AI for Everyone: Google’s AIY Neural Net Kits Go Mainstream Retail

from MAKE

We’ve officially entered the big-box DIY machine-learning era.

Starting this week, Target sells the Google AIY kits, both the Voice and Vision variants. These are upgrades of the kits that came out last year, each now using the Raspberry Pi Zero and coming in new retail packaging. Other than that, they retain their assemble-it-yourself cardboard housing and ability to be expanded upon by intrepid makers (although the Voice kit drops some of its output pins by moving from the RPi Model B to the Zero).

The Voice kit lets you build your own Echo/Google Home-style device, interfacing with the Google cloud to answer questions and respond to requests. Meanwhile, the Vision kit, powered by an Intel Movidius-equipped expansion Hat, will identify objects in its camera’s view. It does all its processing on-board.

Long reserved for advanced academics, R&D labs, and supposed secretive government initiatives, AI has grown in accessibility over the past few years, thanks to hardware initiatives from Raspberry Pi, Nvidia, and others, as well as open source software like Google’s TensorFlow. Putting these easy, fun AIY kits onto the shelves of Target stores in every community makes it many steps easier to launch the career of the next machine-learning superstar.

“By working with Target we’re able to massively expand our retail to reach makers and STEM students in the US,” AIY project lead Billy Rutledge tells Make: via email. “As the maker community continues to grow and innovate, having maker products generally available at Target Stores allows more to have access to not just AIY, but other great kits to learn and experiment.”

The new version of the kits now include the Pi Zero and SD card, with a corresponding increase in price ($49 for the Voice Kit, $89 for the Vision Kit). “Based on consumer feedback, we’ve bundled the Raspberry Pi components inside the kits (previously sold separately),” Rutledge says. “So the total cost has always been the amount you see now if you add in the RPi components and SD card.”

Other retail outlets are being explored as well. And for the AIY lineup expanding, Rutledge hints, “Much more to come, we’re just getting started.”

Google and Project Sunroof

Mapping the planet’s solar energy potential, one rooftop at a time

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Project Sunroof

The cost of solar power is at a record low. A typical solar home can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year on their electricity bill.  But, as a volunteer with the Boston-based solar program Solarize Massachusetts and a solar homeowner myself, I’ve always been surprised at how many people I encounter who think that “my roof isn’t sunny enough for solar,” or “solar is just too expensive.” Certainly many of them are missing out on a chance to save money and be green.

Enter Project Sunroof, my recent 20% project. Project Sunroof is a new online tool we’re testing to help homeowners explore whether they should go solar. Available in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno (in central California), and the Boston area for now, the tool uses high-resolution aerial mapping (the same used by Google Earth) to help you calculate your roof’s solar energy potential, without having to climb up any ladders.

 

If you’re in one of our test regions, simply enter your address and Project Sunroof will crunch the numbers. It first figures out how much sunlight hits your rooftop throughout the year, taking into account factors like roof orientation, shade from trees and nearby buildings, and local weather patterns. You can also enter your typical electric bill amount to customize the results. The tool then combines all this information to estimate the amount you could potentially save with solar panels, and it can help connect you with local solar providers.

Google has always been a big believer in zero-carbon energy, and solar power has been a central part of that vision — from accelerating the growth of rooftop solar, to helping finance the largest solar farm in Africa, to building one of America’s biggest campus solar arrays here in Mountain View. While Project Sunroof is in a pilot phase for now, during the coming months we’ll be exploring how to make the tool better and more widely available. If you find that your address isn’t covered by the tool yet, you can leave your email address and we’ll let you know when Project Sunroof is ready for your rooftop!

Images courtesy of Google