Retro Enclosures for Modern Digital Assistants

Internet of Things Raspberry Pi Technology
Retro Enclosures for Modern Digital Assistants

With digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Echo and Google’s Digital Assistant finally making a fairly significant penetration into the home use market, makers are starting to have a little fun with re-casing these devices inside of retro electronic appliances (and other odd encasements). Here are a few projects that I’ve come across recently.

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The May issue of MagPI, the official Raspberry Pi magazine came with a piece of hardware, the Google AIY (Artificial Intelligence Yourself) kit. This is a board that allows you to add voice interaction and the power of Google’s AI assistant technology to your PBpi projects. Martin Mander, creator of this Pi intercom explains:

This is a 1986 intercom that I’ve converted into a wall-mounted Google voice assistant, using a Raspberry PI 3 and the Google AIY (Artificial Intelligence Yourself) kit that came free with issue 57 of the MagPi magazine. It’s a Google Home style device with a retro feel!

Full build instructions for the project are available on Instructables.

Martin is known for doing a number of other cool retro recasing projects, including a vintage RBpi radio, VCR, telephone, and a Nabaztag “smart rabbit.” You can see them all on his Instructables page.

[H/t Donald Bell/Maker Update]

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From the one-of-a-kind mind of Collin Cunningham comes this fun recasing of an Amazon Alexa Echo inside of a classic late 70s 2-XL trivia robot. Those who have creepy doll phobia may want to skip this one.

2-XL trivia: The 2-XL, considered by many to be the first true “smart toy,” was released by Mego Toy Corporation in 1976 and sold until 1981. Tiger Electronics picked up the product and released a new version of it in the 1990s. Collin’s version is one of the original Mego Toy models.

In this project, Kirby of the YouTube channel Stuff with Kirby, moves an Amazon (Alexa-powered) Dash Wand into an old push-to-talk intercom console. There are a number of these digital assistants in old intercom cases projects on YouTube.

These are just the projects of this type I ran into this week. There are so many more. A search on YouTube and Instructables will give you lots of inspiration to go on.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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