Dlexa the Hedge Dragon
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Dlexa: the Hedge Dragon Vision

Most of this site is about how to build a lexa. It uses Dlexa (the one Dean is building) as an example.

Dlexa is a 5 year project that started by accident in 2022. 5 years because it will probably take that long to get the thing working.

It may help you to create your lexa if you know a little about how Dlexa was envisioned.

Crappy Garden Space Evolves Into the Promise of a Hedge

Dean moved into the new Royal Bay development in Colwood in 2018. Royal Bay was an old gravel pit. I was mostly level and covered with scrub grass because that was the only thing that would survive. When the house was purchased in 2017 it was only a red spray paint rectangle on bare gravel facing a road with nothing but a show home at the far end of the block.

In 2018 there was a space between the driveway and the public walk into the spillway park was not much good for a garden. Any misstep by traffic down the path would trample anything delicate so it was either a boring strip of grass or a hedge.

The problem is Royal Bay is a tough place to grow anything. My house is a five minute walk from the Pacific Ocean and the air above the water is cool all year round. When an ocean breeze arrives at my yard it has warmed and that drops the relative humidity to "arid". About half of the plants I (and my neighbours) have tried die from dehydration. Plants that do grow do it slowly. Boxwood that would put on over 12 inches a year in Burnaby where we lived struggles to add 4 inches in Royal Bay. A boxwood hedge of reasonable height would take a decade.

Next to the Millstream Mall between the McDonalds parking lot and the highway is a hedge that survives the brutal conditions yet has to be trimmed twice a year because it grows so fast. A little research found the shrub is Escallonia and the variety is called Apple Blossom for the little flowers that blanket it in early summer.

The Apple Blossom variety is not easy to find. Online I found a site in the UK that would ship as far as 20 km. I needed about a dozen plants and I was unwilling to contract with a local nursery to get the bunch only to watch them die in a year.

In summer 2019 while the hedge Millstream was being trimmed you could see a bunch of baby suckers that had detached themselves from the roots of the hedge. When you pulled them out they are not much more than a thin dry root about the size of bean sprout topped with a couple of leaves. I "borrowed" a dozen and stuck them in pots. To my amazement they all grew. I had my hedge plants.

Serious Topiary Hedge

In summer 2020 I dug a 18 inch deep channel in the gravel along the whole length of the narrow strip. I lined it with plastic sheet (water retention) and filled it with good soil. The Escallonia babies were doing well but over winter the local rabbits decided they liked the taste and chewed them right down the ground level.

In spring 2021 after covering each plant with its own chicken wire "hat" they had grown over 12 inches. I had a hedge that would be a good size in a couple of years.

The hedge was growing so fast I thought this might be the perfect shrub for topiary and I decided a Feng Shui dragon would be a perfect shape for the long thin garden. I planted three plants that were still in pots to form a tripod that would hold up a green topiary ball that represented the dragonís Pearl of Knowledge.

In early 2022 I thought maybe the topiary dragon could support technical sparkle. I figured the Pearl companion could be a plastic sphere filled with smart LED lights that would make it look like one of those plasma balls.

Dlexa

Ambition grew as I realize my interest in Mycroft AI could be added and the hedge dragon so it could have conversations with the public as they walked down the path. I considered a bunch of names for the hedge dragon but in homage to Alexa I decided to call mine Dlexa.

Over the summer of 2022 I began assembling the bits of tech I'd need for the project. My son gave me an old gaming computer that was capable of training the tools required for a Mycroft AI instance. The system had 16 CPUs and an 12GB Nvidia card with 4300 Cuda (math) cores. You need at least 8GB for tools training. You only need a Nvidia card with 1GB to run the instance and I had a spare card with 3GB. In January 2023 the dlexa.ca domain was purchased so Dean could document the project and it might be instructional for anyone that might want to build their own lexa.

Dlexa Still Mostly Vision

In summer 2023 the first microphone and speaker are planned to be mounted on the growing hedge. Mycroft AI works in the office on the Mycroft server but a test from hedge ears to hedge snout (end-to-end) would prove the project works in the real world.

Next:

Personality for lexa because we want our lexa to be different from commercial ones like: Alexa, Siri, Assistant. Dlexa wii have an "attitude" and that should make it more fun to talk to. Building a believable personality is a project in itself.