Hello! I’m Chance from OVOS, here to clear up some frequent questions and concerns (such as, what’s OVOS?).
This post will be updated as necessary. Please feel free to ask any followup questions below. The OVOS crew will check in often, and @NeonClary will answer questions about NeonAI. I realize I’m posting this late on a Friday, which means some of my colleagues will be slow to answer a fresh post, but the questions keep rolling in, and I want to make this available right away.
I don’t want to read all this. What’s going to happen to Mycroft, the software?
Although MycroftAI, Inc. has ceased development, the Assistant survives.
A few years ago, some of MycroftAI’s partners started using @JarbasAl ‘s code (more information below) which eventually became a fork of the assistant. Now that MycroftAI is unable to continue development, the fork’s devs - The OVOS Foundation - have decided to take up leadership of the Assistant’s development and its open source ecosystem.
MycroftAI has signed over Mark II software support, as well as these forums, to one of those partners, a company called NeonAI. Between the OVOS Foundation and NeonAI, the voice assistant and the smart speaker project are getting a new lease on life.
The OVOS Assistant - it’ll get a better name soon, we promise - started out as a drop-in replacement for Mycroft. It should be compatible with all your classic Mycroft skills. It will even accept existing configuration files! Because we have been operating at a much smaller scale for the past three years, things will seem rough around the edges for a little while. However, we are scaling up. Read on.
What is OVOS?
OVOS is the open source collective responsible for the surviving fork of Mycroft. We started as Mycroft community developers, working on a third-party Picroft called OpenVoiceOS (hence our name.) After a while, we adopted @JarbasAl 's work on a modular version of Mycroft, and Jarbas brought that work under our roof.
During 2020-21, several of MycroftAI’s partner projects switched to our fork. Ever since, we’ve been in low-key, continuous development, operating as a combined team of hobbyists and, for lack of a better term, professional Mycroft implementers.
When MycroftAI collapsed, OVOS immediately recognized that we need to scale up and get professional, so we decided to incorporate as a nonprofit. This process is currently underway. Future development of the Assistant, as well as a number of related projects, will take place under the stewardship of the OVOS Foundation. This community built the Assistant together, and OVOS will see that it outlives even ourselves. Independent of our day jobs, our drifting attentions, and the sands of time, we pledge the robot to humanity. We’d love for you to join us for the ride.
OVOS still produces OpenVoiceOS in several flavors. Coders, makers and tinkerers are encouraged to join the fold. If you’d rather have a device that Just Works, read on about NeonAI!
What is Neon?
NeonAI is the company now responsible for Mark II software support and these forums, among other things. They’re a fully staffed software firm, and your Mark II will be thrilled to meet their smart speaker operating system, NeonOS. NeonOS implements the OVOS Assistant and tech stack, configured and customized to meet your needs as a consumer.
Owing to customer confusion, it’s probably worth mentioning a couple of things Neon is not. NeonAI has not purchased MycroftAI, nor does it administer OVOS. Their wonderful staff is available to help you with their own, Neon-branded software, and can probably point you in the right direction for just about anything else. They cannot, however, provide hardware support for your Mark II, nor do they provide technical support for OVOS-branded software.
Okay, so who do I talk to about what?
In general, if you’re a customer, talk to Neon. They’ll let you know if you need to talk to someone else.
In general, if you’re here to participate in the open source project, unless your question has Neon’s logo on it, it’s probably a question for the OVOS team.
I own a Mark II. What should I do now?
Are you still running the software that came with your Mark II? Try NeonOS!
Do you like stuff that Just Works? If you need help, do you want tech support to talk to you like a regular person, rather than asking you a bunch of technical questions? Is this the only part of the FAQ you really care about? Choose NeonOS!
Do you want to develop skills against the very latest version of the Assistant? Try OpenVoiceOS-Manjaro!
If you’d really like to dig in, join our open source community! We can be found right here in these forums, at the OpenVoiceOS org on GitHub, and in our Matrix rooms (see below.) We’ll help you figure out which flavor of OVOS is right for you.
What is the relationship between the OVOS Foundation and NeonAI?
OVOS and Neon are entirely separate entities. However, we are working in full cooperation on what I am calling Life After MycroftAI, and we do share a key individual.
OVOS currently has six core team members, who are likely to become the OVOS Foundation’s initial Board and Secretary. Of the six,
4 have no particular relationship with Neon
1 is Neon’s lead developer (Daniel McKnight)
1 has contracted for Neon in the past (Casimiro “Jarbas” Ferreira)
In view of our nonprofit status, OVOS avoids negotiating with our members’ employers through the shared member/employee, and in Neon’s case that means Daniel. Technical planning happens as a matter of course in our chat rooms, but other communications between OVOS and Neon go through different people.
Why did OVOS fork Mycroft?
By accident. In 2020, MycroftAI’s partners needed a modular version of the Assistant, and Jarbas had such a version. At that point, it was a 100% compatible superset of Mycroft, which split the Assistant up into smaller pieces and packaged them as a library. You’d drop that library where Mycroft-core was supposed to be, start a couple of system services, and users would never know the difference. This was the state of affairs when OVOS adopted the code.
The fact that it was a superset, rather than a fork, was very important, because all of our adopters were MycroftAI channel partners. Their own products, as well as their relationships with MycroftAI, depended on compatibility, and we took pains to maintain it, even as we made complex changes internally.
However, development on the original Mycroft went stale while MycroftAI was trying to produce software for the Mark II. We offered to upstream our Assistant, but MycroftAI preferred to write first-party software from scratch. They decided to go their own way, creating Dinkum; no longer willing to wait indefinitely for feature requests or backward-incompatible changes, OVOS’ downstream constituents agreed that it was time for our code to move on.
Nothing really changed at first. We stopped calling it a superset, started calling it a fork, and continued development. Rather, we felt the effect when MycroftAI released Dinkum.
Dinkum and the OVOS Assistant were created for the same fundamental reason: in order to ship Mycroft on an arbitrary platform, the same basic code needed to be modularized and slimmed down. Having accomplished that goal years earlier, the OVOS team has been able to focus on incremental improvements to almost every other aspect of the Assistant. I would draw your attention in particular to our plugin framework, our GUI protocol, and our approach to hardware interaction; together, these systems offer derivative projects the opportunity to customize each and every component of the Assistant they deliver to consumers.
What will happen to Dinkum?
We can save any Dinkum skills that might be out there. Scripts exist for that.
Because the OVOS Assistant serves the same purpose as Dinkum, without the downsides, OVOS has elected to let Dinkum itself slip away. We regret that this represents the retirement of code which some of our favorite colleagues worked night and day to produce under impossible conditions. I would like to personally assure the MycroftAI diaspora that OVOS devs have combed over every license-compatible bit of Dinkum, and we’ve upstreamed a number of their improvements so that MycroftAI’s partner projects could enjoy them. Hardware support has particularly benefitted, and their code surely will remain a part of the Assistant for years to come. The Mike Hansen era was very productive.
I need to stress that Dinkum met its development goals. It wasn’t a development but rather a management failure, through and through. MycroftAI’s developers did what was asked of them, and they did it with aplomb. I am intimately familiar with each of their portfolios during their time at MycroftAI, and I’d recommend any one of them for your next development job. Theirs was a fine team.
For the community to continue with Dinkum as such, however, would represent a 3-year setback with API breakage, and a repetition of the same, avoidable mistake. The strike against OVOS, years ago, was ostensibly our hobbyist status, though we had buy-in from two of Mycroft’s for-profit partners and from KDE. MycroftAI chose to pursue an identical, parallel project, from scratch, with a short deadline, and without the benefit of downstream input, open source contributions, or community testers.
In short, this whole situation a mess, and we’re sorry we couldn’t help, but it is what it is. NeonOS and OVOS’ offerings all support the Mark II. To the best of our knowledge, all the surviving projects in the Mycroft ecosystem, for- and nonprofit alike, are running the OVOS Assistant.
What is going on with MycroftAI?
We don’t know. As noted above and in Neon’s announcement dated last Thursday, MycroftAI has signed over a couple of things, including these forums, to NeonAI. MycroftAI have laid off their entire development staff.
Update: NeonAI notes that MycroftAI is still accepting and fulfilling retail orders.
I backed MycroftAI in a crowdfunding campaign. Will I get a Mark II?
We are extremely sympathetic, but OVOS and Neon are each entirely unable to assist. MycroftAI’s unfulfilled backer rewards are understood to represent over a million dollars in hardware which MycroftAI can’t afford to produce, and their CEO has indicated that they will not be able to fulfill campaign rewards.
If you’re the DIY type, we can definitely help your DIY something like a Mark II. That’s how OpenVoiceOS was born! Unfortunately, that’s as much as OVOS can offer in that regard.
If you’re a developer, or interested in contributing to user documentation, NeonAI has some Mark IIs available as “bounties” for contributions to the Neon OS and its documentation. Contact email@example.com
How do I get involved with the FOSS stuff?
OVOS is most active in the OpenVoiceOS space on Matrix. Our code is hosted at GitHub.
This looks kinda rough…
If we had initiated the conversion, the OVOS team would have done things in this order: First, shore up our codebase. Second, create robust user-facing documentation and a roadmap. Third, organize and expand the developer community from six to a few dozen collaborators on several teams. Finally, package the Assistant and announce our presence to the world.
However, we find ourselves doing all that at once, while incorporating the Foundation and dealing with the fallout from a key player’s demise. It’s a hectic time.
The OVOS team is comprised entirely of software professionals, including a tech lead and a project manager, and there is absolutely no question that we are capable of creating and operating a world-class software firm. It will take us a few months, however, to transform this thing into a full-service FOSS shop.
Open during construction. Please excuse the mess.
Can I chip in?
Yes! OVOS is running a GoFundMe campaign to cover our initial expenses and our first year or two of operation. We have already secured funding to create the OVOS Foundation, and as of this writing are working on our second stretch goal.
You know what’s cool about GoFundMe? No backer rewards! Who’d have thought I’d find myself bragging about that someday We can’t miss a target we don’t set, though, and you can rest assured that your financial support goes right into our mission.
Who do I talk to for help with integration?
The OVOS Foundation is excited to work with a variety of public and private entities once we enter our new life as an incorporated nonprofit. We are fielding inquiries. We already enjoy a solid working relationship with NeonAI and with KDE, whose best-known Assistant-capable project is Plasma Bigscreen, an open source system to help you DIY a smart TV.
Over the years, members of the core OVOS team have seen just about every integration we can imagine, but we’d love to meet a challenge. Individuals, hobby projects, and any casual inquiries are welcome wherever you find us. Institutions, please contact Peter Steenbergen (@j1nx) here or through our web site. Peter will connect you with an OVOS team member with the relevant expertise and a compatible time zone.