For some time smart speakers have become a dominant trend. With many of the top tech companies coming with their own smart speaker system, it has become not only a battle of the titans but also a committed effort to push the boundaries of innovation to edge out the competition. It all started with Amazon Echo and followed up by the Google Home which together now holds the majority of market share with a dominant presence in the smart speaker market. But none of them offered an open source platform to allow other speakers to utilise the voice-enabled smart features with their speaker system.
Finally, Mycroft Mark II has just appeared as the new open source smart speaker system. Yes, it is just as smart as Amazon Echo with the only difference of being open source. The company that unveiled its smart speaker system way back in 2015 built this upgraded second version of their smart speaker just to address the demands of the mainstream consumer market.
The hardware offerings
Mycroft Mark II comes with a cylindrically shaped speaker system along with six separate microphones that can detect the location of the speaker. As for robust musical and sound output, a 10-watt speaker equipped with dual two-inch full-range drivers will fill the room with great sound or allow the voice to be heard throughout a room. The best thing about this speaker is that unlike most other smart speaker systems in the market Mark II comes loaded with a 4-inch LCD panel allowing the user to access the display for information and graphics.
By packing a 6-microphone setup, it already looks unmatched for sound output. Along with this, the speaker system is equipped with most advanced and state of the art features to boost the sound output. Some of the notable features include Acoustic Echo Cancellation, Noise Reduction and Beamforming to deliver crystal clear and fuller sound output throughout the room. As for form factor and design, it comes somewhat between the Apple HomePod and an Amazon Echo, sporting plastic made top and bottom beside a mesh exterior. The speaker system will also enjoy usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support for connectivity and will feature a 3.5 m Audio port and microSD card slot.
The software edge
Mycroft Mark II apart from this outstanding hardware setup will also come with an impressive range of software partnerships to allow smart interaction with most home electronics and gadgets. It has promised to deliver smart interactive capability by forming partnerships with an array of sophisticated smart device platforms like Philips Hue, Twitter, Roku, Wink, NPR and Wikipedia. Once these device and content platforms are supported and integrated interacting with voice commands and accessing contents will be easier than ever before.
Privacy is a big deal
The biggest deal breaker for this new smart speaker system is probably it’s content management that gives privacy to the user a high priority. This smart speaker system can deliver you all the cutting edge smart speaker capabilities without really collecting or exploiting user data too much. This is assured because the company built the system in a way so that none of the interaction data remains stored for future profiling of the user or for using them to target respective users with commercial ads. Whatever data the speaker system collects are collected after seeking permissions through optional choices selected by the users.
The price, crowdfunding and availability
It has already received huge support in its Kickstarter campaign by achieving four times of the initial pledge amount of $50,000 within just one week. It is expected that the new Mycroft Mark II will be shipped by the end of this year. As for price, the company is offering different options including a DIY option that will cost as low as $99 and a model with a built-in camera costing $179. But for the users looking for a standard model, it will cost only $129.
In two distinct aspects, Mycroft seems to have the edge over most other smart speaker systems including the Amazon Echo Spot with the screen. Mycroft Mark II offers a low footprint form-factor with several speakers spread out to deliver more fuller sound output. Apart from this, the care for user’s privacy with the active protection of user interaction data is something unique among the smart speaker systems in the market. An affordable below-$130 price tag is also a lucrative factor for choosing this speaker system.