FAQ: Mycroft: An Open Source Artificial Intelligence For Everyone
For the most up-to-date information about the status of our project, check our project updates on Kickstarter!

Mycroft is "Always Listening". Does this mean everything I say is being streamed to the Internet?

Mycroft is always listening. When you call him, he answers … Otherwise he ignores you so your conversations are confidential. Mycroft respects your privacy.

Mycroft only begins streaming when you call his name, all other audio is ignored. The process of analyzing the audio is done locally and not retained, until Mycroft hears his name.

Last updated: August 11, 2015 08:55

What license is Mycroft's source going to be released under?

We plan to release the source code under GPLv3.

Last updated: August 11, 2015 08:12

Why use the cloud to convert speech to text (STT)? Why not perform that task locally?

Accuracy and affordability. Existing online APIs that perform STT are far more accurate (>95%) than software packages that run locally.

Using existing online systems also makes our project more affordable. We need less local processing power, less RAM and a smaller software development effort.

We may re-evaluate this decision in the future, one benefit to a network connected AI is that it can be easily updated.

Last updated: August 11, 2015 08:12

What languages will Mycroft speak?

Our initial version will be English followed very closely by Spanish, German and French.

Since it is an open source project, the number of languages is only limited by the willingness of contributors to translate the voice prompts into their own language. We expect to eventually support 10 languages including Arabic, Mandarin, and Hindi.

Last updated: August 11, 2015 09:14

What voices will Mycroft have?

We plan to make both male and female voices available. We are hoping to have several voice profiles available for each gender.

Once again, the scope of voices will depend on participation from the open source community. The more support we receive through software and translation efforts, the more languages and voices we can provide to Mycroft users.

Last updated: August 11, 2015 09:18

Can I change Mycroft's name?

Yes. You can replace the key phrase "Mycroft" with the word or phrase of your choice.

Last updated: August 11, 2015 09:18

When will the open source software be released?

We plan to release it to the public in July 2016. One of the rewards above is pre-release access. We plan to pre-release the software to these supporters in April 2016.

Last updated: August 11, 2015 09:22

Why are you not open-sourcing the project immediately?

Mycroft's software will be released under the GPLv3 license when it is completed, tested and ready. Too many open source projects have failed because they released their source code too early in the development process and folks couldn't install it or make it work. You only have one chance to make a first impression.

To develop robust professional software takes time and resources. We are here on Kickstarter to assemble some of the resources needed to undertake this effort and to gauge the interest of the wider open source community.

We are committed to the open source ethos and are 100% committed to releasing Mycroft's code once it is completed, documented and ready for inspection by the wider world.

Last updated: August 11, 2015 14:02

Who are you using for speech to text (STT) processing?

We want to be transparent with our supporters, but at the same time we need to keep some details of our project private until negotiations are complete and contracts are signed. Remember that Kickstarter is not a store. It is a place to build support and access capital to complete amazing projects. Our platform is still more than 10 months away from release and we have a lot of details to iron out before we ship.

We are currently evaluating several STT application interfaces (APIs). Our software is designed to use multiple APIs simultaneously. Partially this is to improve performance, but it is also to prevent getting locked into a single technology or vendor. When we've selected and executed agreements with our upstream STT providers we will communicate our selection to end users.

We will also remain open to adding STT vendors in the future or bringing this portion of our technology in-house.

To preserve end user privacy we are looking at several mechanisms to randomize STT query destinations, mask IP addresses and conceal other personally identifiable information.

Mycroft is open source so users who don't like our STT or AI selection can always deploy their own STT or AI back end.

Last updated: August 12, 2015 13:04

Will there ever be a fee?

We do not plan to charge for processing speech or AI interrogation. If we change this policy in the future Kickstarter supporters will be grandfathered in.

Remember, Mycroft is an open source, open hardware platform. Mycroft users can always set up their own STT or AI back end and process queries using their own infrastructure. Advanced users can even set up STT or AI processing services for other Mycroft users. Our goal is to provide an open source solution that average consumers can use out of the box. What advanced users choose to do with the technology is entirely up to them.

Please note that we do reserve the right to discontinue speech processing or AI integration for users who abuse our system.

Last updated: August 12, 2015 13:04

Why name it Mycroft?

Mycroft is named in honor of Mike, the supercomputer in Robert A. Heinlein's classic novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". Heinlein's Mycroft was a High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV, Mod. L" - a HOLMES FOUR. Mycroft's friend Manuel named him "Mycroft" after Sherlock's elder brother Mycroft Holmes. This was later shortened to Mike.

In Heinlein's book Mike became self aware when the Lunar Authority hooked so much hardware to it (decision-action boxes, additional memories, associated neural nets) that the system became self aware. This took place gradually over time.

Heinlein's fictional explanation in mirrors our own approach to achieving a strong AI.

For those of you who might not know; there are two types of AI. A weak AI is a system that is obviously a computer. It can perform certain tasks and solve certain problems, but cannot initiate action on its own or hold a meaningful conversation with an educated adult. A strong AI on the other hand is capable of communicating with educated adults in a way that is indistinguishable from a human being.

So how does one distinguish a strong AI from a weak AI? Alan Turing - the father of the universal computer - proposed a test known as "the Turing test" where humans are asked to judge a computer based on a casual conversation. If humans are unable to determine whether a program is a human or a computer - the program is considered a strong AI. The recent movie "Ex Machina" was an excellent dramatization of this test.

By this definition Mycroft is a weak AI. It can interpret natural language, initiate search and maintain the context of a query, but anyone interacting with it for more than a minute or two will know it is a computer.

Our long term vision at Mycroft AI is expand Mycroft's skills and abilities to the point where interacting with Mycroft becomes indistinguishable from interacting with a human being. When that time comes Mycroft will become a strong AI - hopefully the world's first. Obviously we won't achieve this vision for years, possibly decades.

We believe that the best approach to achieving strong AI is to add diverse skills to Mycroft one at a time. If properly integrated and coordinated these skills will gradually create an entity that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Since this approach to achieving strong AI would take a proprietary software company decades of effort and hundreds of millions of dollars, we have made Mycroft open source. It is our hope that developers, hackers and makers will develop new skills and abilities for Mycroft and contribute them back to the greater Mycroft community. Gradually moving the system from weak to strong.

Last updated: August 13, 2015 15:14

Mycroft is "Always Listening". Does this mean everything I say is being streamed to the Internet?

Mycroft is always listening. When you call him, he answers … Otherwise he ignores you so your conversations are confidential. Mycroft respects your privacy. Mycroft only begins streaming when you call his name, all other audio is ignored. The process of analyzing the audio is done locally and not retained, until Mycroft hears his name. Last updated: Tue, Aug 11 2015 11:55 am EDT

What license is Mycroft's source going to be released under?

We plan to release the source code under GPLv3. Last updated: Tue, Aug 11 2015 11:12 am EDT

Why use the cloud to convert speech to text (STT)? Why not perform that task locally?

Accuracy and affordability. Existing online APIs that perform STT are far more accurate (>95%) than software packages that run locally. Using existing online systems also makes our project more affordable. We need less local processing power, less RAM and a smaller software development effort. We may re-evaluate this decision in the future, one benefit to a network connected AI is that it can be easily updated. Last updated: Tue, Aug 11 2015 11:12 am EDT

What languages will Mycroft speak?

Our initial version will be English followed very closely by Spanish, German and French. Since it is an open source project, the number of languages is only limited by the willingness of contributors to translate the voice prompts into their own language. We expect to eventually support 10 languages including Arabic, Mandarin, and Hindi. Last updated: Tue, Aug 11 2015 12:14 pm EDT

What voices will Mycroft have?

We plan to make both male and female voices available. We are hoping to have several voice profiles available for each gender. Once again, the scope of voices will depend on participation from the open source community. The more support we receive through software and translation efforts, the more languages and voices we can provide to Mycroft users. Last updated: Tue, Aug 11 2015 12:18 pm EDT

Can I change Mycroft's name?

Yes. You can replace the key phrase "Mycroft" with the word or phrase of your choice. Last updated: Tue, Aug 11 2015 12:18 pm EDT

When will the open source software be released?

We plan to release it to the public in July 2016. One of the rewards above is pre-release access. We plan to pre-release the software to these supporters in April 2016. Last updated: Tue, Aug 11 2015 12:22 pm EDT

Why are you not open-sourcing the project immediately?

Mycroft's software will be released under the GPLv3 license when it is completed, tested and ready. Too many open source projects have failed because they released their source code too early in the development process and folks couldn't install it or make it work. You only have one chance to make a first impression. To develop robust professional software takes time and resources. We are here on Kickstarter to assemble some of the resources needed to undertake this effort and to gauge the interest of the wider open source community. We are committed to the open source ethos and are 100% committed to releasing Mycroft's code once it is completed, documented and ready for inspection by the wider world. Last updated: Tue, Aug 11 2015 5:02 pm EDT

Who are you using for speech to text (STT) processing?

We want to be transparent with our supporters, but at the same time we need to keep some details of our project private until negotiations are complete and contracts are signed. Remember that Kickstarter is not a store. It is a place to build support and access capital to complete amazing projects. Our platform is still more than 10 months away from release and we have a lot of details to iron out before we ship. We are currently evaluating several STT application interfaces (APIs). Our software is designed to use multiple APIs simultaneously. Partially this is to improve performance, but it is also to prevent getting locked into a single technology or vendor. When we've selected and executed agreements with our upstream STT providers we will communicate our selection to end users. We will also remain open to adding STT vendors in the future or bringing this portion of our technology in-house. To preserve end user privacy we are looking at several mechanisms to randomize STT query destinations, mask IP addresses and conceal other personally identifiable information. Mycroft is open source so users who don't like our STT or AI selection can always deploy their own STT or AI back end. Last updated: Wed, Aug 12 2015 4:04 pm EDT

Will there ever be a fee?

We do not plan to charge for processing speech or AI interrogation. If we change this policy in the future Kickstarter supporters will be grandfathered in. Remember, Mycroft is an open source, open hardware platform. Mycroft users can always set up their own STT or AI back end and process queries using their own infrastructure. Advanced users can even set up STT or AI processing services for other Mycroft users. Our goal is to provide an open source solution that average consumers can use out of the box. What advanced users choose to do with the technology is entirely up to them. Please note that we do reserve the right to discontinue speech processing or AI integration for users who abuse our system. Last updated: Wed, Aug 12 2015 4:04 pm EDT

Why name it Mycroft?

Mycroft is named in honor of Mike, the supercomputer in Robert A. Heinlein's classic novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". Heinlein's Mycroft was a High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV, Mod. L" - a HOLMES FOUR. Mycroft's friend Manuel named him "Mycroft" after Sherlock's elder brother Mycroft Holmes. This was later shortened to Mike. In Heinlein's book Mike became self aware when the Lunar Authority hooked so much hardware to it (decision-action boxes, additional memories, associated neural nets) that the system became self aware. This took place gradually over time. Heinlein's fictional explanation in mirrors our own approach to achieving a strong AI. For those of you who might not know; there are two types of AI. A weak AI is a system that is obviously a computer. It can perform certain tasks and solve certain problems, but cannot initiate action on its own or hold a meaningful conversation with an educated adult. A strong AI on the other hand is capable of communicating with educated adults in a way that is indistinguishable from a human being. So how does one distinguish a strong AI from a weak AI? Alan Turing - the father of the universal computer - proposed a test known as "the Turing test" where humans are asked to judge a computer based on a casual conversation. If humans are unable to determine whether a program is a human or a computer - the program is considered a strong AI. The recent movie "Ex Machina" was an excellent dramatization of this test. By this definition Mycroft is a weak AI. It can interpret natural language, initiate search and maintain the context of a query, but anyone interacting with it for more than a minute or two will know it is a computer. Our long term vision at Mycroft AI is expand Mycroft's skills and abilities to the point where interacting with Mycroft becomes indistinguishable from interacting with a human being. When that time comes Mycroft will become a strong AI - hopefully the world's first. Obviously we won't achieve this vision for years, possibly decades. We believe that the best approach to achieving strong AI is to add diverse skills to Mycroft one at a time. If properly integrated and coordinated these skills will gradually create an entity that is greater than the sum of its parts. Since this approach to achieving strong AI would take a proprietary software company decades of effort and hundreds of millions of dollars, we have made Mycroft open source. It is our hope that developers, hackers and makers will develop new skills and abilities for Mycroft and contribute them back to the greater Mycroft community. Gradually moving the system from weak to strong. Last updated: Thu, Aug 13 2015 6:14 pm EDT

Shipping Updates

Current Estimated Shipping Date: May 2017

We will begin shipping May 2017. Some items may be shipped separate in order to deliver as available.

Last Updated At: 04/28/17
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