Hacking an electronic face for my Amazon Echo.

Like everyone’s Amazon Echo, mine would simply blink an array of lights every time it would utter words in response to my requests. So I had a simple idea. Wouldn’t it be fun to actually add a face to it, one that would come alive whenever the device spoke?

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 10.13.38 PM

So I built one just for the fun of it.  The face is actually a TFT display and the brain is an Arduino controller connected to a few supporting electronics and sensors – all powered by some clever Arduino programming.  It all comes to life every time Alexa talks. When Alexa is done talking, the face goes back to sleep.   The face has eyes and a mouth. The eyes circle around while awake, and the mouth moves according to the rhythm of Alexa’s speech, which is coming out of the Echo device, as if the face was actually uttering the words – a real-time effect I came up with, which also senses whether Alexa is the one doing the talk so it’s not triggered by me or anyone else who happens to be talking nearby.

And no, I didn’t have to hack my way into  the actual Amazon Echo circuits. I’m also not using any Amazon APIs. In fact, the solution lies in simple physics and some basic electronic and software skills.  My project just sits on top of the actual Echo device without interfering with its functionality and without voiding its warranty.

In an upcoming post I will publish the schematics and a documented version of the source code, describing how anyone can build one just like the one I came up with.

If you want to check out a live video showing my little Arduino-based hack project, it’s on youtube.

~ André