French startup Snips said recently that its voice assistant under development is going to address a number of issues, including privacy, present in mainstream counterparts like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Snips AIR, due to be launched in late 2019, will be powered by blockchain technology and set to be the first privacy-focused, decentralized voice platform.
Mainstream voice assistants have used the cloud to process the data. With Snips, the processing will be done at the edge, or within a smart speaker. Users will have full control over their personal data.
“Existing voice assistants represent everything that is wrong with the Internet today: centralization of personal data, deprivation of privacy, and exploitation of users and developers. Snips AIR will offer a real alternative to families who care about protecting their privacy,” said Rand Hindi, Snips co-founder and CEO.
Smart speaker sales are on track of a fast trajectory, and expected to reach 56 million units this year, according to research firm Canalys. Nevertheless, privacy is still a major concern consumers have when it comes to adopting smart technologies.
“As Snips AIR runs locally without any voice data being sent to the cloud, no-one can spy on you or your kids, keeping your home private as it should be,” the company says.
Snips AIR will use a network of devices to create of a mesh AI assistants. The devices will talk to one another using the shared, open-source AIRnet protocol. Any device makers will be able to use the protocol.
Snips AIR will include a number of built-in applications at launch, including weather, home automation, multimedia, date/time, reminders and calendars.
Developers will be able to create their own Snips AIR apps and publish them in the Snips Skill Store, which will run on top of an application-specific blockchain. The marketplace will use Snips AIR tokens to ensure anonymous transactions between users and developers.
New Microphone and Smart Speaker
In addition to the voice assistant, Snips is working on a portable microphone named AIR Satellite and a smart speaker named AIR Base.
The AIR base has a powerful CPU to run apps locally. It comes packed with features, such as an HD speaker and a far-field microphone array. It is also fully customizable, running on Linux, says the company.
The AIR satellite is a battery-powered, MCU-based portable microphone. It enables you to control your devices with voice, wherever you are in your home. It is context-aware, enabling multimodal interactions such as dimming the lights in the room you are in by swiping up and down. Switching context is as simple as asking it to: “Hey Snips, switch to the music app!”
The app store and AIR mesh protocol are already mostly implemented and will be launched throughout the summer 2018. The AIR Base and AIR Satellite are planned to be launched by Christmas 2019.
Snips consists of 60 employees and has offices in Paris and New York. It has raised €22 million so far and it’s about to launch an initial coin offering.