies have a spotty track record -- at best -- of creating consistent, transparent rules about how they protect and respect the privacy of the people using their systems. Many people -- even technologists -- aren't aware of the alternatives. That's both a risk and an opportunity for open source and open hardware initiatives like Mycroft.ai.