According to Rutledge, the idea was suggested by Google Developers community members, interested in using artificial intelligence and experiment with human-to-machine interaction in their own projects. This lead to the creation of AIY Projects (do-it-yourself artificial intelligence.) Within this initiative, Google intends to release a series of open source reference kits, and they decided to start with voice recognition.
The speech recognition capability in this first AIY project can be used to replace physical buttons and digital displays on household appliances and consumer electronics, replace smartphone apps to control devices on connected devices, and add generic voice recognition to any type of project.
Leveraging the power of the popular Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, the Google AIY Voice Kit contains instructions to build a Voice User Interface (VUI) that uses cloud services like the new Google Assistant SDK or Cloud Speech API, or runs completely on-device. The included Voice Hardware Accessory on Top (HAT) contains hardware for audio capture and playback with easy-to-use connectors for the dual mic daughter board and speaker, GPIO pins to connect low-voltage components like micro-servos and sensors, and an optional barrel connector for dedicated power supply.
Alternately, developers can run Android Things on the Voice Kit with full functionality - making it easy to prototype Internet-of-Things devices and scale to full commercial products with several turnkey hardware solutions available (including Intel Edison, NXP Pico, and Raspberry Pi 3). The recently released Google Assistant SDK developer preview is enabled by default, and brings the Google Assistant to this cardboard Voice Kit, including voice control, natural language understanding, Google's smarts, and more.
Assembly instructions, source code and suggested extensions for the AIY Voice Kit are available online (aiyprojects.withgoogle.com), and the complete kit is for sale at over 500 Barnes & Noble stores in the US, as well as UK retailers WH Smith, Tesco, Sainsburys, and Asda.
More information here.