In the spirit of CES conference happening in Las Vegas, Lenovo is also venturing into the smart home speaker segment with the unveiling of its very own Amazon Echo competitor. Called Smart Assistant, the speaker is a tall and lanky offering with Alexa’s intelligence baked right in the device. It will be made available for $130, starting in May this year. This is fairly cheaper than Amazon Echo but does it pack a punch?
This release might come as a surprise to some but Lenovo is one of the largest hardware manufacturers in the world and missing out on the smart home speaker trend isn’t likely for them. Thus, comes in Smart Assistant, which seems to be inspired by Amazon and Google’s smart speaker designs. Imbibing the lengthy cylindrical aesthetics from the former and the dual-tone colour combination from the latter, Lenovo is making its homely debut. It is also available in a variety of bottom colour options — green, grey, black, blue or orange fabric.
Talking about the release, the Chinese hardware giant in the official blog post says,
Built in collaboration with Amazon, the elegantly designed Lenovo Smart Assistant recognizes users’ voice commands and uses Alexa to conduct web searches, play music, create lists, provide calendar updates and much more.
Lenovo’s Smart Assistant features a set of eight far-field microphones which are designed to pick up voice commands from as far as 16 feet (5 meters) away. This is more than the usual seven which were seen on the Amazon Echo but shouldn’t have much effect on the voice input. The smart speaker is powered by Intel’s Atom processor and thus, it has been designed in a way to cool the insides from the top. It includes the trigger button for calling on Alexa coupled with volume controls but the mute button seems to be missing in action.
Commenting on the Alexa integration, Steve Rabuchin, vice president, Amazon Alexa, says,
At Amazon, we work hard to provide customers with as much choice as possible—and Lenovo’s new Smart Assistant speaker does just that through leveraging the power of Alexa Voice Services (AVS). We can’t wait for customers to try this out later this year.
Though the sound quality of Lenovo’s smart speaker is pretty good bu the company is also making an even premium sounding version of the Smart Assistant available to users, powered by Harman Kardon’s audio internals. There is currently no info on how users will be required to control the Smart Assistant, which should come with a companion app like the Amazon Echo. This mobile app for iOS and Android users is the one which will enable users to set up the speaker and handle the log of everything you’ve asked Alexa.
In addition to the smart speaker, Lenovo has also released a massive 6TB smart storage solution with dual-band wireless access and multi-device auto-sync capabilities. It comes along with a complementary facial recognition app which can organize your photo library based on faces with high accuracy. It will cost $140 and ship around the same time as the speaker.
Era of Smart Home Speakers
Last year, as one can say, ushered the era of smart virtual assistants being built into smart speakers that cater to the needs of the home. With Amazon Echo winning over family’s heart to Google Home impressing them even further with its own quirky Assistant, 2017 will see the rise of more products of this kind. Lenovo has flagged off the year with a similar release that’s aimed at making digital assistant-packed hardware mainstream.
While Amazon is focused on pushing its smart assistant into a cohort of hardware as well as software products, some others are opting for something exclusive. This year, Microsoft is also planning the power of Cortana, its voice assistant, beyond the confines of PC and mobile with the release of a Harman Kardon speaker and a Nissan infotainment system. We could see some own-brand products released by the Redmond giant as well.