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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ruivivar

BUD-E: LAION's New Open Voice Assistant

Updated: Feb 21

Image credits: LAION

The Large-scale Artificial Intelligence Open Network (LAION), a German nonprofit, has announced a new initiative, BUD-E, aiming to create a "fully open" voice assistant that can run on consumer hardware. This ambitious project seeks to provide a more natural, engaging conversation experience, unlike the stilted dialogues we've grown accustomed to with existing voice assistants.

BUD-E, an acronym for "Buddy for Understanding and Digital Empathy," is a collaborative effort between LAION, the Ellis Institute in Tübingen, tech consultancy Collabora, and the Tübingen AI Center. Their goal is to build an open assistant with an architecture extensible enough to take full advantage of emerging GenAI technologies, especially large language models (LLMs) like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

While the project is still in its early stages, the team has high hopes. They aim to build "emotional intelligence" into BUD-E and enable it to handle multi-speaker conversations. They also plan to make every component of BUD-E license-free, so it can be integrated with apps and services even for commercial use.

But what sets BUD-E apart from other open assistant projects? It's the team's commitment to creating a voice assistant that feels much more natural to humans, mimicking natural speech patterns and remembering past conversations. Also, they're working on making BUD-E's hardware requirements less onerous and reducing the assistant's latency.

LAION's vision for BUD-E doesn't stop there. They're considering features like an animated avatar, personifying the assistant, and even analysing users' faces through webcams to account for their emotional state. While the ethics of facial analysis are debatable, LAION assures that they will adhere strictly to safety and ethical guidelines.

The journey towards a more natural, engaging, and open voice assistant is on, and BUD-E is leading the charge. It's a thrilling time for AI enthusiasts, so stay tuned for more updates!

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