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First impression on MOVI, questions and suggestions

posted Apr 05, 2016 03:35:42 by Alex C
Hello.
A couple weeks ago I bought a MOVI module via Amazon, and finally had time to try it out.
My experience has been that it worked out of the box and was easy to test by using the examples from the library.
It's nice to be able to use text strings instead of recording samples, and to have speech capabilities in the same device.

On the (Arduino) software side, to facilitate learning, I'd suggest providing many simple examples demonstrating a single function or feature at a time, because it's a lot to take in otherwise, with so many new concepts covered in each example.

On the hardware front, I noticed that the pins on the MOVI shield don't have plastic spacers, which makes it more difficult to seat properly as the SD slot ends up pushing against the USB port while the rest of the shield keeps going and ends up being slanted. It's not very reassuring and while it doesn't seem to matter on my Uno, it caused issues with the Mega (clone) when fully inserted as the shield wouldn't boot. I had to barely plug it in for it to work. It may be something odd with the Mega, I'll have to take a closer look.

If a new revision of the board ever gets made, I'd suggest improving the pins, relocating the SD card slot and perhaps using green/pink audio connectors.

Questions:

Is it possible to change the default voice settings by tweaking some configuration file on the SD card?
I have a hard time understanding the current ones, they speak a bit too fast for my taste and after trying all the eSpeak library voices on my computer, I found that f3 and f4 were the most intelligible ones to me, especially at a slower rate.

Since there is a much better cpu and ram on the shield than on the Arduino, would it be possible to run the Arduino core alongside Linux to have the shield run by itself?

Are all the I/O pins accessible to Movi or are they only pass-through?

I'd welcome any documentation to help advanced users tinker with the Linux side too as it's always fun to push devices beyond their original purpose.

My next project will be to interface Movi to an ESP8266 12e as it not only provides wifi, it can be flashed with the Arduino core, runs at 80mhz and has a lot of ram and storage.

Thank you for making the Movi board and software!
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4 replies
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GeraldFriedland said Apr 05, 2016 17:40:15
Thanks for your great feedback! I didn't have any issues with the original Arduino MEGA2560. In fact, I am recommending it as I used it for most of our development. It's imho the best Arduino board. Having said that, spacers and colored connectors where on our original plan but had to be dropped due to cost issues. If we get to higher volumes with MOVI, we will definitely put that back in. But it's great to hear this suggestion from an actual user.

As I write this response, I am working on two things:
- More programming examples and tutorials
- A better speech synthesizer
I am also considering making the current speech synthesizer more tweakable as this has been suggested many times before. Our list of suggestions can be found on github btw. feel free to add. We are heavily relying on feedback from users like you to see where we should put out efforts in. So thank you again!

Regarding your questions:
- Changing to a better voice will be available as the next firmware update soon.
- The shield can run by itself. But you would have to have some device that gives it commands over the serial line. This can be for example, a Rasberry PI or an ESP8266 board. Both have been tested by the community to work. From our side, there are the generic connection instructions in our user manual, Appendix A.
- The IOPINs are pass-through, except for VIN, GND, and IOREF. You can use Jumper 2 and 3 to connect MOVIs serial communication to D10 and D11, or if you open the jumpers, you can connect to any other PIN using jumper wires. See also this forum post.
- We are not likely to provide documentation about how to tinker with the Linux side. We are currently prioritizing lowering the entry barrier and rely on the community to create their own projects on that level.
- Regarding ESP8266, I saw, that you already replied to this post. Again, we are very thankful for feedback like that!
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Alex C said Apr 07, 2016 03:40:53
Thank you for your reply, I should have mentioned that my Mega board is a clone so it may very well have poorly soldered headers or something causing a bad connection. I added spacers now to prevent the pins from going too deep.
With the higher cost of small batches I do understand the need to keep the cost as low as possible.

I've been using the ESP-12 with Movi and will post more details in the other hardware thread, but should mention a couple of interesting findings:

Using the low-level sketch, I successfully trained 494 sentences (mostly using a single word). I only stopped there because that was a lot of typing, but seeing how quickly it processed them, It looks like it could handle thousands just fine. There was no noticeable delay in the recognition phase either. I don't know where the words get stored but the MEM command showed around 90MB in use out of 256, which is roughly the same as before training, so a large vocabulary doesn't seem to eat up the RAM. I'm guessing it goes to flash or Movi wouldn't remember after a reset.
Of course using single words is less accurate, but for some applications it would be fine as the software can also check if the number returned by Movi falls within a specific range, e.g. by having color names from 1 to 25, animals names from 26 to 50, etc.

I also found that Movi runs fine when powered by the 5V output from one of those cheap 3.3/5V breadboard power supplies that come with many Arduino starter kits. I connected the 5V side to the VIN pin and the 3.3V side to IOREF as the ESP12 expects that voltage on TX/RX. It hasn't crashed after several hours of use and the components on the PSU and Movi aren't getting hot so it seems like a good match.
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fractor@audeme.com said Apr 08, 2016 04:32:16
Wait, you had to stop at 494? Why didn't you make it 500 round? If we start advertising: "Works with up to 494 sentences" it's going to raise some questions... ;-) Honestly: That's awesome! None of us expected that you could train so many sentences. Btw.: Check the memory during training. Memory during recognition is not the issue.

Your power supply probably works because it's cheap and supplies a little more than 5V. 5.2V usually does the trick. However, many expensive (e.g. Apple) USB power supplies, are usually sharp 5.0V and that's unfortunately not enough. See also our FAQ.

In anyways, thank you so much for all your feedback. If you want to send us a video link of your final project we might post it on our blog and/or Facebook!
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BillSherman said May 29, 2016 03:58:26
I too have found that the header pins are a little short for the board to seat firmly on the Arduino Uno. If the pins were a bit longer, the MOVI can plug into and bottom out with a little space left before it hits the SD card holder. Spacers may not be required if the pins are engaged all the way in the board. I am designing a shield that will piggy back on top of the MOVI that will supply power, relay drivers, analog and digital I/O connectors off the board.
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