Alto (a little teachable object) is an open source AI experiment. It introduces the basics of machine learning by helping you build your own teachable object. You can teach Alto to recognise things, by pressing one of the buttons on its side. Once Alto sees something you’ve taught it, it will point at it with one of its arms.

By building your very own Alto from scratch, users can learn about making, soldering, electronics and coding through our GitHub instructions page. We also made follow-along lessons that teach the basics of ML fundamentals, like Bias and Confidence, using your new teachable object.

Alto was designed to be simple and straight forward to assemble, requiring minimal tools and supplies, and all the components can be purchased for under $100. Additionally, the designs and code can be forked, encouraging makers and hackers to customise and explore more applications of machine learning.

Project completed at:

Google Creative Lab


Zebedee Pedersen (Manager)
Patrick Stevenson-Keating (Creative)
Jim Bailey (Software)


User Experience

Rapid prototyping
Arduino / electronics

Cardboard engineering


6 months, 2020

Alto is the re-design of a high quality 3D printed version which integrates custom PCBs and neatly packaged components. One of the challenges of this project was to convert the design to a DIY iteration, including securing the moving parts, housing the electronics, and creating a neat blank canvas outer-layer.

Douglas Mann

© 2020 Douglas Mann