Home Assistant, the open source smart home platform, is getting its own voice assistant. Its founder, Paulus Schoutsen, posted a blog last week announcing a new project that can localize all voice commands that control smart devices — without having to connect to a cloud like assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant have. The speech assistant is intended to be available sometime in 2023.
Schoutsen also runs Nabu Casa, a company that provides what are effectively first-party cloud services for the Home Assistant and also contributes to the development of the free platform. In addition, it creates the yellow out-of-the-box hardware solution that can run Home Assistant in your home without having to manually build one on a computer or Raspberry Pi.
“No web searches, making calls or voice games.”
To build a voice assistant, Nabu Casa needed someone with experience, so it brought developer Michael Hansen to lead the project. Hansen is the creator of another open source product called Rhasspy, a voice assistant supported by its own community that integrates the technology into the solution they are trying to build.
Schoutsen writes that one of Nabu Casa’s biggest priorities for the new voice assistant is to work with several languages. The user interface for the Home Assistant app already supports 62 languages, and Schoutsen hopes the community can help make them all voice-ready.
Basically, the Home Assistant voice product won’t be capable of things you’d expect a smart speaker to do. Schoutsen explains: “To keep the workload in front of us manageable, we’re going to limit the number of possible actions and focus on the basics of interacting with your smart home. No web searches, calling or voice games. And definitely not “by the way!”
Voice assistant products have become an expensive category for leading companies
Voice assistants usually have “smart” internet-connected features built in that are good at 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 these 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 The Verge‘s 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 if you’re all-in on Apple’s HomeKit (now “Apple Home”) ecosystem, though Matter support now bridges that gap — allowing all devices to work with each other’s ecosystems simultaneously.
Home Assistant has also picked up Matter support, so in the future it can use its own voice assistant to control the devices it has brought together into one platform. The platform already has conversation integration that understands text-based speech, and Schoutsen mentions that command sentences are collected in a new “intent store”, which can help society program its own actions.
However, a Home Assistant-based smart home doesn’t need the cloud, is open source with a community that supports it, and will have optional turnkey hardware that you can buy if you’re not big on programming things yourself. Whether it will work as well as the big technological voice solutions, however, is a question we may find the answer to next year.