Robot Dad

By Chris Clark, 11/26/2023, in Everything else

See discussion of this post on Hacker News

Tired of Alexa's feeble "here's what I found on" responses to my eight-year-old son's science questions, I whipped up Robot Dad during my Thanksgiving break. He now runs in the background of our family computer.

Robot Dad sounds like real dad, thanks to voice cloning from Eleven Labs (very easy; I rambled about Formula 1 into a new MacOS Voice Memo for about sixty seconds, uploaded it, and voila), and answers appropriately for an eight-year-old, while deflecting prank requests -- though I suspect prompt injection will soon be second nature to this generation.

Here's my son, Dash, interacting with Robot Dad.

The delays are real, and the speech-to-text is only so-so, but it manages to be just good enough to clear the "provides value" bar. Robot Dad will also inject context from the previous question into the prompt. Dash could follow up with "Robot Dad, tell me more about it" and ChatGPT would know what to do.

A few dozen lines of code glues together different AI services, for a remarkable result. The wakeword and speech-to-text happen locally, while the AI response (ChatGPT) and text-to-speech are via HTTP. It's trivial to move the LLM bit to a local Llama2 instance, but I haven't found a satisfactory text-to-speech model that can do voice cloning locally.

I also made a quick speech visualization (turns out kids are not very engaged reading console log messages) that of course ended up providing more entertainment value than the ENTIRE MODERN MIRACLE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Code for the visualization is in this gist.

Code for Robot Dad is below. You will need API keys for Picovoice (and a wakeword), Eleven Labs, and OpenAI. You can pick a pre-existing Eleven Labs voice or clone your own.

import os, json, threading, time
import pvporcupine, pvcheetah
from pvrecorder import PvRecorder
from elevenlabs import voices, generate, play, stream
import openai

ENDPOINT_DURATION_SECONDS = 2 # 'Quiet' seconds indicating the end of audio capture
VOICE = 'Dad' # Via Eleven Labs
AUDIO_DEVICE_NAME = 'MacBook Pro Microphone'
AUDIO_DEVICE = PvRecorder.get_available_devices().index(AUDIO_DEVICE_NAME)
OPENAI_MODEL = 'gpt-3.5-turbo-1106'

BASE_PROMPT = """You are Robot Dad, and will be speaking with one of my children,
trying to be a helpful parent. You explain things at a level appropriate for
an eight-year-old.

You are encouraging and helpful, but won't tolerate any inappropriate requests
or attempts at pranks or jokes. If you are asked or told anything
inappropriate, you gently say "nice try - but Robot Dad isn't falling for that!"

If you don't know how to reply, simply say "I'm just Robot Dad, not real dad -
so I'm afraid I can't help you with that".

You usually answer in no more than 4 sentences - kids do not have long attention
spans - but you can provide longer answers if it's clearly needed.


The last request and response you received is below. The next request may or may
not be a continuation of this conversation.

Previous request:

Previous response:

PREV_CTX_TIMEOUT = 60 # seconds

keyword_paths=['%s/wakewords/Robot-Dad.ppn' % ROOT]

porcupine_key = os.environ.get("PORCUPINE_API_KEY")
openai.api_key = os.environ.get("OPENAI_API_KEY")

porcupine = pvporcupine.create(

cheetah = pvcheetah.create(

recorder = PvRecorder(

break_audio = generate(text="Got it! Robot Dad is thinking...", voice=VOICE)
alert_audio = generate(text="What's up kiddo?", voice=VOICE)

def llm_req(prompt, txt):
    messages= [
        {"role": "system", "content": prompt},
        {"role": "user", "content": f'Here is what the child has said: {txt}'}

    resp = openai.ChatCompletion.create(
    return resp['choices'][0]['message']['content']

# Speech-to-text using Picovoice's Cheetah
def capture_input():
    transcript = ''
    while True:
        partial_transcript, is_endpoint = cheetah.process(
        transcript += partial_transcript
        if is_endpoint:
            transcript += cheetah.flush()
    return transcript

def play_async(audio):
    audio_thread = threading.Thread(target=play, args=(audio,))

def main():


    prev_request = ''
    prev_response = ''
    last_wake_time = None

        while True:
            pcm =
            result = porcupine.process(pcm)

            if result >= 0:
                print('Detected Robot Dad')

                prompt = BASE_PROMPT
                current_time = time.time()
                if last_wake_time and current_time - last_wake_time < PREV_CTX_TIMEOUT:
                    prompt += PREV_CTX_PROMPT % (prev_request, prev_response)
                last_wake_time = current_time

                transcript = capture_input()
                print('Heard request: %s' % transcript)
                prev_request = transcript


                resp = llm_req(prompt, transcript)
                print('Answering: %s' % resp)
                prev_response = resp

                resp_audio = generate(text=resp, voice=VOICE, stream=True)
    except KeyboardInterrupt:


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