The Mycroft Mark II is designed to be an open source, privacy-focused alternative to smart speakers and smart displays powered by voice assistant software from Amazon, Apple, or Google. The developers of the open source Mycroft voice assistant launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for the Mark II in 2018 and, after a series of setbacks, eventually began shipping the device to backers toward the end of 2022.
But now Mycroft CEO Michael Lewis* says the company can no longer afford to continue making and shipping Mark II units to backers. So it’s ending the campaign, which means that thousands of backers won’t receive anything for their money.
The Mycroft Mark II features a 4.3 inch display, stereo 5 watt speakers, dual microphones, and a 5MP camera for video calls. It can answer questions, set reminders, and perform other tasks thanks to the Mycroft voice assistant, which does not require an internet connection to function and which doesn’t collect any user unless you opt-in.
When Mycroft first launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Mark II, the company set reward levels as low as $99 (or $89 for early bird backers). But Lewis says that costs have gone up substantially since then.
The first problem was that Mycroft’s hardware partner wasn’t able to deliver on its promises, so the company turned to combining off the shelf components to design a new version… and eventually designed a new custom board for the device. But a combination of supply chain issues and manufacturing costs increased the cost of making Mark II units – Lewis says it cost about $300 to ship each unit out the door.
So the company set higher prices for retail units, hoping to subsidize the cost of fulfilling Kickstarter rewards with retail sales.
But that doesn’t seem to have worked out all that well. Lewis says most of the Mycroft staff was laid off recently, leaving just two developers, one customer service agent, and one attorney — because one of the company’s other major costs has been “ongoing litigation against the non-practicing patent entity” that has been going after Mycroft in recent years.
That said, if you really want to get your hands on a Mycroft Mark II, you can still order one from the Mycroft website for $499. But Lewis acknowledges that the company’s ongoing struggles have prevented Mycroft from making the software as useful as it could be, which makes the proposition of spending that much money on a smart display a little daunting. And at this point it doesn’t seem like Mycroft expects to make enough profit from sales of $499 Mark II units to fulfill any more Kickstarter orders.
At this point it’s unclear how many Kickstarter rewards have been shipped. As of December 24th, Lewis said that 52 units had “been released to backers so far, with another batch that will be emailed shortly.” But over 2,000 people backed the crowdfunding campaign, which suggests that the vast majority of backers will never receive any Mycroft hardware.
*This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the current CEO of Mycroft is Michael Lewis, rather than Joshua Montgomery. Montgomery stepped down as CEO in 2020 and left the company in 2022, but since the Kickstarter campaign was launched under his name, the updates to the Kickstarter campaign were posted under the name Joshua Montgomery, although Lewis signs his name at the bottom.