Building a Voice App for Snips

Rand Hindi
Jun 11, 2018 · 4 min read
The new public Snips app store

On July 16, 2018, we updated our online assistant builder to include the public Snips app store. Skills are now called “apps”, and with this update, developers can now build voice apps that will appear on our public app store. The Snips app store gives apps more visibility for community ratings and comments, and enables developers to share their published apps. We’ve included direct links to published apps — just copy and share the URL of your app within the UI for viewing and editing your own apps.

*Spoiler: the Snips app store will be supported by a token-curated marketplace, which we will introduce in another post.

Like any platform, Snips AIR’s adoption depends on both the number of users using it and the number of developers building quality apps for it. Other voice assistant usually start by building a consumer device with built-in apps, then try to convince developers to add apps to their marketplace. At Snips, we have done it the other way around: we first started by creating a developer community, ahead of launching our own consumer device.

Back in 2017, when we started licensing our voice assistant to enterprise device manufacturers, we decided to also offer it for free to any developer who wanted to build their own voice assistant. To facilitate the process of creating a voice app, we launched a number of web tools enabling everything from creating new apps to forking published ones and generating training data. You can try it yourself at makers.snips.ai .

The online app builder

Our online app builder enables anyone to easily create a new voice app, test it, and deploy it on their favorite platform, whether a Raspberry Pi, Android, iOS or Debian device. A full list of compatible platforms can be found here. As Snips runs fully on device, new apps need to be installed locally on each device, which can be done easily thanks to SAM: a simple command line tool to setup and install new apps, with minimal coding.

Our platform comes with a number of pre-trained wake words (what you call your assistant to wake it up), such as “Hey Snips”, “Jarvis” or “Chappie”. We also recently launched the ability for developers to create their own wake word, as well as have multiple assistants with different names for different family members.

Since launching it a year ago, our community grew organically to over 14,000 developers, making us one of the largest community of voice app developers outside of Amazon and Google.

This staggering adoption by the community — for which there has been no paid marketing done — is due to the combination of 3 factors: a shared vision of what a voice assistant should be (Private by Design, Decentralized and Open Source), a shared belief in helping each other build great apps (our discord has a very active community ❤) and a shared belief in creating tools that are so simple that even a kid could create a voice app.

It is actually quite amazing to see the creativity of the community. Developers and makers around the world have been creating voice apps for everything, from controlling their homes to making games for their kids, playing music and even piloting a drone with voice! They have also been actively contributing to the development of tools for Snips, many of which will end up being integrated natively.

To further simplify the adoption of Snips by our community, we created the Maker Kit: a DIY hardware kit to make your own smart speaker. The Snips Maker Kit contains all the elements necessary to get started and test your app in real life: a Raspberry Pi to do all the processing, a microphone, a speaker and a board to neatly put everything together.

The Maker Kit is available for purchase on our website, and ships to most countries. It is still a v1 however, and will likely evolve to contain more cool features!

Simplifying the building of apps for Snips is a key element of our strategy. In the next posts, we will show how using a token enables to decentralize everything about voice, from the training of the machine learning model to the app store curation and the analytics.

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Rand Hindi

Written by

#AI and #Privacy entrepreneur working on Making Technology Disappear. CEO @ Zama.ai. Previously CEO @ Snips.ai (acquired by Sonos).

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